Tess of the D’Urbervilles: Chapters 14-24

After a few months of working for the D’Urbervilles, Alec takes Tess for a ride in the woods known as The Chase.  In class yesterday, I realized I completely missed something.  While they were in the woods, Alec raped Tess.  So, I spoke up:

Am I missing pages?

Professor Cadwallader later explained that no, it was just written about in a Victorian way, and I wouldn’t be able to miss references to it later.  And I didn’t.

Chapter 14 starts with Tess working in a field, making hay.  The vivid imagery of the opening scene provides contrast to life at the D’Urbervilles.  Tess has to work hard and long hours to support herself and her son.  That’s right, Alec D’Urberville raped her and then deserted her.  Really responsible.

Tess is left with a child who she didn’t want, but she grows to love him anyway.  When he falls ill, she feels a mother’s panic.  She gets a parson to baptize him, but he breaks his promise when he finds out her father has said no because the child was born out-of-wedlock. That’s just mean.  No one should break their promises, especially a priest.  Priests are supposed to help people no matter what.  Not bend to outside pressure.

So, Tess undertakes the baptism and burial of her son herself.  And it was the saddest scene I’ve ever read, the end of Breaking Dawn notwithstanding.  Tess actually grew to really love and care for her son, and her emotions portrayed her anguish.  It seemed weird that she baptized her son Sorrow, but at the same time it is fitting because he was unexpected.

After staying at home for a few months, Tess finds a job at a dairy farm milking cows.  She soon settles in and finds herself happy there.  Things are looking up.  And then her world changes again.

Along comes a young man named Angel Clare.  Tess immediately recognizes him as the boy who wouldn’t dance with her at the dance so many years ago. She isn’t sure what to do, but she doesn’t call attention to herself.  While all the other milkmaids are swooning over him, Tess keeps to herself.

I can’t say I blame the other women.  He’s handsome.  I also admire him because he defies others’ expectations of him.  While his father and brothers are all clergymen, Angel decides he will not follow that path.  When his father is disappointed in him for reading philosophy, Angel argues that it is one of the most – if not the most – religious thing in the world.

So he finds himself at the dairy farm, apprenticing in all aspects of farming.  And he is almost immediately attracted to Tess.  He tries to make moves, but Tess doesn’t react at first because she thinks he could do better than her.  Eventually, she starts to acknowledge her feelings for him, and they fall in love.

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