Tess of the D’Urbervilles: Chapters 37-59

There would have been another section post for Tess, but it’s been rough at school lately and I couldn’t keep up.  You know something’s wrong when blogging doesn’t sound like fun.  But I’m not as stressed anymore, so I will try to aim for consistency.  We’ve already finished the book, so this post is going to go to the end.

After a few days of awkwardly married-and-living-together-without-loving-each-other, the tension between Angel and Tess is so palpable that neither of them can stand it, and so they mutually decide to separate.  At midnight that night, something strange happens.  Angel comes into her bedroom, but Tess’s excitement dies when she realizes he’s staring right through her.  He walks into the middle of the room, whispering to himself “Dead, dead, dead!”

It’s not unusual for Angel to sleepwalk when he is deeply upset by something, but this doesn’t make the situation any less creepy.  Slightly more disturbing is the fact that Tess is so loyal to him, she isn’t scared one bit when she realizes Angel thinks she is dead and he is going to bury her.  Girl, have you lost your mind?!  I would run if I were you.

High strung emotions aside, Angel’s actions do make some sense.  Because Tess is a “fallen woman,” the society she lives in will have nothing to do with her. So, in order to maintain his good standing, Angel has to distance himself from her.  He is agonizing over it because deep down inside he cares for Tess, may not even be upset with her at all.  But he has been raised to adhere to conventions, so he has to go through the motions.

When Angel and Tess prepare to part ways, he tells her he is going to Brazil to survey the farmland there.  He says he will write to her from his location so that she can write back to him, and he also gives her an allowance.  If she has an emergency, Tess can contact his parents.  However, as he leaves her, Angel starts to regret his decision, but he doesn’t realize that he still loves her.

Meanwhile, Tess returns home, explaining to her mother what happened.  Her mother comforts her, but also calls her foolish.  I mean, I understand why people would want to keep rape a secret, but here, deception seems almost as bad as the rape itself. Angel even says that if he had known before hand, he would have forgiven Tess.

When Angel returns home before leaving for Brazil, he also has to explain to his parents why his wife is not with him.  When he has trouble talking about it, his parents offer various reasons:  maybe she is not pretty or virtuous enough, among others.  However, Angel denies all of this, saying that Tess is a good woman.

Angel’s defense of Tess to his parents conveys two important things:  1) Angel still loves her, and 2) Thomas Hardy doesn’t think a rape victim should be disgraced in the eyes of society.  But Angel still can’t bring himself to forgive her, so he leaves for Brazil alone.

In the first few months of Angel’s departure, Tess is obviously and understandably distraught.  She finally let herself fall in love with someone because she thought he wouldn’t judge her past.  But he does anyway.  Jerk.  I was really disappointed in him, because I thought he would be able to forgive her past and give her some sense of security.

Tess eventually finds another job as a milkmaid, but she is far from happy.  She writes anguished letters to Angel, begging him to take her back.  Not only because she still loves him, but now she has another problem.  Alec D’Urberville just waltzes on to her new farm one day, seeming not to care about – or even remember – their history.  He says he is a changed man now because he has found God, but Tess isn’t buying any of it.  I almost did, but when he explains he was only using his “conversion” to get close to her again, it makes him even more of a douche.

Alec tries to explain to Tess that Angel isn’t coming back for her, but Tess still holds onto hope.  Eventually, Tess seems to come to her senses and realize that Angel really isn’t coming back.  Because he has been kind to and supportive of her family, she caves and agrees to marry Alec.

Soon after this, Angel comes home from Brazil sick as a dog.  His parents barely recognize him.  Reading over Tess’s letters, he decides to forgive her and go after her.  After one heck of a wild goose chase, he ends up at Tess and Alec’s current residence.  A servant answers the door, and he asks for Mrs. Clare.  Seeing that the servant doesn’t recognize his name, he tries Tess’s maiden name, and she is alerted to her visitor immediately.  Tess comes down the stairs with a blank expression, and Angel gets what he deserves.  All her bottled up anger towards him comes flooding out of her.  When Tess retreats back up the stairs to her room, she bursts into tears because Angel came back and she still loves him, and Alec lied to her about him not coming back.  Suddenly in a fit of uncontrollable rage, Tess grabs the kitchen knife, fatally stabbing Alec.

She rushes back outside to Angel, telling him what she has done, and they immediately go on the run.  They find peace and quiet at a few rest stops along the way, but Tess is uneasy.  She seems to feel that she is going to die soon, and she feels that she should die.  Don’t ask me why, I have  no idea.  They reach Stonehenge to find that the legend of the D’Urberville carriage is true.  In her last moments, Tess asks Angel to take care of her sister, Liza-Lu.  And he does.

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