Tess of the d'Urbervilles


Thomas Hardy

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 38 Summary & Analysis

Tess returns again to her home valley and asks the turnpike-keeper for news. The only news he has is of Tess herself and how proud her parents were of her wedding. Tess feels ashamed and decides to return home as secretly as she can. She meets one old friend but diverts her inquiries.
It is another coincidence that the only news in Marlott is of the Durbeyfield family, but Tess is at least warned not to enter publicly and shame her parents.
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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 because she told him her past. Joan calls Tess a fool and says it was already a sin to marry him, so she might as well have carried on silently. Joan almost immediately comforts herself with “what's done can't be undone,” but she worries her husband will be upset, as he has been boasting of the wedding.
As when she returned from Alec, Joan berates Tess but then quickly accepts the news with her optimistic fatalism. Their main concern is not Tess's well-being so much as their own pride and social standing in Marlott; this is the Durbeyfields at their lowest.
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John Durbeyfield returns. Joan has quickly taken the news in stride as if it were no more than a rainy day. Tess goes upstairs and sees that her bed belongs to other siblings now. She overhears her father hoping that Angel would take Tess's superior name instead of vice versa. Joan tells him the news and he is crushed, mostly thinking of how he will be made fun of at the bar. He implies that maybe Tess never married at all, and Tess is so upset she decides not to stay long.
There is no room for Tess in her home anymore and even her parents disbelieve her story. She has changed too much for this place, and if she remained it would be once more a constant reminder of her shame.
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Tess gets a letter from Angel saying he is in North England, and she pretends she is going to meet him. She also gives some of his money 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.
Tess has her own form of d'Urberville pride which prevents her from revealing her true troubles to her parents. Because of this Joan can dismiss her unhappiness even more easily.
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