What is the significance of calling the novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles when its protagonist is in fact Tess Durbeyfield?
How does the use of a protagonist’s name for the title (as opposed to a title such as The Woodlanders or The Return of the Native) shape the way the reader approaches this book?
What does the subtitle “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented” imply? Do you feel Hardy keeps his promise? What is suggested by the division into seven books which present a sequence from “The Maiden” and “Maiden No More” to “Fulfillment”?
What does Hardy claim in his preface to the fifth edition had been his intentions in writing this novel? By his account, for what had he been criticized?
What does he find unfair about anonymous reviews? What does he think may be the value of a novel in shifting public opinion?
I The Maiden
What effect is created by the fact that the novel opens with a scene in which Tess’s father encounters the parson, rather than with one which concerns Tess herself?
What information does the parson give John Durbeyfield, and how does the latter respond to it?
What significance does the parson find in the fact that the D’Urbervilles have declined in rank and fortune?
Would the Victorian reader have been expected to consider Tess’s lineage significant? What theories of the day would have prompted concern with “degeneration”?
Based on this chapter, does the reader expect a good outcome to the story which follows?
What pleasant village May Day custom is described? What seems to be the symbolism associated with the event?
Among the celebrating women, which category of women does the narrator single out as grotesque and pathetic, and thus irrelevant to the festivities? By contrast, how is Tess described?
With whom does Tess fail to dance at the rustic celebration? Why do you think the author includes this incident?
What do we learn about the Durbeyfields’ home situation? How many children are in the family, and where is Tess among them?
How does Joan Durbeyfield respond to the news that her husband’s family may have had aristocratic connections? What are we to think of the reactions of John Durbeyfield and his wife to this claim?
Why does the narrator tell us that Tess’s handsome appearance has been inherited from her mother, rather from her father’s line which had included the D’Urbervilles? Are there implications to this distinction?
Where does Tess go in search of her father, mother and brother Abraham?
What view of the news does Joan give her neighbors at the local bar?
What is the effect of the narrator’s references to Mr. Durbeyfield as Sir John?
What do we learn from Joan’s conversation with her husband? (fails to consult Tess in her plans)
What prompts her to imagine that her daughter will make a wealthy marriage? (vanity and stupidity) What reference work has she consulted to confirm her view? What self-evident facts are she ignoring in her fantasies?
What suspicions and advice are offered by the neighbors? Why do you think the narrator includes these? (even inexperienced farm workers understand that wealthy landowners expect to engage in sex with their social inferiors outside of marriage)
Why is Tess, rather than her father or mother, forced to make a nighttime journey to the market? Could her parents have prevented the episode which follows?
What views does Tess express to her brother about the world in which they live? (a blighted planet) What would this seem to suggest about her character? About the novel’s likely outcome?
What causes the death of Prince? Whom does Tess blame for this outcome? What effect on the family’s livelihood will the loss of their horse bring about?
When her mother suggests that she should go to seek favor and money from a supposed distant relative who is unaware of their existence, what does Tess say she would rather do?
Would hers have been a practical suggestion? What has been Tess’s ambition, and could she have obtained this under the conditions of the time? (to be a teacher)
Which of her mother’s plans does she specifically disavow? (marriage to a wealthy distant relative) What are her father’s reasons for discouraging this effort, and are his objections based on reality?
What emotions prompt Tess to accede to her parent’s wishes?
What role has Tess fulfilled toward her younger siblings? What have we learned of her character thus far?
In general, how are the working people and rural laborers of the novel presented? Are they stereotyped? Seen from a middle-class perspective?
How is the D’Urberville property described? (“like the last coin issued from the Mint”) Are there features of its appearance which seem ominous?
What does the narrator tell us about the means by which the estate and title were gained? (Mr. Stoke a former money-lender who chose a name and crest arbitrarily from the heraldic books) Are the current D’Urbervilles and the Durbeyfield family in fact related?
How is Alec described on his first meeting with Tess? Are the statements which he makes to her truthful? (states that his mother can’t be seen in order to prevent Tess from meeting her) What seems to be his motives?
What symbolism lies in Alex’s gifts of fruits and flowers? What is significant about the mode in which he offers her strawberries? Does his behavior and her response foretell aspects of their later relationship?
How does he respond to her request to be considered a relative? Does this indicate anything about his intentions or view of their respective social positions?
How does Tess respond to Alex’s invitations and advances?
What reflections does the narrator introduce on the topic of unfortunate meetings? (Tess has been seen and coveted by the wrong man) What does he prophecy about the future? (disappointments, shocks, catastrophes)
Who has sent the letter offering Tess employment with the D’Urbervilles? On what grounds is she reluctant to take this offer?
What pressures cause her to accede? What are the implications of the way in which her mother prepares her for the journey?
What observations does the narrator make about the letter which arranges for Tess’s arrival at her employment? On the reasons Tess’s hopes to be a teacher will not be fulfilled?
How does Joan interpret the arrival of Alec to fetch Tess? How does the reader interpret his actions?
What later compunctions does Joan have? How is the reader expected to react to these?
What financial gain does John Durbeyfield hope to derive from his daughter’s new connections? (hopes to sell his title for 20 pounds!) Could he in fact have sold his title?
How does Alec behave toward Tess on the journey to his home? How does she respond to his driving and to his advances?
Why doesn’t she simply return home at this point? (no conveyance, feels she should not change her mind)
On her arrival at the estate, what does Tess learn about Mrs. D’Urberville? Has the latter been aware of their supposed relationship?
What is Mrs. D’Urberville’s chief interest in life, and what does she expect Tess to do?
How would you describe Alec’s action in hiding in his mother’s bedroom to observe Tess?
On Tess’s outing to the fair, how is the marketplace dance described? Does Tess wish to participate?
What causes Tess to be attacked by her companions on the return journey?
Who has followed her home, and under what conditions does she accept Alec’s offer of a ride?
What advances does Alec make during their journey, and how does Tess respond? What deceptive action places her in his power?
What Biblical passage does Hardy evoke in describing the scene in which Alec returns to find Tess sleeping?
Is Tess a victim of rape? Of confusion, sleep and strong duress? What evidence do we have for judging? (later description by passerby who has heard her weeping)
At the time of the novel’s publication, would it have been possible for the narrator to have offered more details?
What suggestion of retribution is advanced by the narrator, only to be rejected? (past D’Urbervilles may have committed injustices)
What does the narrator predict will be the outcome of this night? (social chasm between past and future)
II Maiden No More
When and under what circumstances does Tess return home? Why did she wait to leave her employment for some months after this nighttime encounter?
As Alec accompanies her part way home, on what do they disagree? What does he offer her, and why does she reject this offer? (offers clothes, money and freedom from work; she doesn’t love him)
Where is Alec intending to go, and from what motive? (London, wishes to avoid his mother) With what compliment (after his fashion) does he leave her?
What is the significance of Tess’s encounter with the sign painter on her way home?
How does her family receive her? What are the implications of the narrator’s calling Joan a “poor foolish” woman?
Had Alec wished to marry Tess? Would she have wished to marry him?
With what does Tess reproach her mother? How does her mother respond? (says that she had thought if Tess were wary she would lose her chance of marriage!)
What is Tess’s mood on her return? How does she respond to music and to the changes of nature?
What does the (intrusive) narrator tell us about the validity of her sense of guilt? (“She had been made to break an accepted social law, but no law known to the environment in which she fancied herself such an anomaly.”) Does this commentary gloze over Alec’s actions?
How does the narrator describe the farm laborers? (“the charm which is acquired by woman when she becomes part and parcel of outdoor nature”) Among these how is Tess distinguished? (“the most flexuous and finely drawn figure of the all”; her eyes described in detail)
What is Tess’s attitude toward her son? What does one of the other gleaners report about the night in which she was impregnated?
What narrative comment is made on Tess’s character? (“the slight incautiousness of character inherited from her race”) Does this seem a quite fair description of a teen age girl who has been the object of unwanted sex when alone in a woods during nighttime?
What had motivated Tess to employ herself? What happens to her formerly undesired child?
What ceremony does she perform over him, and what is he christened? Why had he not earlier been given the benefit of this rite?
How does she respond to the clergyman who tells her this baptism is not valid? Does he back down? How is the child buried?
What causes Tess to take a new job? How does she respond to the fact that the new opportunity is near where her family’s ancestral lands were reputed to be?
III The Rally
What are some differences in the new landscape, and how do these affect Tess? What moods does the narrator ascribe to her, and with what moral implications? (“. . . her more perfect beauty accorded with her less elevated mood; her more intense mood with her less perfect beauty.”)
As Tess enters her new residence, what emotions rise in her? With what form of religious rites does the narrator associate her prayer to the beauty of the land? (“Pagan fantasy”)
What failings does the narrator assure us she possesses? (“she resembled [her father] in being content with immediate and small achievements, and in having no mind for laborious effort towards such petty social advancement as could alone be effected by a family so heavily handicapped . . . . ”)
What turns out to be Tess’s special skill, and what does this entail?
What do we learn about the mindset and beliefs of the dairy workers? (primitive legends)
How is Angel Clare first introduced in this setting, and what is his first comment? (on medieval origins of legend, “when faith was a living thing”)
What is Tess’s reaction on recognizing Clare? What information does she glean about Angel and his father?
What are the associations of Angel Clare’s name? What has prompted his departure from the university? What do we learn about his alleged opinions and past life?
Why does he now reside on a dairy farm? What is his response to the other farm people, and theirs to him?
What speech of Tess attracts the interest of her fellow dairyfolk and of Clare? (out of the body experience in gazing at stars) What aspect of her character is revealed? In this context, is the notion of separating from one’s body hopeful or ominous?
What draws Tess and Angel to each other? What views do they share about the nature of life and its difficulties? (“the ache of modernism”)
On what grounds does Tess respect Angel? What oppresses her about the thought of learning history? (sense of fatedness: “your coming life and doings ‘ll be like thousands’ and thousands’.”) What type of learning would she prefer?
Does Angel take her questions and sense of unhappiness seriously?
What does she learn of Angel’s reputed opinion of hereditary distinctions?
To what extent is Angel attracted to Tess by her character, and to what extent by her physical appearance? What associations does he project onto her? (Artemis, Demeter, an ideal woman)
What activities do they engage in together?
What story told by Mr. Crick causes Tess to feel sad? How does the story of the wronged woman whose mother intervenes differ from her own?
What do the other dairy girls discuss while they believe Tess lies sleeping? What are Tess’s responses to Angel Clare, why does she believe he would prefer her?
Why does Tess have reservations about seeking his preference? (could “never conscientiously allow any man to marry her now”) Does this seem an excessive response to a past affair?
What tasks does the appearance of a “twang” in the butter cause the dairy workers to undertake? Once again, how does Hardy use the details of dairy-making to further his account of Tess and Angel’s courtship?
How does Tess attempt to help her fellow dairymaids in their unrequited romantic passion?
What form of restraint does Tess admire in Angel? What does this indicate about her expectations of men in general?
What Sunday morning incident prompts Angel to express his feelings for Tess?
Does it seem likely that one slender man could carry four women across a wide river?
Why do you think Hardy includes details of the effusions of Tess’s fellow workers about Angel?
What information about Angel’s parents’ choice of his prospective marriage partner is rumored at the dairy farm?
Could the farm girls plausibly have learned of this? Why do you think this detail is included?
What qualities in Tess attract Angel? (touch of imperfect gave sweetness)
During what dairy activity does he embrace her? (she is milking Old Pretty) What is Tess’s response, and is this surprising or ominous in view of her attachment to him?
What does the narrator foretell will be the result of this episode? (“the tract of each one’s outlook was to have a new horizon thenceforward—for a short time or a long.”) Does this remark seem to suggest a happy outcome?
IV The Consequence
Of what do the events in this section seem to be a consequence?
According to the narrator, what changes have occurred in Angel since he has come to the dairy? How does the narrator describe the force which has affected him? (Tess’s personality)
On Angel’s visit home, what do we learn of the personality of Mr. Clare senior? What aspects of his son’s experience remain foreign to him?
What changes do Angel’s family note in him? From the narrator’s perspective, have these changes been desirable?
How do Angel’s brothers differ from their father? What advice does Felix offer Angel, and how does Angel respond?
How do Angel’s parents use the gifts sent them from the dairy? What is indicated by Angel’s reaction?
What has his father done to compensate Angel for not having paid for his further university education?
Why do his parents wish him to marry Mercy Chant? Would she in fact be a suitable spouse for Angel?
What arguments does Angel use to win over his parents to the idea of his marriage to Tess? Why does he avoid mentioning his choice of partner to his brothers?
What incident does Angel’s father describe in which Alex D’Urberville has insulted him?
Under what circumstances has Mr. Clare senior been attacked in he past? (has prevented drunken men from murdering their wives)
What traits in his father does Angel admire? (otherworldly, not covetous)
How is Tess’s morning appearance described? How does she respond to Angel Clare’s proposal of marriage?
How does Clare describe Tess’s religious views to himself? (“Tractarian as to phraseology, and Pantheistic as to essence”)
How does Tess react when she hears Clare’s account of the man who had reviled his father at Tantridge? What details reveal to her that this man is Alec?
How does Angel interpret Tess’s rejection of his proposal? (female coyness)
What reasons does she give for rejection (unworthy, rejects him for his own good)
According to the narrator, why has Tess decided to decline his proposal? (to prevent his later ruing that he had married her in ignorance)
What commonsensical response to her problem is ignored? (could tell him of the assault and resultant birth of her child)
Of what does Angel accuse her? (coquetry) Would this have been consistent with her continued distress?
Even as she decides to accept Angel’s proposal, what does she predict? (“Yet it is a wrong to him, and may kill him when he knows.”)
Does her response seem inconsistent? Melodramatic? Prophetic? What view of Angel’s temperament/views on sexual purity does it seem to indicate?
What discussion held in the dairy about a neighboring marriage seems to Tess to bear on her own case? (a man had married a widow for her income, which was then lost on account of her marriage)
Do the listeners agree on whether the bride was obligated to tell her future husband that she would lose her inheritance? What view does Tess give? Is this consistent with her future behavior?
What scruples does the narrator ascribe to Tess? (“a religious sense of a certain moral validity in the previous union” and a “conscientious wish for candour”) Does the former make sense, especially in view of Alec’s character?
What time of the day do Tess and Angel often spend together? How does their relationship gradually change?
What understanding do the lovers come to during their ride to the railway with the milk cans? What views does Angel express about the extinction of the D’Urbervilles?
What troubling cues does Tess attempt to give Angel before their marriage, and on what grounds does he assume that her “history” can contain nothing of serious concern?
What is Angel’s reaction to the news that Tess is a remote descendant of the D’Urbervilles? What plans does he reveal for her future? (hopes to assist her education, believes his mother will be pleased at her lineage)
Why does his calling her “Mistress Teresa d’Urberville” so distress her? Is his joke ominous?
What motivates Tess to conceal the information she had felt obligated to impart? (“instinct of self-preservation was stronger than her candour”) Does this seem entirely convincing?
In the context of her constant anxiety, does it seem strange that Angel fails to pick up on her reference to her “offences”?
What is her first reaction on consenting to their marriage? (weeps) Does this seem a propitious sign for their future?
How does the narrator interpret her consent? (“The ‘appetite for joy’ . . . was not to be controlled by vague lucubrations over the social rubric.”) In context, what does this mean?
Did “vague lucubrations over the social rubric” prevent Tess from telling her future husband of her lost child, or him from attending to her concern that her past history might make their marriage inadvisable?
Does it seem ominous that Angel repeatedly refers to her as a “child,” “dear child,” and so on?
What emotion does her memory of her first encounter with Angel awake in her? (regret that he hadn’t danced with her)
Does it seem ominous that she worries that it may have been a bad omen? Had it in fact been a bad omen?
What dangerous advice does Joan Durbeyfield give her daughter in her second letter? (claims Tess had promised her not to tell!)
Does this letter release Tess from responsibility for telling her husband the truth about her past? (mother was “the only person in the world who had any shadow of right to control her action”)
What gift do the Durbeyfields promise to send their daughter for a wedding gift? Would this have been considered tasteful?
How does the narrator describe the quality of Tess’s love? (“She thought every line in the contour of his person the perfection of masculine beauty, his soul the soul of a saint, his intellect that of a seer.”)
What praise of Angel does the narrator enter to offer? (“he was, in truth, more spiritual than animal”) Is this consistent with his later destructive jealousy over his wife’s brief prior relationship?
Does it seem ominous that he remains pleased at the thought of telling the world of her family background? Is it plausible that no one ever suspects the truth of Parson Tringham’s claims?
What further signs of distress does she give, and he ignore? (wished he had courted her when she was sixteen)
What hints does the narrator give that Tess’s concealment may be a feature of her sex? (“With the woman’s instinct to hide, she diverged hastily . . . .”)
What accidental event precipitates the news of their engagement? How do her fellow dairy women respond to the news?
What resolve does Tess make, and break? (not “to preserve a silence which might be deemed a treachery to him, and which somehow seemed a wrong to these [her friends]”) Why the use of words such as “seemed” or deemed”?
What wish does Tess state when asked to set a wedding date? (wishes to be engaged forever) What may this indicate?
On what grounds does the narrator claim that passivity in her situation is natural? (“Her naturally bright intelligence had begun to admit the fatalistic convictions common to field-folk and those who associate more extensively with natural phenomena than with their fellow-creatures; and she accordingly drifted into that passive responsiveness to all things her lover suggested. . . . ”) For one thing, does she in fact associate more with nature than with her fellow humans?
What changes have occurred in Tess from her association with Angel, and does the narrator approve of these? (her speech is more educated and she imitates his ways)
What plan does he hold for their immediate future before visiting his parents? (hopes to live with her for two months in lodgings to improve her manners before meeting with his parents) Does this seem wise? Condescending? A reflection of his ambivalence?
On what grounds does Angel desire that they be married without bans, and why does this disconcert Tess? Does it seem propitious that he had not chosen to consult Tess about this? That he chooses her wedding clothes without consultation?
What old ballad ominously occurs to Tess as she tries on her new wedding clothes?
What insult does Tess receive from a stranger in town? Do you think this incident is probable? How does Clare respond? (hits him)
What effect does this incident have on Tess? Again, what hints of trouble from Tess does Angel ignore?
What do we learn about Angel’s reaction to this incident from his behavior while sleepwalking?
What happens to the letter she writes him? Why does she later remove it?
Why is Clare not distressed by his parents’ cold reaction to his wedding? Do you think they were at all justified in their dismay? (hadn’t been introduced to her, little warning!)
How does Clare respond to Tess’s statement that she wants “to confess all my faults and blunders”? To her plea that it will be better to tell him before marriage?
What seems ominous in her mental state before the wedding? (narrator notes “Her one desire, so long resisted, to make herself his, to call him her lord, her own—then, if necessary, to die. . . .”)
What is Tess’s mindset during the service? Afterwards?
What ominous legend does Clare tell her about the D’Urberville coach? (seen before family member commits a crime) What seems her reaction? (fears a death)
What belief about her relationship to Alec now enters her mind? Does the narrator seem to believe this plausible? (“She was Mrs. Angel Clare, indeed, but had she any moral right to the name? Was she not more truly Mrs. Alexander d’Urberville?”)
What does she feel about his love for her? (“she you love is not my real self, but one in my image”—compare Hardy’s poem, “The Well-Beloved”)
What ominous noise occurs as the couple leave on their journey? (crow crows)
What motivates Clare’s choice of a honeymoon residence? As a consequence, what aspects of the house does Tess find alarming?
Does it seem likely that her features will be recognizable in portraits of women from two centuries earlier, especially as the faces portrayed are suggestive of treachery and arrogance?
How does Clare respond to the realization that her happiness is in his hands? (“And shall I ever neglect her or hurt her, or even forget to consider her? God forbid such a crime!”) Does he know himself?
What is the effect of the gift/loan of jewels from his parents? Does it make sense that parents who would not attend the ceremony cannot wait until meeting the bride to send jewels from Clare’s godmother?
Is the accompanying letter from his parents cordial?
Does it seem ominous that he finds the jewels gleam “somewhat ironically” on his wife? On what grounds does he decide they are suitable? (she is a D’Urberville)
When the servant, Jonathan, brings their possessions, what story does he relate? (Retty had tried to drown herself) How does the story affect Tess? (“She would pay to the uttermost”)
What confession does Clare then make, and what is Tess’s response?
What ominous imagery accompanies Tess’s recital of her past with Alec? Does it seem strange that “her story of her acquaintance with Alec d’Urberville and its results” does not include mention of the child’s fate?
V. The Woman Pays
What are some implications of the subsection’s title? Is Tess the victim of a double standard? For what is she paying?
How does Angel react to Tess’s account? (at first can’t believe it; then says she is now a different person than the one he married; laughs wildly)
Does she manage an argument? (“I thought, Angel, that you loved me—me, my very self!”)
What renunciation does she make? (“I shan’t ask you to let me live with you”) What promise does she make, and does he accept it? (will always obey him, even to death)
Of what does he accuse her, and would these charges apply to him? (self-preservation in concealment) How does he relate her actions to her background? (different societies have different manners, she is an unapprehending peasant woman) Does this speak to the case? (as a middle-class man, he has committed a worse offence; also her peasant background is the cause of her vulnerability to sexual violence)
What condemnation does he make of her background? (“offspring of an effete aristocracy”) Does this seem consistent with his earlier views?
What does she volunteer to do? (drown herself) How does he react? (says others would treat it as a joke—fails to comfort her)
What likely reaction would a modern reader have?
What response does the embittered Clare have to the portraits of the D’Urberville women? (repelled, feels Tess's face belies her dishonesty; her eyes viewing a discordant world beyond the sensible one)
What concrete information does he finally seek? (child has died, seducer still lives)
What interpretation of their respective status does Clare now give? (has given “up all ambition to win a wife with social standing, with fortune, with knowledge of the world”). Had he formerly sought these traits?
What is Tess’s response, and does she narrator seem to think this natural? (“felt his position”) What solutions does she suggest in an attempt to aid him? (divorce--he responds that she is “crude”; she has considered suicide)
Would divorce in fact have been possible? What reason does she give for not having considered suicide? What does she consider would be a suitable way for her life to end? (his murdering her!)
What grounds does the narrator give for Angel's rejection of appeals which would “almost have won round any man”? (logical deposit in his mind; he had rejected Church and would reject her) Does this seem a coherent comparison?
What grounds does he give for his entire refusal to trust? (“It isn’t a question of respectability, but one of principle!”) What principle can he refer to?
What excuse does the narrator offer? (His bitterness is such as warps “direct souls with such persistence when once their vision finds itself mocked by appearances”—hadn’t her vision been also mocked by appearances, and in this case, far more?)
Would a moralistic Victorian have expected a man to refuse to live with his wife on the grounds that she had had an affair some years previously?
What does Angel decide is Tess’s relationship to Alec? (“he being your husband in nature, and not I”) Does consent or intention not matter?
How does he think her past will affect others? (their children might be embarrassed at some future time) Do you think this likely? (surely they would prefer to be born, and would find their mother's past unimportant)
On what grounds does Tess agree with him? (believes it might be better not to be born than to feel shame) In what terms does the narrator gloss this thought? (“Vulpine slyness of Nature” had prevented her from realizing that she might harm her children in producing them!)
What are some disturbing elements to this scene? Granted that marriage and family patterns have changed in the past 120 years, are there troubling elements of this scene?
What does she resolve to do, and where will she go? On what grounds does the narrator consider that Angel is motivated by “the will to subdue the grosser to the subtler emotion, the substance to the conception, the flesh to the spirit”)?
Under what conditions, in this narrator’s view, could a romance or marriage be engaged in without shame, guilt, ambivalence or unhappiness?
What eruption of Clare’s subconscious gives his wife a brief hope of reconciliation? What is her response when he seems likely to drown her? To where does he take her, and why does she attempt to guide him home? (fears he may take chill in cemetery)
Does this scene seem plausible?
Why does his wife not tell him of this scene? (might grieve or anger him)
When the couple stop at the dairy to bid goodbye before leaving, does anyone notice a change in their demeanor?
What commands and charges does Angel give Tess as he leaves her? (must not attempt to join him, may communicate with him only in need)
Does the narrator think she might have behaved other than meekly? (Yes, could have “made a scene,” but this would have been to be “artful”) How does the narrator gloss her “Pride”? (this “perhaps was a symptom of that reckless acquiescence in chance so apparent in the whole D’Urberville family”)
Would it be just to describe her as “reckless” at this stage? Does the narrator provide alternatives? Is her behavior plausibly related to that of her ancestors?
What reception does Joan give her daughter, and how does she interpret the failure of the daughter’s marriage? How does Tess’s father react? (questions the marriage)
What financial provision for her parents does Tess make in order to shield Angel? (gives them 25 of 50 pounds provided for her)
What does Clare believe has been his punishment for not having abandoned Tess on the grounds of her noble ancestry?
What plans has Clare made, and with what motives? (conventions would not so affect them in Brazil!) Would there have been alternatives for achieving these aims?
What prompts Clare’s visit home, and what conversations does his appearance without his wife elicit? Has his mother accepted the idea of his marriage?
What seems his mother’s preoccupation, and how does this gall him? (stresses importance of purity) Does he speak truthfully in response?
What response does his father make? (reads verses in Proverbs on virtuous wife, speaks of purity and chastity) Would the Biblical description of a hard-working, provident wife have applied to Tess?
Have his parents accepted the class differences which had formerly grieved them?
Does the narrator’s evaluation of this old couple seem consistent with their words and actions? (sincere and simple souls)
Why is purity such a preoccupation when their very gospel is based on forgiveness (as we see later in the case of Alec)? [Would not unbelief have seemed more important to these fundamentalists than a past but repented lapse, the more so as they would have known of many such cases?]
Whom does Angel blame for his lies to his parents? (Tess!) What defense of Tess does the narrator give? (Angel has been a “slave to custom and conventionality”; Tess blameless in intention)
Do you think that under other circumstances Tess and Angel might have been happy? Or were there deep psychological problems which might have surfaced even had she not been the victim of abuse? Or did that abuse contribute to the problems?
What topics does Angel debate with Mercy Chant? What does he do with the jewels given to Tess? (does this seem a fair or wise decision?) How much money does he leave for her, and does this seem likely to provide enough support?
What motivates him not to give his parents her address? What later problems might this cause?
Whom does he meet on returning to the farmhouse? What news does she bring of her fellow dairywoman Marian?
What do you make of his proposition to Izzy? On what grounds does he justify it? (He was incensed against his fate, bitterly disposed towards social ordinances; for they had coopted him up in a corner”) Is this an accurate or plausible account of the source of his problems?
Does he promise to love his future partner? Of what does he warn her? (what they do will be wrongdoing in the eyes of Western civilization!)
What is Izzy’s response? What account of Tess changes Angel’s mind?
Why does Angel refuse to rejoin his wife at this juncture? (“If he was right at first, he was right now.”) How does this square with his recent proposition to another woman?
What vision of the future does he cherish? (“He could soon come back to her.”) Does this seem consistent with a knowledge of the world and its perils? Of the effect her single state will have on others?
What events not of her making gradually reduce Tess to poverty? (parents want money for their new roof)
Where does she seek occupation and why? (ashamed to return to Talbothays; joins Marian on upland farm in same county; continues on with “habitude of the wild animal”)
What has changed in her manner? (she now has “a certain bearing of distinction, which she had caught from Clare”)
What undesired attention causes her anxiety? (man who had previously insulted her accosts her)
How does she respond? (she flees, broods on her own death)
What creatures join her in her woodland retreat, and why? What views does she (and presumably Hardy) hold on hunters, and how does she relieve the pain of their victims?
What lesson does she take from this encounter?
From what motives does Tess attempt to diminish her physical attractiveness? Do the measures she takes seem extreme?
What are the conditions of her new employment at Flintcomb-Ash?
What response does Marian have to Tess’s degraded condition?
When Tess informs her parents of her new address, what does she conceal and why? (bad conditions, so as not to bring reproach on her husband)
How does the narrator describe Tess’s characteristic patience? (“Patience, that blending of moral courage and physical timidity. . . sustained her.”) Does it seem fair to describe Tess as physically timid?
Of what do Tess and Marian converse as they work? Who joins them? (Izzy)
What weather conditions are described, and how does this change the work conditions of the women? What discomfort is caused Tess by the attitude of her employer?
On what grounds does Tess hope Angel will relent? (what she believes to be his magnanimity of character) How does she explain to others his leaving her in poverty? (results from accident)
What unpleasant account of Angel’s behavior causes Tess pain? Does she blame him? What does this revelation prompt her to do? (writes him)
What does she do to fortify her courage in the act? (places wedding ring on finger)
With what purpose in mind does Tess leave the farm and travel to the Vicarage of Angel’s parents?
What are some difficulties of the trip? Why does she not wait for the Vicar to return to the parsonage after church? (did not want to make herself conspicuous)
What other events turn her from her purpose? (unkind remarks of Mercy Chant, overhears brothers speak of Angel’s “ill-considered marriage”)
What does the narrator consider “the greatest misfortune of her life”? (her “feminine loss of courage at the last and critical moment”) On what grounds? (old couple would have had sympathy for extreme cases)
What ill result comes of her removing her veil in the sunshine before passing by a barn iniside of which a preacher is delivering a sermon?
Who is the speaker, and what incident does he relate? What is Tess’s response? (feels “enervating conviction that her seducer confronted her”)
To what does this subtitle refer? Is it ironic?
What changes have occurred in Alec since she had last seen him? What effect does her passing by have on him?
What does Alec claim is his motive in later overtaking Tess on her journey? How does she respond to his account of his past and conversion? (fails to believe in his sincerity, and in his religion itself)
What strange request does he make, and what does this indicate? (demands that she not look at him) What is her response? (feels guilt at inhabiting her “fleshly tabernacle”)
Why does Tess continue to talk with him? (doesn’t like “to send him back by positive mandate”) Does this seem consistent with her stated aversion?
What change does Alec note in her speech? What past event does she tell him of? (their child, and its death)
What demand does Alec make of Tess on parting? What does she later learn the stone marker on which she had sworn had commemorated?
When Alec visits her during her work hours, what purpose does he claim to have? (Asks her to marry him and accompany him to missionary work in Africa!) What reasons does she offer for not marrying him?
How does he respond to the information that her husband has left her? What lesser assailant interrupts their conversation?
What happens when he visits her home? After seeing his approach, why does she answer her door? (“She thought that she would not open the door; but . . . there was no sense in that either . . . .”)
What do they discuss? Does it seem plausible that her repetition of Angel’s words should work Alec’s deconversion? Does she grasp all that she is saying? (repeats “even when she did not comprehend their spirit”)
On what grounds does she wish Alex to leave her? (so as not to cause scandal to Angel’s name)
What irony does Alec find in the fact that the words of Tess’s husband have affected his faith?
In what terms is the steam-driven threshing machine described? What labor is Tess formed to perform?
What comment does her fellow worker Izzy make on Tess's loyalty? (nothing “can wean a woman when ’twould be better for her that she should be weaned”)
What is the reader supposed to make of Alec’s repeated appearances? On this occasion, what news does he give Tess? (has given up preaching, wishes her to live with him again)
What is Alec's response to the idea that one might maintain an ethical system without theological belief? (not for him)
How does the narrator explain the fact that Tess's reasonings on moral matters are limited? (Angel’s reticence, “her absolute want of training,” and her emotionality and lack of reason)
How does Tess respond to Alec’s propositioning? (flings glove at him) Of what does she accuse him? (intending to crush her, “Once victim, always victim”)
At this point, is it plausible that he continues to follow her? With what threat does he leave? (will be master again)
As the final phase of the hard labor of harvest
continues, what new temptation does Alec offer? (will help her family) Does she accept?
What is the tone of the letter she writes Angel? (misses him desperately, could die in his arms, begs him to come) Why had the two previous letters not been finished and sent?
With what does Mrs. Clare reproach her husband? (not having continued Angel’s Cambridge education) What do they hope for Angel’s marriage? (hope for reconciliation)
How has Angel fared in Brazil? How have his thoughts regarding his wife begun to change? (she should be judged by her intentions, not [unintentional] actions) Whose opinion in the matter influences him? (companion who later dies)
What does the narrator think Angel’s classical studies have inclined him to believe? (should ignore Christian mystical “abhorrence of the unintact state”) On what grounds, then, does he admit that he has deserted Tess? (lack of virginity—recall that earlier he had spoken of “principle”)
What does the narrator believe has been Angel’s problem? (mistake “had arisen from his allowing himself to be influenced by general principles to the disregard of the particular instance”) Does this seem plausible? Why would “general principles” cause him to desert his wife and only notions of the “particular instance” prompt reconciliation?
What does the narrator believe has prompted his harshness? (the much greater harshness of civilization, the “universal harshness of the position towards the temperament”)
According to the narrator, then, are Angel’s responses entirely socially conditioned? If so, why do all the others who are aware of the separation find it strange or needless?
What prompts his rekindled ardor? (memory of her distinguished lineage! Her dignity as opposed to “the freshness of her fellows”)
How does Tess prepare for the possibility of Angel’s arrival?
What sudden news and messenger aborts Tess’s unpleasant sojourn at Flintcomb-Ash?
Why doesn’t Tess wait until morning to begin her journey home?
What thoughts occur to Tess as she passes a forest en route home? (thinks of animals who have died, witches who have been drowned)
At home, what conditions does she find, and how does she respond? (father refuses to work, she gardens on family plot)
Who follows Tess as she gardens? Does his behavior seem odd? What does he offer? (pleads her family’s needs)
What drastic effect proceeds from Mr. Durbeyfield’s death? Has the reader been prepared for this outcome?
What changes have undermined the stability of their rural village? (better leases no longer available and the middle range of tenants is forced out in favor of day labor farmers)
What had been some of the lapses of the Durbeyfield family in the eyes of their neighbors?
How has Tess’s return home affected their situation? (not permitted to stay as weekly tenants because of Tess’s presence) Does this seem likely?
On Alec’s next, inopportune visit, what does Tess learn of the legend of the D’Urberville coach?
What does Alec offer her on this occasion? (dwelling for her family) On what grounds does she refuse? Does she seem to temporize?
What new letter does she write Angel?
What do the children sing as a farewell to their home, and how does this sadden Tess?
What does she resolve to be toward her brothers and sisters? (“to be their Providence”)
What final reflections on Alec darken the end of the chapter? (“Yet a consciousness that in a physical sense this man alone was her husband seemed to weigh on her more and more.”) Does the rest of the novel bear this out? (Doesn’t consider him her husband later, murders him)
As the family move, whom do they encounter on the road? Why do you think this meeting is included?
What are Marian and Izzy prompted to do, and what delays the execution of their kind intervention? (month long delay as they settle at new location)
What bad news do the Durbeyfields receive on their arrival at Kingsbere? Whose negligence has brought about this result?
To what new indignity is Tess’s family subjected, and under what ironic circumstances? (family camp out in D’Urberville church, by family tombs) Is this scene symbolic?
What wish does Tess express in her unhappiness? What has prompted her desperation? (Alec’s reappearance and threat—“you’ll be civil yet”)
What are some bitter implications of this ironic title?
What changes in Clare are noted on his return home?
On what grounds does his mother urge him not to concern himself about his wife? Does this seem consistent with her prior emotions?
What causes Angel to delay in rejoining Tess? What does Mrs. Durbeyfield write in answer to his inquiry?
How does he interpret her letter? (assumes Tess is well and delays further)
Does Angel seem perceptive in interpreting the possible pressures which have prompted his wife’s desperate letters?
What new information does he learn from his parents? (Tess has never applied to them for help)
How do his parents respond to the news of Tess’s past? (feel compassion)
What warning is contained in the missive he receives from the farm women?
What does Clare learn on his first and only visit to Tess's former home at Marlott? What act in honor of the Durbeyfields does he perform as he leaves?
What does he learn of Tess from her mother? On what matter do they differ? (on whether Tess will wish to see him)
How does Angel interpret the news that Tess is now Mrs. D’Urberville? Does this seem obtuse in view of her former reluctance to claim the name?
What painful news is Tess forced to impart? What ominous impression of Tess does Angel take away from their interview? (that her body is disassociated from her self—“like a corpse upon the current, in a direction disassociated from its living will”)
From whose perspective is the murder of Alec described? Is this effective in enhancing the sense of horror? Have you read other accounts of a murder which are similarly indirect?
What does the snooping landlady hear as she walks by Tess and Alex’s apartment? (Tess’s grief and reproaches—fears Angel is dying and his unhappiness will kill him rather than her)
How does Tess kill him? (carving knife)
How does Tess find Angel, and what is his reaction to her story? What does she give as her reasons for her deed? (he had wronged Angel through her; feels she will regain Angel)
How does Angel interpret her mental state? Is he correct? With what does he associate “her aberration”? (D’Urberville family!)
With what intention does he guide them away from habitations? Where do they hide, and how do they manage to subsist?
What event from the past does Tess describe to Angel, and how does he respond? (tells him of sleepwalking scene; he claims that had he known he might have behaved differently, but this seems unlikely)
What causes their delay in moving from this shelter? What emotions prompt her reluctance to attempt escape? (fears he may not continue to love her, would rather die)
What finally prompts them to leave? Are they correct to be frightened?
As they travel northward, what set of structures do they encounter? What ominous associations surround Tess’s choice of resting place? What emotions does she feel as she rests? (at home)
What last wish does she leave him with, and on what grounds? (“She [Lisa-Lu] has all the best of me without the bad of me”)
How does he answer her question regarding whether they will meet again?
Under what circumstances is she arrested, and what causes the policement to delay in seizing her?
What does she say when she understands her situation? (“now I shall not live for you to despise me!”)
From what perspective is Tess’s death recounted? Why do you think we do not learn anything of her trial and imprisonment?
How are Lisa-Lu and Angel described? What are some grim aspects of this scene?
Do you feel that the marriage of Lisa-Lu and Angel will bring closure to the novel’s basic themes? (Angel again seeks a chaste, entirely innocent bride after the misery his puritanism and jealousy have caused—no learning or justice has occurred.)
Is Hardy’s ending intended to be calming (that is, good comes from evil) or a bitter commentary on injustice? (if so, sympathetic treatment of the mourners unlikely)
The issue of shame and family dishonor due to sexual impropriety is a major theme of the book; what do you think of the fact that murder, hanging and the attendant notoriety associated with a crime is scarcely treated by comparison?
What do you think of the ending? How else might Hardy have concluded his novel? Would a happy outcome have been consistent with the previous overtones of the plot?
How does the friendship/association between the four (and later three) women at the dairy and afterwards add to the portrayal of Tess, and to the plot in general?
How are Tess's class origins reflected in linguistic registers? Are differences in speech and education important to the novel's themes?
Do you think the novel’s characterization of Angel is entirely consistent? Of Tess? Of other characters? Do these inconsistencies detract from the novel or add to its power (or both)?
In what ways are the narrator’s evaluations – of Tess and her background, of the causes of her problems, of Angel Clare and of religious hypocrisy – intended to shape our view of events?
Is this story of a dairywoman told from a middle-class viewpoint? Which aspects of lower-class rural culture does the narrator find worth recording? (folk superstitions, myths, folk legends and stories)
What are some of the novel's most significant symbolic scenes, and are these related in some way? (D'Urberville jewels in firelight and the dripping blood of the murder scene; use of D'Urberville graves and Stonehenge scene; lurid account of Tess's exhausting farm labor on the mechanized reaper at night)
What are some of the novel’s best features? (lovely landscape descriptions; unusual blend of descriptions of manual labor with romantic themes; use of irony; concern with folk customs, often portrayed ironically; erotically suffused descriptions; pointed and elevated phraseology; blend of lush settings and portrayal of poigant and tragic cross-purposes; striking symbolic scenes; complicated portrayals of tangled human emotions)