Mayday Dance at Women's Club in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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      The Women’s Club was a very important social body of Marlott where Tess was born and bred up. This village was situated in the Vale of Blackmoor. It had a beautiful natural surrounding also. Its fields were never brown nor its springs were ever dry. It was surrounded by a number of hills. If a man viewed this village from one of these hills, he saw a scene of grass and of trees.

      The Mayday festival was celebrated in the spring. The Women’s Club consisted of women of all ages and descriptions. Its members put on a white dress. Everyone of these members held a bunch of white flowers in the right hand. Most of them were young country ladies. They knew nothing of the culture of city-life. The most beautiful girl of all was Tess Durbeyfield. She had a fine and picturesque personality. Her large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour and shape. She looked conspicuous with her red ribbon. But this time she was nothing more than “a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience.” A man could observe the different phases of her childhood still appearing in her personality and bearing. He could see the twelfth year in her cheeks, the ninth year sparkling in her eyes even her fifth year fitting over the curves of her month.

      While celebrating the Mayday festival the female-members of the Women’s Club, dance without any male companions. It was at this time that Angel Clare and his two brothers happened to pass through the village. When Angel Clare looked at the party of female dancers, he was surprised to find that there were no male companions in the dance. This was so because they had not returned from the work. At this time Angel Clare was invited to join them as one of their male companions. He chose the nearest girl and began to dance. After a short time other male companions also came up and joined their fair partners. After one or two rounds he fell out and the dance was stopped for a while.

      When Angel Clare stopped dancing, his eyes fell on Tess. He had not observed her as her back was turned to him. He was sorry for this. It was with this regret that he left the dancer’s company and set out to overtake his elder brothers who had gone ahead. He wished that, he should have at least known her name. When Angel Clare left the place, Tess also became thoughtful. She wished that he should have asked her to dance with him. She could not forget this thing for a long time. Angel Clare had left a deep impression on her mind with his polished manners and polite conversation. Thus Tess returned home in a thoughtful mood.

      This incident fills an important place in the scheme of the novel. It was here and at this time that the first seed of love between Tess and Clare was sown. Neither of them could forget this happening for years to come. Its dim memory swam across the mind even when they lived and worked in the famous dairy of Talbothays. Each felt that they had seen each other in the past. They could not remember when and where they had done so. It was Tess who first recollected that they had met at Marlott during a dance. She felt very sorry that he had not asked for her love at this time of her life. Had he done so, it would have a been a very happy thing. But she regretted how the circumstances had changed since. There is another point of importance in this episode. It is meant to introduce the hero to the heroine as well as to the reader before the coming of Alec d’Urberville who is the villain of the novel.

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