Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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Joan Durbeyfield Character Analysis

Tess's mother, a housewife with many children and responsibilities. She loves to sing and is very superstitious, often consulting her book the Compleat Fortune-Teller. She likes to make matches for Tess and first proposes the visit to the d'Urberville-Stokes. Joan maintains a sense of cheerful fatalism throughout the novel and takes her family's many misfortunes in stride.

Joan Durbeyfield Quotes in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

The Tess of the d'Urbervilles quotes below are all either spoken by Joan Durbeyfield or refer to Joan Durbeyfield. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Tess of the d'Urbervilles published in 2003.
Chapter 4 Quotes

Well, Tess ought to go to this other member of our family. She'd be sure to win the lady – Tess would; and likely enough ‘twould lead to some noble gentleman marrying her. In short, I know it.

Related Characters: Joan Durbeyfield (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield, Mrs. d'Urberville
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Joan Durbeyfield, Tess's mother, suggests that the family send Tess to the d'Urbervilles in search of work, Joan is sure that Tess, with her charm and vitality, will be able to convince the d'Urberville family that she's one of them, and might even be able to succeed in marrying one of them, ensuring the survival and prosperity of her own family for years to come.

Joan's plan is implausible for a number of reasons--and yet it tells us a lot about her personality, and about English society. There's no indication that a marriage to one of the supposed d'Urbervilles would be profitable in any literal sense, since the real d'Urbervilles have no money, and indeed have all died off (as we later learn). The practical Joan also seems more concerned with the ascendance of her own family than with her daughter's personal happiness, though she has the best of intentions; in a way, she's to blame for Tess's misfortune in the coming years. Another layer of irony is that the supposedly old and prestigious d'Urbervilles that Tess will eventually meet aren't really d'Urbervilles at all--they've just adopted the surname to seem more impressive. And thus Tess slips into her tragic fate because of a case of mistaken identity.

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Joan Durbeyfield Character Timeline in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

The timeline below shows where the character Joan Durbeyfield appears in Tess of the d'Urbervilles. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
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Tess leaves the dance and returns to her small, sparse home. She finds her mother, Joan Durbeyfield, doing housework and singing. She surprises Tess with two pieces of news: John Durbeyfield... (full context)
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Joan goes off to fetch her husband, and Tess is left with her siblings, of whom... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...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.... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...is in bad economic straits now, but Durbeyfield is still too lazy to work much. Joan fatalistically downplays the disaster and proposes her plan to Tess. Tess protests at first, but... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...d'Urberville has ridden by and asked in person if Tess would come manage the fowls. Joan exclaims over his handsomeness and the diamond ring on his finger. John thinks that Alec... (full context)
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...to the d'Urbervilles and receives a response, but notices that Mrs. d'Urberville's handwriting seems masculine. Joan is offended that they are only sending a cart for Tess instead of a carriage.... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...allows her mother to dress her up. Tess looks older than she actually is, and Joan is delighted with her appearance and the effect she imagines it will have on Alec.... (full context)
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...innocent and beautiful. The cart appears and Tess says goodbye and walks up the hill. Joan watches the cart approach and sees with delight that it is driven by Alec d'Urberville.... (full context)
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That night as they are lying in bed, Joan voices her misgivings to her husband. She says she wishes she had found out if... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...what has happened. Tess also reveals that they were not actually related to those d'Urbervilles. Joan gets angry that Tess didn't get Alec to marry her, and guilts her with the... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...come by to visit her, as fascinating rumors about Alec's nature have reached even Blakemore. Joan is able to satisfy her pride by implying a “dashing flirtation” to the visitors. After... (full context)
Chapter 31
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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... (full context)
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Tess realizes that to Joan her past horrors were but a fleeting trouble, but that she might be right about... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...date and Tess accepts it with the fatalism of her people. She writes again to Joan, reminding her that Angel is a gentleman, and of a different and more discerning society. (full context)
Chapter 38
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Tess enters through the back door and her mother is shocked to see her. Joan interrogates her about Angel, and Tess breaks down weeping and admits that he left her... (full context)
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John Durbeyfield returns. Joan has quickly taken the news in stride as if it were no more than a... (full context)
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...to her mother to imply that she is living well now. Once she is gone Joan reassures herself that the couple will surely reunite through their strong passion. (full context)
Chapter 50
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...by one of her sisters who says that their father is dead. Tess rushes home. Joan is out of danger, but John suddenly fell dead of his heart condition. The news... (full context)
Chapter 51
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Joan returns and hears that a gentleman has been by. She thinks it was Tess's husband,... (full context)
Chapter 52
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...late, and are met by a man saying the rooms they rented aren't available anymore. Joan is upset at such an ignominious entrance to their ancestral land, but pushes on into... (full context)
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...stained glass windows are marked with emblems like those on the family's seal and spoon. Joan and Liza-Lu go looking for food and encounter Alec on horseback. They reluctantly tell him... (full context)
Chapter 53
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...she is still living in Marlott under his allowance, and so sends a letter there. Joan responds immediately saying Tess is gone away, but she cannot tell him where. Angel is... (full context)
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He waits a while at home but Joan does not write again. Angel rereads Tess's first letter and decides to find her immediately.... (full context)
Chapter 54
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Angel goes next to Kingsbere and finds Joan's house. She is unwelcoming to him and won't tell him where Tess is. The children... (full context)