Sleepwalking of Angel Clare in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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      When Tess narrated the story of her seduction and defilement by Alec d’Urberville, it worked upon Angel’s mind slowly. It made him mad with grief in course of time. The newly-married lovers were estranged from each other. It seemed to Tess that her husband could no longer live with her happily. She decided to return to her native village where her parents lived. She put this plan before Angel Clare who did not hesitate in sending her back to Marlott where she was born and bred up. He himself decided to go to another destination.

      The night preceding their departure from Wellbridge witnessed a scene which was thrilling, interesting and significant. Angel Clare saw a dream in his sleep. While dreaming he felt that Tess was dead. That was why he got up and began to walk in sleep. When Tess was sleeping in her room, Clare went there secretly. He made a little sound at the door. This sound roused Tess from her sleep. She marked that her husband’s eyes looked vacant, he was awake yet he was walking in a dream. It was the grief resulting from his estrangement from his wife that had thrown him in a fit of madness. At this time Angel Clare had lost all sense of life and death, time and place. He seemed to believe that his wife was dead. He came and stood near her bed and said in a low tone that his wife was dead. Tess heard him repeating the word “dead” many times.

      Now Angel Clare bent over her and enclosed her in his arms. He rolled her in a sheet of cloth as in a shroud. Tess remained motionless. She held her breath also. She wondered what he was going to do with her. But Tess did not put up any resistance. He uplifted her from the bed with that respect which people show to a dead body. When Angel Clare carried her across the room, he said in a low tone how Tess was very sweet, good and true. Then he took her downstairs. She was filled with fear but she remained quiet. She continued lying in his arms with a sense not of terror but of luxury.

      Angel Clare bore her towards the river. She did not disturb him in any way. She was very pleased to think that he was regarding her as his absolute possession. He could dispose off her as he chose. When he reached the river-bank, he had to cross a narrow bridge. When he began to cross it, Tess thought that he was going to drown her to death. The spot was lonely and the river was deep. He could affect this thing very easily. While he was crossing this footbridge, she wished if they could only fall together. If they fell to be dashed to pieces, it would be a very fit and desirable thing for both of them. Tess thought that dying in this situation was better than parting in the morning.

      But Angel Clare crossed the footbridge safely. He reached the other bank and went towards a churchyard. He went near an empty stone coffin where he deposited Tess. He sat down near her. He kissed her lips and took a deep breath. It appeared as if he had done a great thing. Then he lay down on the ground, and fell into a deep sleep. Angel Clare was not properly dressed. The night was very cold, so she feared lest he should catch cold. That was why Tess persuaded him to return home. He walked with her easily. He was still dreaming. He thought that Tess was leading him to heaven, so he followed her easily. He thought that Tess had risen from her dead body as a spirit. Thus Tess brought Angel Clare back to the old house where she made him lie down on his bed. When he got up in the morning, he was quite exhausted. He did not remember what he had done with Tess during the night time.

      This sleepwalking scene has got its own significance in the scheme of Tess the d’Urbervilles. It is something very important so far as the development of character is concerned. The hard logical deposit did not allow Angel Clare to love Tess in his waking moments, but he had an instinctive love for her. The estrangement of poor Clare from his beautiful wife made him mad with grief. The scene reveals how Clare loved Tess all the time, but he was not aware of this love. Thomas Hardy deserves to be called a modern writer. Moreover, the present sleep walking scene puts up in the mind of the sleepwalking scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It reveals to us how the subconscious part of Clare’s mind reacted and worked when he was estranged from his wife due to her moral trouble with Alec d’Urberville who is a scoundrel or villain of the novel. These things go a long way towards establishing the fact that the sleep-walking scene of the present novel is something very thrilling, interesting and significant. It is important both for the development of plot and characterization.

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