Reverend James Clare: Character in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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      Reverend James Clare is the most earnest type of a clergyman and his religious thoughts are set in contradiction to the thoughts of our hero. It is out of the conflict of their thoughts that Angel remains without University education. His character helps Hardy in elaborating his theory of God and religion which he deliberately puts on such heights as to look inaccessible. He knowingly induces extraordinary grandeur and elegance in ecclesiastical thoughts of the old, Mr. Clare so that the ordinary persons may know that such heights which cannot be reached are only to entice them otherwise they have no practical value. From this point of view the character of Mr. Clare needs a deeper study.

His Life; A Dedication to Church

      Within the last twenty years, among his contemporaries, no such earnest vicar has come into the notice of simple folk as Mr. Clare is. He is the spiritual descendant in the direct line from Wycliff, Huss, Luther and Calvin and others. Simple in life and thought, he is the evangelical of the evangelicals. From the very childhood, he has been regarded as extreme. Even the enemies also praise him. He is a lover of Paul of Tarsus and St. John. Religion is his life, Church is his home and all the Church goers are the members of his family. Howsoever strict in his religious thoughts he may be, he never forces his religion on anybody.

      He wants that his whole family should have the same thoughts and therefore asks every member, even the servants to attend the service on every Sunday. In his previous stages, he is shown as an orthodox vicar who cannot tolerate the philosophical arguments of his son. But later on, he becomes liberal and tolerates all the abnormalities. He is a man not merely religious but devout, a firm believer. In the old and ardent sense of the evangelical school he is one who can indeed opine -

that the Eternal and Divine
Did, eighteen centuries ago
In very truth....

      Mr. Clare has the unshakable belief that University education is reserved for those who are ready to dedicate their worldly pleasures to the service of God.

As a Man

      His personality has one more different aspect the other side of his ecclesiastical picture. And that other side is his humanity. When he is not a clergyman, he is a kind-hearted man whose religion becomes sincerity. Hardy closes his character in a simple line—

“One thing he certainly was—sincere.” Out of his sheer love for the mankind, he goes to Trantridge to reform Alec d’Urberville. There he is insulted and abused and yet he does not take it ill. It is his saintly Influence that such a vicious character amends and though for a short while, he becomes a Christian man. lie wants that every man should lead a religious life.

An Impartial Father

      He is stunned to see his own flesh and blood turned an atheist. No doubt he is very badly hurt at the remark of Angel that “if Greece had been the source of religion of modern civilization and not Palestine it would have been better for mankind,” and in a fit of rage he refuses him the University Education which he has very kindly given to his two cider sons; yet he acts as an impartial father. The sum, which he has spent on the education of either of the two elder sons, he has reserved for the youngest son so that he may not feel slighted and may use his due amount in any business he wants to. And then he assures him, “As far as worldly wealth goes, you will no doubt stand far superior to your brothers in a few years? As an affectionate father he in the later stages repents of his folly. He feels that he himself is responsible for the tragedy of the life of Angel. His wife also feels the same thing. When Angel returns from Brazil in the shape of a skeleton both grieve much. They also feel pity for his wife. It is only a parental heart that feels so.

Defects in His Character

      The only defect with him is that Mr. Clare is an earnest vicar. All the other minor defects take their origin from this major one, if at all of it can be regarded as a defect. If he and his wife do not eat the puddings and do not drink the meal sent by Mrs. Crick and if they want that truth should be spoken to her, it is not their fault. They are evangelical and no evangelical can like the telling of a lie. Such persons have no concern with the feelings of others’ hearts. They are firm upon their religion, upon their faith, and upon their way of behaving with others. They do not worry if one feels hurt with their bitter remarks, According to us, who are the persons of flesh and blood and who are no more as earnest worshippers of God as Mr. Clare is, if a lie proves useful for a person provided that some other is not hurt and he does not object, then that lie must be spoken. But our thoughts are worldly and therefore we have no right to challenge Mr. Clare’s spiritual conduct. From the religious point of view, he is spotless.

Main Aspects of the Character in a Nut-Shell

1. Mr. James Clare, helps Hardy in emphasizing his religious theory through a contradiction with his son Angel Clare.

2. His life is a dedication to Church and God.

3. As a man he is sincere and kind.

4. As a father he is impartial but more affectionate to Angel.

5. He has nothing except his earnestness for his religion.

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