Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles Chapter 40 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After breakfast Angel meets Mercy Chant in town. She approves of him going to Brazil, but her mind is solely occupied with religious matters. Angel whispers some blasphemous ideas to her but then immediately begs forgiveness. She thinks he is crazy.
Mercy again acts as a foil for Tess. Angel is feeling especially nihilistic in his despair, and bitter against the judgments of Christianity.
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Angel arranges for a stipend to be sent to Tess later, and hopes she will ask his father for money in an emergency, but he avoids telling his parents her address.
Angel does not understand the nature of Tess's pride. He still wants to keep Tess and his family separate to avoid scandal.
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Angel then returns to the d'Urberville house where they had their unhappy wedding night. He stands sadly by the gate, wondering if he has done the right thing. At that moment Izz Huett appears, as she had been hoping to visit Angel and Tess there.
The setting taunts Angel like the ruined mansion first taunted Tess. Meeting Izz is another coincidence that makes Hardy's Wessex seem very small.
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Izz says she has left Talbothays because it was too sad for her, and Angel offers her a lift home. As they ride together Angel admits he and Tess are apart right now, and he is going to Brazil alone. Izz says that Retty has had a nervous breakdown, and Marian drinks so much that Mr. Crick fired her. Izz herself is okay, but still depressed.
Angel's decision has had terrible consequences for others, but he still can't comprehend the power he wielded over the dairymaids. He exists in his own head to a selfish degree.
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Angel presses her and Izz admits she was in love with him, and can't believe he didn't realize it until now. They reach her home and Angel, feeling suddenly rebellious against society, asks Izz to come with him to Brazil. He claims he has been betrayed and needs relief, and Izz immediately accepts, despite Angel's admission of his offer's immorality.
Angel again makes a rash decision that leaves others very hurt. He is willing to defy society's codes in his request to Izz, but still not enough to accept Tess in her innocence. Angel is a very unsympathetic character at this point.
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They keep riding, and Angel asks if Izz loves him more than Tess does. Izz cannot help but say that she does not, that Tess would have “laid down her life” for him. Angel is upset by this and he changes his mind, offering to take Izz home. She breaks down weeping, and Angel apologizes, asking if she wishes she had not been so honest about Tess.
Izz again shows the generous honesty of the rural women. The phrasing of “laid down her life” once more portrays Tess in sacrificial religious terms, as a character like Jesus: the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep.
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Angel tries to downplay his request as a joke, but it is clear that it was deadly serious to Izz. Even so she forgives him. Angel praises her for her generous honesty that saved them both. They part on good terms, but when Angel leaves Izz throws herself down in despair.
Angel only sees his own side of the interaction, and not the devastating effects his decisions can have on others, especially the women who place their hopes in him.
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Angel is still troubled by Izz's words and wonders again if he is making a mistake. But he decides to stick to the choice he already made, comforting himself that he can send for Tess soon. He takes the train to London and from there boards a ship.
Angel goes with inertia and sticks to his decision despite misgivings. The decision is now irrevocable, and his and Tess's destinies are parted for now.
Themes
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon