Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Themes and Colors
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
Nature and Modernity Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Paganism and Christianity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Tess of the d'Urbervilles, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Women Theme Icon

Hardy muses a lot about Tess's status as a woman and the various roles women assume in society. Tess often plays the part of a passive victim, falling asleep and inadvertently killing Prince, falling asleep before her rape, and falling asleep at Stonehenge where she is arrested. She and many of the other female characters also act as symbols of fertility, nature, and purity. They are linked with the lushness of Talbothays and the bleakness of Flintomb-Ash, as well the fertility ritual of May-Day. Hardy also places a lot of emphasis on the power of men over women, in terms of both society and strength. Alec obviously dominates Tess in many terrible ways, but Angel also wields power over the women at the dairy, driving Retty and Marian to a suicide attempt and alcoholism. Tess finally assumes the role of an active agent in her own life when she writes angrily to Angel, and her final murder of Alec takes it to the extreme, underscoring Hardy's critique of the oppression of women in Victorian society. Tess is only able to actively change her life and escape her male oppressor by murdering him, which then leads to her own execution. There is no place for a woman in her position to escape.

But while Tess and the other female characters represent many things in the novel, Hardy ultimately celebrates the individual woman over a symbolic whole. Tess is not an “everywoman” or a symbol of fertility, passivity, or oppression, but a unique individual. Angel's relationship with Tess shows this tension between idealized image and living reality. He falls in love with his version of Tess, which is the Nature goddess and symbol of innocence, but when the real Tess reveals her troubled humanity and becomes truly alive for him, Angel rejects her. For Hardy, however, Tess remains both a symbol of many things and an individual soul, and it is because of this that she is so successful and sympathetic as a character.

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Women Quotes in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Below you will find the important quotes in Tess of the d'Urbervilles related to the theme of Women.
Chapter 2 Quotes

The forests have departed, but some old customs of their shades remain. Many, however, linger only in a metamorphosed or disguised form. The May-Day dance, for instance, was to be discerned on the afternoon under notice, in the guise of the club revel, or “club-walking,” as it was there called.

Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

He watched her pretty and unconscious munching through the skeins of smoke that pervaded the tent, and Tess Durbeyfield did not divine, as she innocently looked down at the roses in her bosom, that there behind the blue narcotic haze was potentially the “tragic mischief” of her drama – one who stood to be the blood-red ray in the spectrum of her young life.

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield, Alec d'Urberville
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

He was inexorable, and she sat still, and d'Urberville gave her the kiss of mastery.

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield, Alec d'Urberville
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

“It was to be.” There lay the pity of it. An immeasurable social chasm was to divide our heroine's personality thereafter from that previous self of hers who stepped from her mother's door to try her fortune at Trantridge poultry-farm.

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

She did not look like Sissy to them now, but as a being large, towering, and awful – a divine personage with whom they had nothing in common.

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 18 Quotes

What a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature that milkmaid is!

Related Characters: Angel Clare (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 19 Quotes

He was surprised to find this young woman – who though but a milkmaid had just that touch of rarity about her which might make her the envied of her housemates – shaping such sad imaginings. She was expressing in her own native phrases… feelings which might almost have been called those of the age – the ache of modernism.

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield, Angel Clare
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 33 Quotes

“O my love, why do I love you so!” she whispered there alone; “for she you love is not my real self, but one in my image; the one I might have been!”

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield (speaker)
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 35 Quotes

“I repeat, the woman I have been loving is not you.”
“But who?”
“Another woman in your shape.”

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield (speaker), Angel Clare (speaker)
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

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Here was I thinking you a new-sprung child of nature; there were you, the belated seedling of an effete aristocracy!

Related Characters: Angel Clare (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 40 Quotes

Because nobody could love ‘ee more than Tess did! …She would have laid down her life for ‘ee. I could do no more.

Related Characters: Izz Huett (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield, Angel Clare
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 45 Quotes

This was once a Holy Cross. Relics are not in my creed; but I fear you at moments – far more than you need fear me at present; and to lessen my fear, put your hand upon that stone hand, and swear that you will never tempt me – by your charms or ways.

Related Characters: Alec d'Urberville (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 311
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 47 Quotes

What a grand revenge you have taken! I saw you innocent, and I deceived you. Four years after, you find me a Christian enthusiast; you then work upon me, perhaps to my complete perdition!

Related Characters: Alec d'Urberville (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 329
Explanation and Analysis:

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Whip me, crush me; you need not mind those people under the rick! I shall not cry out. Once victim, always victim – that's the law!

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield (speaker), Alec d'Urberville
Page Number: 332
Explanation and Analysis:

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Remember, my lady, I was your master once! I will be your master again. If you are any man's wife you are mine!

Related Characters: Alec d'Urberville (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 332
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 59 Quotes

“Justice” was done, and the President of the Immortals, in Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess. And the d'Urberville knights and dames slept on in their tombs unknowing.

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 398
Explanation and Analysis:

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