Alec Conversion and Backsliding in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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      The story of Alec’s conversion and backsliding is really very interesting. While returning from Emminster, Tess happened to see Alec d’Urbervilles preaching to a small gathering in a small town. She was unnerved to see her seducer in the dress of a priest. She noticed the former handsome unpleasantness upon his face. He wore whiskers which were old fashioned. She became quite sick of the Irony of contrast. He wore a half-clerical dress also. The curves of sensuousness is visible upon his face had yielded place to the lines of devotion. The glow of her cheeks had changed into the splendor of pious rhetoric. His animalism had changed into religious fanaticism she could not admit any ungenerous sentiment enter into the heart against him.

      When Tess turned to go, Alec recognized her. He confused and fumbled for words was completely paralyzed for a few minutes. When Tess walked away, he cut short his sermon and pursued her. When he overtook her, he said in a painful tone that he was Alec d’Urbervilles. He confessed to her that he had lost the peace of his mind since the moment he saw her. When he got her permission to relate the story of his conversion, he told her how he had become a preacher. He told her that this conversion was made possible by the teachings of an old parson or vicar of Emminster named Mr. Clare. He further told her how there was a kind of strange magic in the vicar’s words. His words had sunk deep into his mind. The vicar prayed for him even when he had insulted him in a public meeting. Another cause of this conversion consisted in the death of his blind mother. It was by degrees that he began to see the light of true Christianity. Since then he had been imparting that light to the world and its people. He asked her not to use her beauty to affect his backsliding. He made her promise this thing and compelled her to swear to this effect near the Holy Ghost or Cross-in-Hand. When he told her all this. Tess became thoughtful.

      Tess wondered if such a sudden conversion could be permanent. She concluded that it was but a skin-deep conversion. She said with a sneer that some people like Alec d’Urbervilles took their full of pleasure on earth by making the life girls like her was bitter and black with sorrow. Then it was a fine thing when they had enough of that, to think of securing their pleasure in heaven by becoming converted. She spat upon this conversion and thus expressed her contempt for him. At this, Alec said to her that no amount of contempt that she could pour upon him, would equal what he had poured upon himself. Alec d’Urbervillcs expressed a deep sense of sorrow over what he had done with her four years ago. He condemned himself and further said that he behaved like a scamp in this sinful deed. Then Alec d’Urbervillcs explained all other circumstances of his own conversion. He further told her how his mother passed away. He intended to leave his estate at Trantridge and to devote himself to the missionary work in Africa. Alter this he said to her in a low tone that she should put it in his power to do his duty by making the only reparation he could make for the trick he played upon her. She should become his wife and go with him. Thus Tess’s estimate of his conversion was quite correct.

      This conversion was but a skin-keep change. As soon as Alec d’Urbervilles saw her, all his religious sense was changed into vapor. When he saw her eyes, he said that there was a great magic in her eyes and looks. He asked her not to look at him with her bewitching eyes and their inviting expression. He said to her that he did not fear the beautiful faces of women, for they had already exercised too much power upon him. Alec d’Urbervilles paid her many visits at Flintcomb-Ash. One day he asked her not to look at him, for he could not stand her looks. According to him there never were such eyes, surely, before Christianity or since. It was is in this way that the beauty of Tess worked upon his mind. The spirit of love and sensuality which lay buried in him, overpowered him in course of time. He confessed to her that she haunted his memory every time. The weakness lay in his character, but he asked her to suggest how he should behave. Laying his hand upon her shoulder Alec d’Urbervilles said that he was as firm as a man could be till he saw her piercing eyes and rosy mouth. He pointed out that there never was such a maddening mouth since Eve. It was in this way that all the sense of Christianity in Alec d’Urbervilles exploded into passion. He lost the sheet anchor of his faith before her beauty and flesh.

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