Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Rolliver's doesn't have a liquor license, so its patrons have to either drink outside or in a bedroom upstairs. Joan Durbeyfield finds her husband and tells him her plan to profit from their newfound ancestry. There is a family of wealthy d'Urbervilles nearby, and Joan wants to send Tess to “claim kin” and ask for work, but she also hopes that a wealthy gentleman will end up marrying Tess. She says that the Compleat Fortune-Teller confirmed it. John worries that “queer” Tess might not like the plan.
This is the first mention of the wealthy d'Urberville branch who are soon to take a major role in the plot. The discovery of why Joan had been consulting her fortune-telling book, combined with her plan for Tess's marriage, emphasizes the theme of fate and makes Tess's future seem unavoidable.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Tess shows up and her appearance alone makes them get ready to leave. She and Joan walk John home, all three weaving back and forth. He did not drink very much but his bad health increases the alcohol's effects. Tess worries that he won't be able to deliver the beehives to the Casterbridge market the next day, because they have to start at two in the morning and it's already eleven. After two hours of sleep Joan wakes Tess and admits that John can't make the trip. Tess is too ashamed to ask someone from town to go, so she agrees to do it if Abraham accompanies her.
Another mention of Durbeyfield's bad health is a reminder of unhappy fate. Tess's worries about the beehive delivery emphasizes the poverty of the family, and her pride in not asking for help is similar to her father's. The family's farcical walk home and their constant financial concerns contrast starkly with the Durbeyfields' new delusions of grandeur.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
They hitch up Prince the horse, who is as old and rickety as their cart. Abraham is still half-asleep. Once he starts waking up he quickly reveals Joan's plan to marry Tess off to a gentleman. Tess gets impatient with her family's new preoccupation with the d'Urberville name. Abraham asks if the stars are all worlds just like theirs, and if some are “blighted” and some are “sound.” Tess says they live on a blighted star, and that is why their lives are so hard.
When Tess hears of her mother's plan, it is in some ways a prophecy of her future. Abraham's questions about the blighted stars reinforce the theme and bring up the idea that one's fate is preordained by circumstance or destiny, and cannot be escaped.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Tess falls into a reverie and starts to think of her father's newfound vanity and hopes for social ascension, and she imagines an unpleasant gentleman suitor mocking her and her family. She falls asleep. She is then awakened suddenly to find that Prince has been gored to death by the shaft of the swift and silent morning mail-cart. Tess, despairing, puts her hand on his wound and the blood splashes her face and white dress.
Tess's dream is vaguely prophetic, and her falling asleep before a tragedy is the beginning of her role as the woman as passive victim. The death of Prince is the start of Tess's misfortunes, and his bloody death both foreshadows her later crime and symbolizes a blow to the idea of Nature, as the farm horse is killed by the sleek modern mail-cart.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Nature and Modernity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
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The mail-cart man complains that Tess was on the wrong side of the path, and says that he has to go on and deliver the mail. Tess is left behind, and she watches Prince's blood congeal and feels extremely guilty for his death. She is ashamed that the day before she had danced and been happy, when today she has committed such a blunder. She wakes up Abraham and he asks if this happened because they live on a blighted star.
The pool of Prince's blood foreshadows the bloody ceiling at the novel's climax. Tess feeling guilty for something that was only partly her fault begins a recurring plot point, and Abraham's question seems to affirm the preordained injustice of fate.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Nature and Modernity Theme Icon
Another farmer hitches up to their cart and delivers the beehives, and that evening a wagon comes by to bring Prince's body back to Marlott. Tess returns to find her parents already know what happened. They aren't angry, but it is out of indifference rather than kindness. Tess blames herself. When no one will buy Prince's body for more than a few shillings, Durbeyfield proudly invokes his heritage and vows to keep Prince by his side. They bury him the next morning, Durbeyfield working harder than he has all month, and the children weep. Prince was the family's means of income, so everyone is worried and Tess sees herself as a murderer.
Durbeyfield's pride is a defense against the hard economic realities his family faces. The sad burial of the nobly-named animal is symbolic of how far the once-great d'Urbervilles have fallen, and how an ancient name doesn't mean anything anymore in their modern world. Tess regarding herself as a murderer is more foreshadowing.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon