Abstract：In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Hardy demonstrates his deep sense of moral sympathy for England’s lower classes, particularly for rural woman. Hardy views Tess as pure. Tess’s desire simply to be happy is the source of her great courage and moral strength. She tries to cope with the fate that life has dealt her. However, Tess is no more than a helpless victim under the unfair Victorian social forces. Firstly, it is the Victorian cult of aristocratic lineage that drives Tess to claim kin. Her inexperience and lack of wise parenting leave her extremely vulnerable. Secondly, it is the unfair class system that allows a rich nobleman to impregnate and abandon a lower-class girl without consequences. She becomes Alec’s victim. Lastly, it is also the Victorian myth of the pure virginal bride that unfairly keeps Angel from accepting Tess as his wife. Angel substitutes an idealized picture of Tess’s country purity for the real-life woman that he continually refuses to get to know. These social injustices bring undeserved suffering to Tess. Pure as she is, Tess loses her battle against fate under the unfavorable conditions of capitalism.
Key words: Tess of the d’Urbervilles; Thomas Hardy; Purity and Doom
Tess is passionate in her love for Angel and her hatred of Alec. She makes several attempts to rectify her “mistakes”: the vow to Angel to end their marriage; her offer to kill herself to free Angel from their marriage; and, her refusal to ask Angel’s parents for any additional money during Angel’s leave for Brazil. She is determined to be self-sufficient and willing to sacrifice her well-being for the good of others. This makes her selfless and on a morally higher ground than other characters in the novel. She strays from her marriage only when it appears that Angel may not return to her from South America and when there is no other way to help her destitute family. The martyr-like passion of Tess engenders readers’ sympathy. She becomes a character with no discernable negative qualities. She is “a pure woman” as Hardy calls her. But she is also a helpless victim under the unfair Victorian social forces. Pure Tess is doomed to death under the unfavorable conditions of capitalism. The chief message is the truthful portrayal of “the tragic lot of a poor country girl ruined by the bourgeois society, which is responsible for the miseries and sufferings of the small people whom Hardy described in his books.”(Liu 460)