Somehow throughout my schooling as an English major I avoided ever having to read Thomas Hardy or Tess of the D’Urbervilles. This year I am giving it a try and wow, what gorgeous writing!! And I feel so, so bad for Tess! What a jerk and rapist her sort-of cousin is. In reading the book, it doesn’t seem as if Tess herself really understands if she was raped or not. Maybe she wasn’t? Maybe she did acquiesce? Have to read what other scholars have said about this, but it doesn’t seem she liked the guy very much, and did not enjoy the experience, at any rate.
My favorite part of the book so far is at the dairy farm. What fun! What descriptions! Makes me want to work on an old-time dairy farm for a summer. After all that Tess has been through, having a child out of wedlock, and then losing that child, at twenty she finds some happiness and falls in love with Angel Clare. This part of the book is so happy, I just want to stop here and not read the rest, but curiosity will get the best of me, I know it. As they are 40 or so miles from where Tess had the scandal with her cousin, Angel and those on the dairy farm don’t know that Tess isn’t a virgin and she is reluctant to tell Angel, as she’s sure her chances with him will be gone. Her mother, who is practical for all her drinking, says not to tell him. Sometimes this is the right thing to do; it’s not necessary to confess all of your sins to everyone all of the time. Often it’s between you and God. However, as she had a baby from it, this is clearly a big secret that if it comes out–and it’s likely to–will ruin Tess forever. She dithers back and forth between telling Angel or not, knowing that it’s probably better to get in front of the matter than clean up behind.
Angel is portrayed as a broadminded sort of fellow, so it’s likely that he won’t care as much as she thinks he will, but sometimes these so-called broadminded people turn out to be very narrow-minded and unforgiving in the end, thus her very real fear to tell him. Angel himself is inconsistent in at least one way: he claims to not care for old, wealthy families, but then is overly impressed that Tess comes from the now decrepit family of the once prosperous D’Urbervilles. Several times before the wedding, Tess attempts to tell Angel, but can never quite do it, and then the wedding day arrives, they get married and they’re in their new digs, and suddenly Angel wants to confess to her his failings of fidelity.
Aha! She is thrilled at this news. They have both committed the same sin and will both forgive each other for it, so after his confession she bravely launches into her own…and his response is in chapter thirty-five, and I…just…can’t…read…it! He’s going to reject her, acting the hypocrite, I know it! And throw her out of the house and denounce her to all around! These are fictional characters and not real people, but sometimes it’s so hard to read or watch even fictional people go through these trials. Maybe I will work up the courage by tomorrow.