Tess of the D'Urberville's

Thomas Hardy

BACKGROUND

Thomas Hardy lived from 1840 – 1928. Known for his accurate descriptions of English 19th century life, his novels tend to be on the gloomy side. This one is no exception -- it is about society and morals and stuff. Don’t be confused by the similar last names of the characters -- some have the name D’urberville, and some have the name Durbeyfield. Tess (main character) has the last name Durbeyfield. She is not a d’Urberville. So don’t get mixed up by the title. This story takes place in England. Got it? Good. Now let’s dance.

 

MAIN CHARACTERS

Tess Durbeyfield: The main girl of the story. She is really pretty and smart. When the story starts, she is 16. She is independent, yet naive at the same time. She dies in the end.

Angel Clare: He meets Tess in a dairy farm and gets married to her. His father is Rev. Clare. He starts out nice but turns into a jerk at the end.

Alec d’Urberville: His dad is Simon Stoke. He rapes Tess in the woods. Tess kills him.

John and Joan Durbeyfield: Tess’s parents, they hate being poor, and are happy when they think they might be related to the rich d’Urbervilles. They send Tess to get money from the d’Urbervilles. They have 7 kids.

Eliza Durbeyfield and Abraham Durbeyfield: Tess’s most important siblings in the story. She is 12, and he is 9.

Marian, Retty Priddle, and Izz Huett: All milkmaids. Marian is in love with Tess and a big alcoholic. Retty likes Angel. Izz gets invited by Angel to go down to Brazil with him. They are all upset after Angel marries Tess.

 

PLOT

The Durbeyfields are a poor family. They think they are related to the d’Urbervilles (a rich family). They send Tess to the D’urberville’s house to get money. They find out they are not related. Tess meets this guy named Alec D’urberville. He likes her. He gets Tess a job. Then one night Alec rapes her. Tess goes home and is pregnant with Alec’s baby. The baby is born and dies.

Tess gets a job at a dairy farm. She meets a guy named Angel Clare who recognizes her from a long time ago. They fall in love. He asks her to marry him. She wants to say no and tell him about her past. She chickens out and says yes, so they get married. She tries to tell him in a letter but he never gets it. Then he tells her they will confess their sins after they are married. So after the wedding, they reveal their sins. He had sex with an older woman and she was raped by Alec D’Urberville. He is mad at her. She leaves and he tells her not to come back until he comes and gets her.

Then Angel goes to Brazil to be a farmer. Tess goes back to work at the dairy farm. Tess visits Angel’s family. She hears his brothers talking about the bad marriage and sees Alec, who has become a priest. He quits the priesthood to hit on Tess. Then Tess finds out her mom is sick. She goes home. Her mom gets better but her dad dies. The family moves.

Angel comes home from Brazil. He finds Tess and forgives her. She is with Alec. So she kills Alec and runs off with Angel. Then she is caught, goes to prison and is given the death penalty.

 

CHAPTER BY CHAPTER

CHAPTERS 1 – 3

  • John Durbeyfield is a peddler. He lives in a village called Marlott.
  • One day he returns to his village and this old guy starts talking to him. The old guy tells John that he (John) is a descendant of the really rich d’Urberville family.
  • Then a priest starts talking to John. He tells John that the d’Urberville family isn’t around anymore, but they have land and stuff.
  • John becomes happy that he has rich relatives. He goes home in a nice carriage because he thinks he is a rich guy now.
  • He passes by Tess. Tess is busy with some parade, dancing with other girls. Some guy shows up and stares at Tess, and she gives him a little look, too.
  • Tess continues dancing until late. Then she goes home. When she gets home, Tess finds out her family is related to the rich d’Urbervilles. She also finds out her dad has a bad heart (in the medical sense).
  • When Tess gets home her dad is gone. He has gone to some inn before a big business trip.
  • Tess’s mom goes to the inn and Tess watches the kids. Then Tess gets worried and sends Abraham to find her mom.
  • Abraham is gone for a long time so Tess goes to the inn herself.

CHAPTERS 4 – 7

  • At the inn, Mrs. Durbeyfield tells John (her husband) that she’s gonna send Tess to get money from the rich d’Urbervilles.
  • She thinks if she sends Tess, Tess will find a husband.
  • Abraham hears everything. Then Tess shows up. John is too drunk to go on his business trip.
  • Tess goes back home with Abraham. Abraham tells Tess everything their mom and dad were talking about.
  • The next morning a mail cart kills their horse. They depended on that horse for their money (traveling salesman).
  • Tess is upset and her dad digs a grave for the horse.
  • Tess agrees to go visit the d’Urbervilles and get some money. She goes and sees that they have a big, fancy new house.
  • The house was built by Simon Stokes. After he retired he called himself d’Urberville so he could get away from his past life.
  • Tess meets Alec d’Urberville. He thinks she is hot. He thinks the reason why she is there is idiotic, but because he wants to hook up, he tries to help her.
  • Tess goes back home. When she gets home she gets a letter from the d’Urbervilles offering her a job on the farm. She goes back to get the job.
  • Her family drops her off at Alec’s house. They leave.

CHAPTERS 8 – 11

  • Alec takes Tess for a ride in the horsecart. He drives like a madman.
  • Tess asks him to drive safely. He tells her he will if she kisses him.
  • Tess kisses him. Then she wipes the kiss off. Alec gets pissed.
  • Tess’s hat blows off outside the cart. She goes to get it and won’t get back in the cart. So Alec makes her walk home.
  • The next day Mrs. d’Urberville and Tess talk. Mrs. d’Urberville is blind. She asks Tess to whistle to her birds (bullfinches) every day. This is one of her jobs.
  • One day Tess goes into town to get some stuff from the market. There is a big fair going on.
  • Her friends who she walks back with at night (because it’s safer) are at some party, so she has to wait. Then they finally all walk home. All of Tess’s friends are drunk.
  • Tess starts arguing with some of her friends. Then Alec shows up and takes Tess home.
  • Alec asks Tess if they can be boyfriend/girlfriend. She says no.
  • Then Alec gets lost with the carriage. He is in the middle of the woods. He gets out to see where he is.
  • He returns to the carriage and Tess is sleeping. Then he rapes her.

CHAPTERS 12 – 15

  • Some time passes. Tess runs away from the d’Urberville house to go back home.
  • Alec finds her going back. He asks her to come back and she says no. She then tells Alec she doesn’t love him.
  • Alec takes off.
  • Tess’s mom is pissed that Tess didn’t marry Alec. But Tess is pissed that she got raped by Alec.
  • All these people come to see Tess now that she is home. Then she goes to church and people are gossiping bad stuff about her.
  • Almost a year passes. Tess shelters herself from the outside world. Then she comes out one day.
  • She now has a baby (thanks to Alec). She is in the fields working and one of her brothers brings her baby out to her.
  • The baby is sick. She wants to get the baby baptized before it dies. Her dad doesn’t want the priest seeing the sick baby though because it is a private affair.
  • Tess baptizes the baby herself. The next day the baby dies. She asks the priest if her personal baptism was enough to get her baby a catholic funeral.
  • The priest denies her a full catholic funeral. The baby is buried in some back corner of the graveyard.
  • Tess hates being at home. So she gets a job at a dairy.

CHAPTERS 16 – 18

  • Two years pass. She travels from her home to work at the Talbothay’s Dairy.
  • The dairy is in the Valley of Great Dairies.
  • She is happy because she is doing something new and has a good job. She starts milking cows.
  • She sees a guy she recognizes. It is the guy who was staring at her at the fair where she was dancing.
  • Later that night she talks with some other dairy workers. They tell her the guy is Angel Clare, a farming guy. His dad is a priest and all his brothers are priests.
  • Angel’s dad tried to make him a priest, but Angel didn’t want to become one.
  • He wandered around for awhile, doing different stuff. Then he decided to be a farmer. Now he is 26 and learning the farming business.
  • He loves the outdoors. He is staying at the dairy learning the business.
  • Angel has the hots for Tess.

CHAPTERS 19 – 22

  • Tess finds out that she is getting to milk her favorite cows because Angel is pulling some strings. She tells the owner of the dairy what is going on.
  • Tess meets Angel in a garden. They talk. He thinks she has a negative view on life. She can’t understand why he is a farmer because he is so smart.
  • Tess has a little crush on Angel. She asks the owner of the dairy farm if Angel likes old families (like her family). He does not.
  • They become closer and closer. Tess is happy.
  • One day the butter churn is broken. The owner tells some funny story about butter churns. The story makes Tess sad because it reminds her of her past crappy life.
  • Then Tess overhears some other dairymaids talking about how much they love Angel.
  • Tess feels bad because she feels like she’s hogging Angel and not letting the other girls hit on him.
  • One day she is working in the field. The owner sees that she is tired and lets her rest for the day. Then she and Angel talk. She tells Angel about how cool the other dairymaids are (trying to give them a chance).

CHAPTERS 23 – 26

  • Tess has been at the dairy for 2 months.
  • One day she and some other girls go to church.
  • The streets are flooded because of the rain. Angel offers the girls a ride to church.
  • Angel is nicest to Tess. All of the girls are jealous of her. She tells them he probably doesn’t want to marry any of them (trying to make them feel better).
  • The girls tell Tess that Angel’s parents want him to marry some girl.
  • One day Angel and Tess are milking cows. Angel hugs her but Tess turns him down.
  • Then Angel tells her he loves her. She rejects him. They go back to milking.
  • Angel is confused about what happened. He thinks a lot about his life and Tess.
  • Angel goes home to visit his family to get his mind off things.
  • When he goes home, all of his family is there. They notice he acts like a farmer.
  • Angel sits down with his dad and talk about his life. His dad offers him some money for the farming business.
  • Then Angel’s dad talks to him about finding a wife. He wants Angel to marry a religious chick, but Angel wants to marry a farming girl.
  • Angel’s dad suggests a girl named Mercy Chant. Angel’s mom objects because her family is kinda poor. Angel doesn’t care about social status. He is not shallow.
  • Angel doesn’t want to marry Mercy, he wants Tess.
  • Angel goes home. His dad talks to him about his church. He tells Angel what he’s been up to. He then tells him about one troubled guy (Alec d’Urberville) who he couldn’t make a nice religious boy.

CHAPTERS 27 – 30

  • Angel returns to the dairy. He sees Tess. He hugs her and asks her to marry him.
  • Tess says she likes him but she says no to the marriage proposal.
  • Angel starts talking to her about his family visit. Then he mentions his dad’s story about Alec d’Urberville.
  • Tess becomes upset when she hears Alec’s name.
  • Angel keeps hitting on Tess. she doesn’t want to give in and marry (after the Alec d’Urberville incident she promised herself she would never marry).
  • Angel keeps feeding her lines and telling her how great she is because he thinks that she thinks she is not good enough for him.
  • She promises him that she will tell him all about her life. She really likes Angel but doesn’t want to marry him.
  • The next day the owner of the dairy farm tells a story about some dude who married a widow for her money. But it worked out so when she got married she didn’t get anymore money.
  • 2 weeks pass. Angel keeps hitting on Tess. He doesn’t propose anymore though. Then he gives in and demands her answer.
  • Tess tries to hook him up with another girl. She really doesn’t wanna marry him (it would break her personal promise).
  • Tess and Angel go on some errand together. He asks her again to marry him. She wants him to know her past before they get married.
  • So she starts to tell him. Then she lies and says she is part of the d’Urberville family.
  • Even though angel doesn’t care about social status, he is happy that she is a d’Urberville because now his family can accept Tess.
  • She writes a letter to her mom. Angel finally recognizes her as the girl dancing at the fair.

CHAPTERS 31 – 34

  • Tess’s mom writes back. She tells him not to tell Angel about her past.
  • Tess now feels she doesn’t have to tell him anything. She is happy. Angel wants to set a date to get married.
  • The owner of the dairy tells everyone that they are married. All of the girls are jealous. Tess sees them jealous and think she is dirt and doesn’t deserve Angel.
  • Tess leaves the dairy at Christmas time. She finally agrees to marry Angel.
  • They decide to get married on Dec 31. Before the wedding they stay at some mansion owned by the d’Urbervilles.
  • On Xmas eve, Angel and Tess go shopping.
  • While they are shopping some guy recognizes Tess. He calls her a whore.
  • Angel hears the guy, and hits him. Then they apologize to each other.
  • Tess feels like dirt because she knows she has to tell Angel about her past. She writes a letter and slips it under angel’s door.
  • The next day she is expecting him to be mad but he has no reaction
  • On their wedding day, Tess finds that the letter slipped under the carpet accidentally, so Angel never read it.
  • Tess really wants to come clean and tell Angel about her past. Angel tells her they can do that later. He doesn’t wanna ruin the wedding day.
  • They get married. After the ceremony, they get in a carriage and ride away.
  • They go to the old d’Urberville mansion. Tess receives a package. The package has a letter from angel’s father and some diamonds. The diamonds are a family heirloom that belonged to Angel’s godmother. Tess wears them
  • A messenger comes with their luggage. He tells the couple that the other dairymaids are really jealous. Retty tried to kill herself and Marian is drunk.
  • Angel and Tess finally confess their past sins. Angel tells her about some affair he had with an older woman in London. Tess tells him about Alec d’Urberville.

CHAPTERS 35-37

  • After Angel hears the story he is pissed. He thought she was a pure girl, but he now knows she has a dirty past.
  • Tess apologizes, but Angel is still mad.
  • That night he sleeps on the couch.
  • The next day Angel is still pissed. He is in disbelief. He asks Tess about it and she says it is true. Tess offers to get a divorce but Angel says no. Then Angel ignores Tess for a few days. He thinks about what he should do.
  • Tess offers to go home. Angel agrees and sends her home.
  • The night before Tess leaves, Angel starts sleepwalking. He walks into Tess’s room.
  • In Tess’s room, he picks her up and carries her to the church and puts her in a coffin. Tess gets him home even though he is sleepwalking.
  • Angel tells Tess never to come back until he asks her to come back. He gives her some money and Tess goes home.

CHAPTERS 38 – 40

  • Tess goes home. Her parents are mad that she blew a good marriage to a nice guy.
  • She tells her mom that she left because she told Angel about her past. Her mom thinks she’s an idiot.
  • Tess is scared to tell her dad. Then she sees there isn’t a lot of room in the house for her.
  • Tess gets a letter from Angel. Angel tells her in the letter that he is going to look for a farm.
  • Tess gives her parents some money and takes off (She uses the letter as an excuse to leave).
  • Meanwhile Angel tells his parents he is going to Brazil. His parents want to meet Tess. Angel tells them that when he gets back they can meet her.
  • He writes another letter to Tess telling her he is now going to Brazil. He leaves Tess some money.
  • Angel goes to Brazil. Before his trip he stops at some farm and sees Izz Huett (one of the milkmaids).
  • He tells Izz that he is separated from Tess. He asks her to come with him to Brazil. She goes with him.
  • Angel asks her if she loves him more than Tess loves him. She says no.
  • Angel realizes he made a stupid mistake in inviting her along, so she doesn’t go.
  • Angel goes to Brazil alone.

CHAPTERS 41 – 44

  • Some months pass. Tess works at dairy farms and other farms.
  • Before the winter hits she uses the money that Angel left for her. Tess gets a letter from her parents asking for money. She sends them money.
  • Tess feels like crap because she is keeping the secret from her parents (that she doesn’t live with Angel).
  • Right before winter, she goes from farm to farm looking for work.
  • One day Tess is walking to a farm and some guy recognizes her. She runs into the woods. Tess doesn’t want to see any man because she is ashamed that she is separated from Angel and also doesn’t want guys hitting on her.
  • She makes herself ugly by shaving her eyebrows and wearing crappy clothes.
  • She goes to some farm where Marian (another dairymaid) works.
  • Tess gets work at some farm temporarily. She tells Marian not to talk about the status of her marriage while at the farm.
  • So Tess and Marian do the work (which is digging up rutabagas).
  • They are forced to work in bad weather. They move to the barn when it starts snowing.
  • The boss is a jerk. He says Tess is a bad worker, and he makes her work more hours.
  • Izz Huett (former dairymaid) starts working with them.
  • Tess starts thinking about her husband, Angel. She wonders why he hasn’t written her.
  • Tess decides to visit Angel’s family to see what the heck is going on. On the way there she overhears angel’s brothers talking about her, so she turns back and goes home.
  • On the way home she hears some preacher in a church. She sees that the preacher is Alec d’Urberville.

CHAPTERS 45 – 48

  • Tess goes in to here the service that Alec d’Urberville is preaching.
  • He recognizes her and goes to talk to her.
  • Alec explains he is a changed man, but Tess doesn’t believe him. He is now religious. He asks Tess to promise him she will never tempt him again with her good looks.
  • Some days pass. Alec sees Tess in a field and proposes marriage. He wants her to go with him to Africa. She tells him she’s already married.
  • Alec continues to hit on Tess. They argue about religion. Now Alec is really turned on by Tess.
  • Some months pass. Alec comes to the farm where Tess works. He is not a preacher anymore. He continues to hit on Tess. She slaps him and he gets mad and threatens her.
  • Alec keeps hitting on her. He walks her home and tells her he would take care of her for life. She still rejects him.
  • Then Tess writes a letter to Angel telling him about how devoted she is and how Alec is hitting on her. She asks him to come back.

CHAPTERS 49 – 52

  • The letter gets to Angel.
  • Angel is almost finished with his farming dreams in Brazil. He is a changed man now, because he is mature.
  • Angel talks to some dude about his broken marriage. The guy tells Angel he was wrong for leaving Tess. Then the man dies.
  • Angel now feels really guilty that he dumped Tess. He is ready to get back together.
  • Meanwhile back at the farm where Tess works, some sister shows up. She tells Tess that their mom is sick. Tess leaves the farm and goes home.
  • Tess sees Alec again. He offers to help the family out but Tess still says no.
  • The dad dies. They lose the house.
  • So the Durbeyfields have to leave. They say goodbye to all their friends.
  • Alec shows up and offers Tess lodging and money. She still doesn’t trust him so she says no.
  • On the way to their new rooms, Tess thinks about Angel and how he really treated her like crap, so she writes him a letter saying she is mad and that she can’t forgive him for dumping her.
  • When the Durbeyfield family gets to their destination they find that all the rooms have been booked so they have no place to live.
  • They make a tent and live there with all their possessions.
  • Tess goes inside a church. She sees Alec. He knows they are in a crappy situation (no place to live). He offers help again. Tess finally gives in.
  • Marian and Izz (dairymaids) write a letter to Angel telling him to go back to Tess.

CHAPTERS 53 – 56

  • Angel comes home. He is really thin now.
  • He asks about Tess and finds out how she feels about him
  • He writes a letter to Tess at her old house. Then he finds out they moved.
  • Angel goes to look for Tess. On his journey he finds out what Tess has been doing since he’s been gone and how much she’s struggled in life.
  • He finds out her dad died.
  • He finally finds the town she is staying in. He finds out she is living in a d’Urberville mansion and going out with Alec.
  • He wants her back but Tess doesn’t go back to him.
  • Angel apologizes and tells her he was wrong to think of her as some dirty girl.
  • Tess tells Angel that he is too late and that she is with Alec d’Urberville now.
  • Angel leaves. Tess goes to her room and yells at Alec. She is mad because he convinced her that Angel was never coming back. Now that angel is back, she lost him again.
  • The landlady follows Tess to her bedroom because she is nosy. Then when Tess leaves, the landlady notices some blood.
  • The landlady goes into the apartment with some other guy. they find that Alec has been killed.

CHAPTERS 57 – 59

  • Angel is really upset. He plans to leave town. He gets a letter from his mom. The letter tells him that his brother is getting married
  • At the train station, Tess runs after Angel and catches him before he leaves.
  • She tells him she killed Alec, and explains all the mind games Alec played with her. He takes her back and they kiss.
  • Tess and Angel go to some deserted house, and live there for like a week, so she doesn’t get caught by the police.
  • They leave the house and go to Stonehenge. She asks him to take care of her sister after she’s put in jail and killed.
  • She sleeps. Then some guys come and arrest her. She is then put to death for killing Alec d’Urberville.

 

THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART

  • Now remember, this story took place along time ago. Tess was raped by Alec d’Urberville, but "rape" wasn’t that same as it is today. Instead of Alec being thought of as a dirty scumbag rapist, Tess is thought of as dirty, non-pure, and a non-virgin. Pretty screwed up, huh? So because she was raped, she can’t tell anyone because they will think she’s the bad person.
  • Consider the social structure in the book and how morality falls by the wayside when class comes into play.
  • Is Tess justified in her actions? Did she have choices in her life or was she pushed into situations?
  • Think of Alec and Angel – are they so different? Certainly, Angel matures, but his initial rejection is the same as everyone else’s.
  • Alec tries to control Tess – first by raping her, then by owning her, and continually blaming her for "tempting" him.