Love & Separation Between Angel Clare & Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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      The first seeds of love between Angel Clare and Tess were sown when they saw each other at Marlott during the May-Day dance, which was organized by the local members of the Women’s Club of the village. They made a deep impression across their minds. Each felt that they had met earlier. Angel Clare felt sorry that he had not asked her name and that as her back was towards him he had not observed her. Tess also wished that he had asked her to dance with him. At a later date, she wished him to have asked for love at this meeting.

      It was this seed of love which developed when Angel and Tess happened to live together at the dairy farm of Talbothays. It was this love which matured into their marriage before their leaving the dairy farm. This love was spiritual in its essence. There was hardly any touch of the earth in the love of Tess for Angel Clare. To her he was all that goodness could be. He seemed to know all that a guide, philosopher and friend should know. She said that he was in his person the perfection of masculine beauty. His soul seemed to her to be the soul of a saint and his intellect seemed to be that of a seer. That was why Tess surrendered herself to the love of Angel Clare. She found no trace of grossness in him. On the other hand, Angel Clare was less Byronic than Shelleyan in his love for her. He was rather bright than hot in it. He could love desperately. His love for her was inclined to the imaginative and ethereal. This love of Clare for Tess was fastidious emotion which could jealously guard the loved one against his very self.

      This love of Tess and Clare was like a tender sapling which grew steadily and well in the pastoral atmosphere of Talbothays. To Clare, Tess appeared to be a novel, fresh and interesting specimen of womankind. Every day they met in the morning. Their meeting place was often a garden near their cottage. This garden was like Eden in which they moved like Adam and Eve. It was during these meetings that Tess impressed Angel Clare with her beauty. She seemed to be not a milkmaid but a visionary essence of woman. It seemed to him that a whole sex was condensed into one typical form. She appeared to be an incarnation of the goddess of poetry. Angel Clare felt that he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. On face of the earth, there was nothing equal to her sparkling eyes, fair cheeks, arched brows and shapely chin and throat.

      Clare thought that Tess was indispensable. He could not live happily without her. He decided to propose to her for marriage. One day he took her unawares when he said to her that he wanted to ask her something of a very practical nature. He wanted to marry a woman like her who knew all about the management of farms. He asked her if she would become his wife. At this, she said that she could not be his wife. When Clare asked her if she loved him, she said that she loved him very much and would rather be his than anybody’s in the world, but she could not marry him. Angel Clare was not daunted by this reply, he knew that the negative with a young woman was often but a preface to the affirmative.

      When Angel Clare pressed her again and again, she said to him that it was for his good that she did not like to give herself the great happiness of promising to be his wife. Angel Clare went on pursuing her. One day he said that she did not give him her hand in marriage even when her heart belonged to him. Tess had no way to escape now. She surrendered herself to him. She said if it was sure to make him happy to have her as his wife, and if he felt that he did wish to marry her very very much, then she would become his wife. It was only his wanting her very much and being hard to keep alive without her, whatever her offenses, that would make her feel that she ought to say she would become his wife. These words filled Clare with delight. He clasped her close and kissed her. In her excitement, Tess also clasped Angel Clare and kissed him passionately for a number of times. It was for the first time in his life that Clare came to know what an impassioned woman’s kisses were like upon the lips of one whom she loved with all heart and soul. Thus love between Tess and Clare developed and matured into their marriage.

      When Tess and Clare went to their new lodging at Wellbridge, they came to know how one of the chamber-maids of Tess had attempted suicide. Retty had tried to commit suicide. Marian had taken to heavy drinking. Izz had fled to an unknown place. Tess felt much distressed when she heard these stories. She said to herself how they were simple and innocent girls on whom the unhappiness of unrequited love had fallen. They had deserved better at the hands of fate. She had deserved worse, yet she was the chosen one. It was wicked of her to take all without paying. That was why she determined to pay the penalty by telling Angel Clare everything about her past moral trouble.

      Their golden night became the unhappiest thing of their life. At first, Angel Clare related the story of his dissipation with a woman in London. Tess heard of it and forgave her husband for it with her whole heart. Then Tess narrated her moral trouble with Alec d’Urberville. She had to narrate a similar story. She thought that Angel Clare could forgive her very well. She started to make a confession. It was as serious as his or more so. It was just the same, so it could not be more serious. She sat down. A large shadow of her shape rose upon the wall and ceiling when she narrated the story of her seduction and defilement by Alec d’Urberville and of the birth and death of Sorrow. She pressed her forehead against his temple when she described the story of her acquaintance with Alec d’Urberville and its results. She spoke all the words in a low tone but without flinching. While she did so, her eyelids drooped down.

      This narrative turned Angel Clare into a stone. Nothing had yet changed in the substance of things, but the essence of things had changed. When her words worked upon his mind, he asked if what she had told him only was true. When she told him that she had spoken the truth only, his face withered into paleness. Then Tess went down on her knees and requested Angel Clare to forgive her. She said that she had forgiven him for a similar sin. At first, Angel kept quiet. Then he said to her that forgiveness did not apply to her case. He frightened Tess with his terrible laugh which was unnatural and ghostly like a laugh in hell.

      When her words had no effect upon him, Tess asked Angel Clare if she belonged to him or not. She began to weep. She burst into a flood of self-sympathetic tears. She said to him that she would not live with him if she had caused any grief to him. She said that she would not write to her parents of their marriage also. She would do everything he ordered if he pardoned her. She was ready to die like his wretched slave only if he did so. Then the darkness of night covered the two lovers. It swallowed up their happiness. The next morning Angel Clare took a hurried breakfast with her and went away to the flour mill where he had decided to learn the art of turning wheat into flour. At this time the pair was in truth but the ashes of their former fire. Tess passed two days in grave-like silence and worked in the house like a machine. The steadiness of her love for him was almost pitiful. Angel Clare thought and thought as to what he should or could do. He was now fed up with hard thinking. The love of Angel Clare for Tess was unearthly. Had there been any earthly touch of the animal spirit in it he would have forgiven her. This love was ethereal to a fault and imaginative to impracticability. The bodily presence was not appealing to him. The corporeal absence could appeal much to his nature. Such a nature is fond of an ideal presence which is without any defects of the real in it.

      All these things made the couple realize that they could not live together in this way. Tess decided to go back to her mother. Angel Clare decided to go to Brazil in South America later on. At night Angel Clare walked in his sleep. He thought that Tess had died so he lifted her up in his arms and took her across the river to a churchyard. He placed her in an empty stone coffin and sat down near her. Tess woke up and understood the whole thing. She came to know how he had gone mad with grief, so she led him back to the house and laid him in his bed fearing lest he should catch cold in the open air. She did not tell him anything about this sleepwalking scene in the morning. They set out on their journeys. Angel Clare drove with her up to the point of the road from where she could take a turn to her native village. Thus with their bleeding hearts, the two lovers parted from each other.

University Questions

Trace the growth of love between Angel Clare and Tess.
State the circumstances which led to the estrangement of Tess from Angel Clare.

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