The poor peddler John Durbeyfield is stunned to find out that he’s the descendent of an ancient noble family, the d’Urbervilles. Meanwhile, Tess, his eldest daughter, joins the opposite village girls within the May Day dance, where Tess briefly exchanges glances with a young man. Mr. Durbeyfield and his wife plan to send Tess to the d’Urberville mansion, where they hope Mrs. d’Urberville will make Tess’s fortune. actually , Mrs. d’Urberville is not any reference to Tess at all: her husband, the merchant Simon Stokes, simply changed his name to d’Urberville after he retired. But Tess doesn’t know this fact, and when the lascivious Alec d’Urberville, Mrs. d’Urberville’s son, procures Tess employment tending fowls on the d’Urberville estate, Tess has no choice but to simply accept, since she blames herself for an accident involving the family’s horse, its only means of income.
Tess spends several months at this job, resisting Alec’s attempts to seduce her. Finally, Alec takes advantage of her within the woods one night after a good. Tess knows she doesn’t love Alec. She returns home to her family to offer birth to Alec’s child, whom she christens Sorrow. Sorrow dies soon after he’s born, and Tess spends a miserable year reception before deciding to hunt work elsewhere. She finally accepts employment as a milkmaid at the Talbothays Dairy.
At Talbothays, Tess enjoys a period of contentment and happiness. She befriends three of her fellow milkmaids—Izz, Retty, and Marian—and meets a person named Angel Clare, who seems to be the person from the May Day dance at the start of the novel. Tess and Angel slowly fall crazy. They grow closer throughout Tess’s time at Talbothays, and she or he eventually accepts his proposal of marriage. Still, she is troubled by pangs of conscience and feels she should tell Angel about her past. She writes him a confessional note and slips it under his door, but it slides under the carpet and Angel never sees it.
After their wedding, Angel and Tess both confess indiscretions: Angel tells Tess about an affair he had with an older woman in London, and Tess tells Angel about her history with Alec. Tess forgives Angel, but Angel cannot forgive Tess. He gives her some money and boards a ship bound for Brazil, where he thinks he might establish a farm. He tells Tess he will attempt to accept her past but warns her to not attempt to join him until he comes for her.
Tess struggles. She features a difficult time finding work and is forced to require employment at an unpleasant and unprosperous farm. She tries to go to Angel’s family but overhears his brothers discussing Angel’s poor marriage, so she leaves. She hears a wandering preacher speak and is stunned to get that he’s Alec d’Urberville, who has been converted to Christianity by Angel’s father, the Reverend Clare. Alec and Tess are each shaken by their encounter, and Alec appallingly begs Tess never to tempt him again. Soon after, however, he again begs Tess to marry him, having turned his back on his -religious ways.
Tess learns from her sister Liza-Lu that her mother is near death, and Tess is forced to return home to require care of her. Her mother recovers, but her father unexpectedly dies soon after. When the family is evicted from their home, Alec offers help. But Tess refuses to simply accept, knowing he only wants to obligate her to him again.
At last, Angel decides to forgive his wife. He leaves Brazil, wanting to find her. Instead, he finds her mother, who tells him Tess has gone to a village called Sandbourne. There, he finds Tess in an upscale boardinghouse called The Herons, where he tells her he has forgiven her and begs her to require him back. Tess tells him he has come too late. She was unable to resist and went back to Alec d’Urberville. Angel leaves during a daze, and, heartbroken to the purpose of madness, Tess goes upstairs and stabs her lover to death. When the landlady finds Alec’s body, she raises an alarm, but Tess has already fled to seek out Angel.
Angel agrees to assist Tess, though he cannot quite believe that she has murdered Alec. They hide in an empty mansion for a couple of days, then travel farther. once they come to Stonehenge, Tess goes to sleep, but when morning breaks shortly thereafter, an inquiry party discovers them. Tess is arrested and sent to jail. Angel and Liza-Lu watch as a pirate flag is raised over the prison, signaling Tess’s execution.
Summary: Chapter I
“Don’t you actually know, Durbeyfield, that you simply are the lineal representative of the traditional and knightly family of the d’Urbervilles . . . ?”
(See Important Quotations Explained)
On his way home to the village of Marlott, a middle-aged peddler named John Durbeyfield encounters an old parson who surprises him by addressing him as “Sir John.” The old man, Parson Tringham, claims to be a student of history and says that he recently found a record indicating that Durbeyfield descends from a noble family, the d’Urbervilles. Tringham says that Durbeyfield’s noble roots come from thus far back in history that they’re meaningless, but Durbeyfield becomes quite self-important following the invention and sends for a horse and carriage to hold him home.
Summary: Chapter II
At an equivalent moment, Durbeyfield’s daughter Tess enjoys the May Day festivities with the opposite women from her village. Durbeyfield rides by within the carriage, and though Tess is embarrassed at the spectacle, she defends her father from the mockery of the opposite girls. The group goes to the park for dancing, where they meet three highborn brothers. Tess notices one among the brothers especially, a young man named Angel Clare. While his two brothers want to stay traveling, Angel cannot pass up the chance to bop with these women. the women ask him to settle on his partner, and he chooses a woman aside from Tess. They dance for a brief time, then Angel leaves, realizing he must catch up together with his determined brothers. Upon leaving, Angel notices Tess and regrets his decision to bop with somebody else.
Summary: Chapter III
When Tess returns home, she receives a twofold alarm from her mother, Joan, who tells her that her father comes from noble lineage and also that he has been diagnosed with significant heart disease. Mrs. Durbeyfield has consulted the Compleat Fortune-Teller, a large, old book, for guidance. A believer in such astrology, she keeps the book hidden within the outhouse out of an irrational fear of keeping it indoors.
Mr. Durbeyfield isn’t home, but is instead at Rolliver’s, the local inn and drinking establishment, probably taking the chance to celebrate his newly discovered heritage. Tess and therefore the family aren’t surprised to listen to of his whereabouts. Tess’s mother goes to fetch her husband from the inn but doesn’t return. The narrator explains that her failure to return may result from Mrs. Durbeyfield’s enjoyment in sitting at Rolliver’s together with her husband since it’s time that they will share alone. Tess becomes worried and asks her brother Abraham to travel to Rolliver’s and see what’s taking their mother and father goodbye to return. Sometime later, when still nobody has returned home, Tess goes after them herself.
Analysis: Chapters I–III
Tess of the d’Urbervilles begins with an upscale, lavish description of the landscape that gives the setting of the novel. This description helps establish the context and feel of the story that’s to follow. The novel is about in Wessex, a country and historical a part of southwestern England that relies heavily on farming. This area, as we see it, has its own distinct customs, rituals, beliefs, and culture, and its inhabitants speak with a clear rural accent. Hardy became documented for the richly detailed description in his novels, which serves a crucial function: as Hardy documents and includes many realistic details to present the world more fully, he enables us to enter into the story ourselves during a more concrete and richly imagined way.
We are introduced to the Durbeyfield family on the day during which the legend of their distant, defunct, yet still marvelous aristocratic heritage is revealed. When told of this legacy, Mr. Durbeyfield feels immediately liberated from his poverty and low social stature, albeit his situation doesn’t change. Mr. Durbeyfield has already become enraptured during a dream that takes him from rags to riches. Similarly, we first meet Tess at an occasion that marks a vacation from her lifestyle. At the May Day dance, all the young women dress in white, carry Huntingdon willow branches and white flowers, and dance with one another.
This local custom is, at its root, a symbolic ritual of purity and springtime. These women seem to enjoy the custom, perhaps because it allows them the prospect to play a symbolic function beyond their insignificant social roles. The arrival of the three young brothers excites the ladies, heightening the specialness of the affair. When Angel stops to bop with one among them, it’s as if he’s a prince who has are available search of a princess, albeit just for a dance. Most of the ladies, including Tess, are anxious to be chosen, and somewhat jealous once they aren’t. Acceptance from a handsome man from a better class would mean tons to them. Like Mr. Durbeyfield, these young local women yearn to flee poverty and therefore the low social stature that their rural setting allots to them.
Mrs. Durbeyfield’s belief in superstitions and her trust in her fortune-telling book also demonstrates a robust, perhaps irrational hope in what the longer term holds. She believes that something good is supposed to happen to her and her family which it’s only a matter of your time until it does. Through all of those characters and actions, we are introduced to the concept of fate, or a belief during a predetermined, unavoidable future. Ironically, Tess’s parents’ blind faith within their ability to climb the social hierarchy leads them to form costly decisions later in the novel. The news about their ancestry seems to augur a hopeful change in their fortunes, but it’s really just an instrument within the catastrophe that fate brings about.