Tess of the d ' Urbervilles and Tess Essay

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A.Siegel Thomas Hardy published his novel Tess of the D’Ubervilles in 1891, and due to the lewd content of the novel-unaccepted for the time period- uproar was unleashed amongst members of Victorian society. This wave of controversy was intentional on Hardy’s part, as he wrote his fictional characters and their actions to symbolize how truly “blighted” society is. Through his characters, Hardy showcases societal issues: in doing so he intends to motivate readers to solve these problems. A recurrent issue presented in Tess of the D’Ubervilles is male domination of women. As shown in both the story and reality, women fall victim to this male power. Through his portrayal of heroine Tess, and her various relationships with the other women in the novel, Hardy acquaints his readers with his view (proposed solution) that women in society must first treat each other differently if they as a gender hope to gain the reverence of men in the future. Tess Durbeyfield’s unique relationships with the people in her life define who she is; this character trait of Tess’ is common for any real person, therefore by making Tess relatable, Hardy makes Tess a symbol of the women in Victorian society. Tess’s relationship with her mother, Joan Durbeyfield, is driven by Joan’s belief that beauty is power. When Tess is practically forced by her mother to go back to Trantridge, Joan makes sure that Tess makes a great impression on Alec. “I think it be wiser of ‘ee to put your best side outwards.” (36). She proceeds to dress Tess up in her best attire to which Tess apprehensively states, “Very well I suppose you know best.” (36). This forceful dialogue from Joan, followed by uneasy compliance from Tess, exemplifies their relationship. Joan coaxes Tess to use her “trump card,” her beauty; with Alec (39) as she herself admits to have used it to find her husband. For Joan, her beauty gave her an advantage over men, and for Tess, at a time viewed by Angel as “so pure, so sweet, so virginal,” so did hers. (189.) This was not always the case for Tess, as her beauty became her demise: in which she proceeded to make herself ugly in order to “insure against aggressive admiration, (225) from other men looking her way. Joan by her actions represents a societal view that beauty is a woman’s ticket to locking down a man. Tess’s choice to make herself ugly, knowing that men would view her as worthless, symbolizes men’s mistreatment of women. When Tess travels to find work at Talbothay’s Dairy she quickly befriends milkmaids Izz Huet, Retty Priddle, and Marion. All four girls have an unhealthy obsession with Angel Clare. When the girls realize that Tess is the one for Angel, Marion becomes an alcoholic, Retty attempts suicide, and later, Izz is tempted to run away with Angel after he offered her the chance. However, when Tess confides in them that she is to be married to Angel the girls realize that although they will always love Angel, their friendship with Tess is valuable. Retty confesses, “I want to hate’ee but I cannot.” (159.) Marion shows her allegiance to Tess as she finds her a job at Flintcomb-Ash. Both Izz and Marion help Tess with her workload as well when she is too weak to finish. When Tess decides to pay Angel’s parents a visit,
“Marion and Izz were much interested in her excursion, knowing that the journey concerned her husband.” (238.) Angel is powerful. Nonetheless, Marion and Izz dress Tess up for the occasion and in doing so offer Tess a support system, one that even her husband has not been able to provide for her. Izz admits, “She hoped she (Tess) would win and, though without any particular respect for her own virtue, felt glad that she had been prevented wronging her friend when momentarily tempted by Clare.” (238.) This loyalty is representative of the power of friendship overcoming the power of men. Marion, Izz, and Retty did not let their initial jealousy towards Tess get in the way of their friendship. On the contrary to…