Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tess writes a letter to her mother, and soon gets a response. Joan writes in a rustic, uneducated manner, congratulating Tess's marriage but warning her to not mention her past “Trouble.” She knows it is in Tess's nature to be honest, but says she would be a fool to talk about her past to Angel.
Tess finally gets some outside advice, but while this advice may be clever, it is at odds with Tess's natural sincerity. Her mother's dialect seems foreign to her life now that she is used to Angel's educated manner.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Tess realizes that to Joan her past horrors were but a fleeting trouble, but that she might be right about keeping silent. Tess is somewhat calmed by the letter. That autumn is one of the happiest times of her life. She loves Angel with perfect trust bordering on worship, assured that he is the ideal of goodness and intellect. She tries to dismiss the past altogether.
Tess is finally able to make some sort of decision, and immediately the happiness her spirit has desired overtakes her. She idealizes Angel as much as he does her, and cannot see any of his flaws in her image of a godlike man.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Tess is constantly surprised by Angel's chivalry and thoughtfulness. In reality she exaggerates his qualities, but he is a good, spiritual man, and loves with his mind as much as his heart. This especially pleases Tess in comparison with her past experiences.
Angel's delicacy is again contrasted with Alec's bestial nature. This mutual idealization on the part of both lovers can lead to nothing good, however.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Tess seeks out Angel whenever they are outdoors, which seems presumptuous and immodest to him until he realizes it is the country way. They walk together by brooks and through fogs, and watch men digging in the rich, fertile soil.
Angel shows his ignorance of another rural custom. Images of fertility and natural beauty again accompany his and Tess's happiness.
Themes
Nature and Modernity Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
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Angel keeps his arm around Tess as they walk, and Tess asks if he would be ashamed if his Emminster friends found out about it. Angel jokes that a Clare could never be ashamed of a d'Urberville, and says that he does not care what they think, since they will probably move to another part of England or another country altogether. Tess is overcome with emotion at this idea of their future. They stand on a bridge with a river and many animals passing below.
Angel displays an admirable sentiment of independence from convention here, but he cannot maintain it in the face of a real trial. Tess is offered the escape from the past she has been dreaming of, and her joy is heartbreaking. More descriptions of nature are emphasized alongside their relationship.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Nature and Modernity Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
They walk also in the evenings, and the other workers note the excited change in Tess's voice as they talk, and her gait which is like a bird about to land. Her love for Angel begins to envelop every aspect of Tess's personality, but she never forgets the darkness lurking beyond her happy bubble.
Tess is again compared to a bird. Her personality starts to be subsumed by her passion, but she still has enough wisdom to remember the depression of her past.
Themes
Nature and Modernity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
One evening they are at home alone when Tess again protests that she is unworthy. Angel responds that being honest and true is better than fitting any convention of society. Tess wishes he had stayed long ago at the May-Day dance and married her then. Angel feels she is being moody and asks why she so strongly regrets such a thing. Tess deflects by saying they would have had more time together then.
Angel still cannot understand her turmoil, and Tess again avoids being honest. The thought of her younger, more innocent self upsets her. Her guilt threatens the happiness she has sacrificed so much for, and the tragedy is that it is guilt for a sin Tess did not commit.
Themes
Social Criticism Theme Icon
The narrator points out that Tess is still a girl and not yet mature despite her dark past. She leaves for a while to calm down, and when she finally returns Angel says she has been acting capricious. Tess agrees, but promises it is not in her nature.
Hardy reminds us of Tess's age to put this in perspective. She does not have the maturity to deal with all that has happened to her. Angel makes more mistaken observations.
Themes
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Angel wants to set a wedding date, but Tess delays, hoping to linger as they are. Angel is concerned with his future as a farmer, and wants Tess to help him starting out. The potential nearness of the wedding strikes Tess and she realizes again that it is real.
The nebulous engagement offers an escape from the past for Tess, but setting a date for the wedding (like her musings on the date of her death) makes it frighteningly real.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
At that moment the Cricks and two milkmaids enter, and Tess pulls away from Angel, denying that she was sitting on his knee. Dairyman Crick says he wouldn't have noticed if she hadn't said anything. Angel declares their betrothal, and Crick congratulates him. Tess had disappeared at the look of the dairymaids.
Their secluded relationship finally starts to come up against the outside world, starting with their comfortable Talbothays home. Already there is trouble with Tess's roommates.
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Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
After dinner Tess's roommates confront her and she admits they are getting married. The three gather around Tess and lay hands on her in awe. They want to dislike her, but cannot. Tess again says they are all better than she is, and bursts into tears.
Tess becomes transformed for the women when they learn of her betrothal, and they lay hands on her as if she had suddenly become a saint or goddess.
Themes
Paganism and Christianity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
The women comfort Tess and put her in bed, and then Marian asks her to think of them when she is with Angel, and to remember how they loved him and could not hate her. Tess cries and resolves again to tell Angel the truth, as her silence seems an offense against these honest women.
Tess is still eaten away with guilt. She thinks again that Retty, Marian, and Izz are more like the pure, innocent female ideals that Angel really loves.
Themes
Nature and Modernity Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon