Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles Chapter 39 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Three weeks after the wedding Angel returns home. He is a changed man, and thinks he can see life practically now, free from romantic ideals. He has been troubled in his thoughts lately, often dwelling on the fact that Tess is a d'Urberville, as if that was the cause of all the trouble. He feels he should have abandoned her when he discovered her ancestry, in accordance with his principles. Other times he feels he has been unfair to her.
Angel has not yet had the epiphany he imagines, and his obsession with the d'Urberville name echoes many of the other characters' thoughts. Though the name has lost all practical value, it can still affect Tess's fate by the power of suggestion. Tellingly, Angel does not dwell so long on his fear that he has been unjust.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
In his wanderings Angel noticed a sign advertising Brazil as a place to pursue agriculture. The idea attracts him, and he imagines Tess joining him there later. He now readies to tell his parents his plan and downplay his separation from Tess.
Brazil is introduced as a symbol of an exotic land where Angel can escape his troubles. It is also something new for Angel to idealize now that Tess has, for him, fallen off her pedestal.
Themes
Nature and Modernity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Again Angel arrives without warning, and his mother is surprised Tess is not with him. He tells them about Brazil but they question him about Tess. They are not angry at Angel for his marriage, but wish they could have met his wife first. Angel minimizes her absence by saying he didn't want to bring Tess until she could properly impress the family, and that she will remain at her mother's while he is in Brazil.
Angel's earlier arguments have finally convinced his parents in favor of Tess, but their praise comes at this painful time for him. He is forced to lie to maintain the status quo and not bring shame to his family.
Themes
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Mrs. Clare is still disappointed and asks Angel to describe Tess. She imagines how beautiful and pure Tess must be, and how inexperienced with other men. She has finally accepted Angel's original argument that a farmer should have a farming wife.
Mrs. Clare seems to say all the wrong things, and accidentally reaffirms Angel in his decision to reject Tess as an “impure woman.”
Themes
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
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Mr. Clare asks no questions, but he does read a verse from the Bible about the “virtuous woman” and how valuable she is to her husband. Mrs. Clare points out that the Biblical woman was also a worker, and so Angel has surely found the perfect wife. Angel gets upset and flees to his room.
This all becomes too much for Angel. Truthfully the Bible verse does describe Tess, but to Angel the words seem hollow and condemning in his current state of being ruled by society's convictions regarding what makes a woman "pure."
Themes
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Paganism and Christianity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Mrs. Clare asks Angel what is wrong, and quickly figures out that they have quarreled over something in Tess's past. Angel argues that she is innocent, and feels he would suffer Hell to keep telling that lie. Mrs. Clare assures him that any disagreement will be solved by Tess's purity, as that is the most important thing.
Angel belies his own actions by arguing so strongly for Tess's purity. He still clings to his old idealized dairymaid. Mrs. Clare again emphasizes the idea of purity, which in Victorian society means condemnation for Tess.
Themes
Nature and Modernity Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
All these sentiments convince Angel that he has ruined his life with this marriage, and that he will appear as a failure to his family. He grows angry with the absent Tess for causing him such despair.
Angel is at the peak of his unfairness here, no different from Alec accusing innocent Tess of tempting him.
Themes
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
That same night Tess is thinking of how good Angel is. Neither of them perceive that the real trouble lies in Angel's faults. He is intelligent and tries to be independent, but is still actually trapped in conventionality. He cannot see that Tess is in fact the “virtuous women” his mother imagines, and that her “sin” was only circumstance, not intention. She is still just as pure as before she ever met Alec.
Hardy gets to the point here in his criticism of Angel and Victorian society. There is absolutely nothing impure about Tess, as she did nothing wrong (and in fact was herself wronged); it is only arbitrary convention that says so, and Angel is still too weak-willed to go against that convention. Hardy is Tess's only advocate against the world's judgment.
Themes
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon