Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles Chapter 46 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A few weeks later Tess is in the field with a male worker throwing turnips into a slicing machine, when Alec d'Urberville appears in the distance. Tess repeats her demand that he not come near her, but Alec says he wants to help her in her bad economic state. Tess keeps working, trying to stay detached.
Again Tess is made powerless by her situation, and her antagonist does not respect her wishes. Alec has all the advantages, and she cannot escape – once more she is dependent on his whims.
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Alec blames himself for corrupting Tess's innocent life, but also her parents for not warning her of men like him. He plans to sell his estate and become a missionary in Africa, and he asks Tess to come with him as his wife. When she refuses, his disappointment shows that his old desires have reawakened.
Alec's Africa dream sounds like Angel's Brazil – an idealized place far from the troubles of England, and also associated with some kind of frustration regarding Tess. His faith is just as fickle as his other passions.
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They step away from the other worker to talk. Alec is shocked when Tess says she loves someone else, and he calls her improper. Finally Tess reveals that she is married, but she won't say Angel's name. Alec is distressed and begins to return to his old ways, admitting he has fallen back in love with Tess.
Despite everything he has done, Alec dares to judge Tess through society's and religion's eyes. No one, not even her “reformed” rapist, sympathizes with her unfair situation.
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Alec says he at least wants to help her financially, and is surprised to hear that Tess's husband is far away. She says it is because he found out about Alec. He calls her a “deserted wife” and tries to take her hand, but she cries out and begs him to leave her alone.
Alec brings up his financial superiority again, this time intending charity but actually emphasizing how bad Tess's situation really is. She still can't see Angel's faults.
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At that moment Farmer Groby rides up, mad that Tess isn't working. Alec defends her angrily but finally leaves. Tess is almost relieved at Groby's reprimands, as they have nothing to do with sexuality. She considers for a second how much her life would be improved by Alec's money, but she still finds him repulsive and frightening.
Farmer Groby's antagonism only has to do with work and money, which is much more straightforward than the other more complicated and infuriating judgments of Alec, Angel, and Victorian society in general.
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That night Tess writes another, more desperate letter to Angel, but again she remembers the episode with Izz and her uncertainty returns, so she doesn't send it.
Tess is still unsure if Angel really loves her, and cannot yet see how he unfair he has been to her.
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On the Candlemas holiday Alec shows up at her lodgings. He is agitated and admits that he can't stop thinking about Tess since he saw her. He asks her to pray for him, but Tess says she cannot pray because her husband has taught her to disbelieve in an active God. They have a theological discussion where Tess says she believes in the spirit of Christianity, but nothing supernatural.
Alec's religious fervor falls from him as quickly as his passion for Tess reignites. She is again shown as a temptress, a role women are often accused of by super-religious men. This makes her “sinful” through no action of her own. It allows the sinning man to pin the blame for his sin on her. Tess clarifies her vague, Naturalistic beliefs.
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Alec scorns her for parroting her husband's beliefs, and Tess defends Angel with a faithfulness he doesn't deserve. She repeats some of his arguments to Alec. Alec says that he still believes, but he is slipping, and that at that moment he was supposed to be preaching. He loves Tess once more and could not stay away despite his commitments.
Tess still idealizes Angel, especially when comparing him to Alec. Alec's old ironic nature starts to return along with his infatuation with Tess.
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Alec gets angry at Tess for tempting him and causing him to backslide, comparing her to Eve or a “witch of Babylon,” but then he seems to wake up and apologizes again. He tries to embrace her, but she invokes Angel's reputation and again Alec is ashamed. He leaves, and Tess's recitation of Angel's logical arguments begin to wear at his emotion-based faith. His passions reawaken, and he scorns Angel for unwittingly making him return to Tess.
Tess is again compared to Eve, but this time the religious figure is a “temptress” and “fallen woman” that society sees Tess as. Religious shame is the only defense she has against Alec now, and even that is quickly becoming useless as his religious faith fails in the face of his powerful passions and jealousy.
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