Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tess of the D'Urbervilles | Thomas Hardy

"Tess knew that she had been thoughtful to excess, and struggled against it." p284. This line, coupled with "All is vanity" p351 are the central themes of this novel.

Without spoilers...

Tess is a simple country girl, somehow with a deeper appreciation of life and the world around her. She makes a mistake as a young adult and continues to punish herself for it. When her husband decides that she is correct in doing so, he punishes her. Instead of standing up for herself, Tess accepts this and punishes herself further. Of course, this punishment is all in the name of vanity. Old customs create obstacles that neither Tess or her husband can get over. When they are finally able to overcome these obstacles, it is too late.

Hardy is a master of literature. While this novel may be very slow for those used to modern day prose (novel published in 1891), Hardy's words are not laid in vain. He sets this novel up like a master chess player. Every move has purpose and all lead to the inevitable fall of the king... and in this case, the king of our story... Tess.

I must admit that Hardy uses a very advanced vocabulary, and while the novel is easy to understand, it is sometimes slow to meander through. There is no running; the story has a way of gripping and moving you, but I never felt like I couldn't put the book down.

That stated, this book has stood the test of time for a reason. It teaches us to throw away modern convention and that if we continue to try to live with a moral character, despite the occasional slip-up, we can live a very happy life. The catch is, we must learn from our mistakes and forgive ourselves, as should the people who really care about us.


"Tess Durbeyfield at this time of her life was a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience." 51

"Tess, locking them all in, started on her way up the dark and crooked lane or street not made for hasty progress; a street laid out before inches of land had value, and when one-handed clocks sufficiently sub-divided the day." 62

"Every village has its idiosyncrasy, its constitution, often its own code of morality." 105

"The night came in, and took up its place there, unconcerned and indifferent; the night which had already swallowed up his happiness, and was no digesting it listlessly; and was ready to swallow up the happiness of a thousand other people with as little disturbance or change of mien." 305

"The pair were, in truth, but the ashes of their former fires. To the hot sorrow of the previous night had succeeded heaviness; it seemed as if nothing could kindle either of them to fervour of sensation any more." 307

"Within the remote depths of his constitution, so gentle and affectionate as he was in general, there lay hidden a hard logical deposit, like a vein of metal in a soft loam, which turned the edge of everything that tempted to traverse it." 311

Note to self: Foreshadowing on 313

"Yet Clare's love was doubtless ethereal to a fault, imaginative to impracticability. With these natures, corporeal presence is sometimes less appealing than corporeal absence; the latter creating an ideal presence that conveniently drops the defects of the real." 315

"When two people are once parted - have abandoned a common domicile and common environment - new growths insensibly bud upward to fill each vacated place; unforeseen accidents hinder intentions, and old plans are forgotten." 316

1 comment:

Christopher said...

Oh, Tess of that "delicate feminine tissue," is the woman that we all we want to love. Isn't she? I utterly despised Alec 'd'Urberville-Stoke and Angel Clare; how in the name of God could they have treated this woman like this?

You might like this poem of Thomas Hardy's that I have posted to my blog entitled, "Tess's Lament,"

I love your reviews, my friend! Cheers! Chris