Let’s not wax poetic here; Tess of D’urbervilles is as nasty as the story of Catherine and Heathcliff. Happily ever after? Scoff. You’re not going to find that here. This is Thomas Hardy at his benign self. Well, I guess it depends on how you’ve perceived the man himself.
Alec D’urbervilles. You could say he’s evil. You could say he was every bit as tortured as he is misunderstood. You could even say that for one tiny second, he was probably in love with the idea of Tess – the country bumpkin, innocent, easily swayed. How could he not been tempted by her beauty alone? But man, oh man, did Thomas really have to do this? Did he have to show the raping of an innocent in the woods, albeit done in a fade-to-black method? I say, YES, yes, indeed. How else would a reader identify the worst of his character other than committing the gravest of violations against a woman? What would you rather he do? Kill the neighbour’s cat? That would make him a psycho not a freaking disturbed horn-dog…or a weak, selfish man. But was that really his purpose? I don’t know. Whatever it was, this seemed to have stuck with me the most. I don’t know why I keep finding myself reading classics such as this; giving myself a douse of a scalding reality in the form of literature with the most controversial topics – controversial at the time of publication, anyway.
Let me be honest here and say that for the first part of the novel, I was in love with the idea of Alec and Tess myself. Can you blame me? He was a sweet English gentleman who showed great discipline and restraint, not to mention he was kind at first. But what’s a good literature without a good villain?
Tess didn’t really have good prospects after Alec. In fact, it seemed like her life went to hell in a hand basket right after that. Hell, why would Hardy give her a happily ever after? That’s just…crazy. Besides, if you’re expecting that, then you must be out of your mind. Door number two has Jane Austen. Please proceed calmly and in a single file manner.
Anyway, Thomas gave me hope in the person of Angel Clare. I knooooow. I tried not to roll my eyes either. What kind of a sissy name is that? And how the hell was I supposed to salivate over the possibility of a good romantic read when the other male lead is called, Angel Clare? Are you serious? I’m obviously not a fan of either man; one was a dubious, selfish, evil sex maniac and the other…ANGEL CLARE. Enough said. Sometimes, love makes a man weak – too weak and Angel Clare was too in love with Tess. I never saw an iota of strength from him until the end.
Tess. Some say she was a victim (of course she was!). Some say she got what she deserved. That was the nature of the society in Victorian era. She was shamed. Her family was unforgivable. They threw her under the proverbial bus in the person of Alec D’urberville. She struggled and fought to find a better life but sadly, it wasn’t in the cards.
Despite my flippant opinions about its characters, Tess of D’urbervilles was one of those torturous, glorious, novels that left me feeling like my brain has been fed to the point of gluttonous oblivion. Thomas Hardy wrote what’s real, yo. The good, the bad and the ugly about his time.