Tess of the d'Urbervilles: by Thomas Hardy - Summary

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      Almost outside the Village Marlott, in the beautiful vale of Blackmoor, a cottage with its thatched roof stood quite aloof. It was the sole property of the poor Durbeyfield family. The head of the family, Jack Durbeyfield was a haggler who had to earn the bread for eight members who in accordance of age were Joan his wife, Tess (daughter), Eliza Lousia (daughter) who was twelve and a half, Abraham (son) who was nine, Hope and Modesty (daughters) and two younger sons, the youngest being only one year old.

      One day Jack Durbeyfield was returning from the town of Shaston with his empty basket, after selling his eggs, that Parson Tringham, a priest met him on the way. He paid him respect by addressing him as “Sir John” and told him that he was the lineal representative of the ancient knightly family of the d’Urbervilles. He also told him that his ancestors lay in the Church of Kingsbere-Green hill. This was sufficient to turn his head. The lineal representative of d’Urbervilles should not haggle hither and thither. He stopped earning and started drinking. In the next morning, he was unable to take the cart of fodder to the town. Tess, being the eldest presented herself for this work. It was yet dark when she started. On the way in an accident with a mail-cart their beloved horse Prince died.

      In fact it was not Prince who died it was their bread winner that died. Starvation stood incarnated before Tess and her mother. Jack Durbeyfield had nothing to do with these petty matters. Tess held herself responsible for the death of Prince. She wanted to do something to purchase a new horse. Her mother asked her to go to claim kinship from the d’Urberville family at the Trantridge. Forced by the condition of the family, she went there against her will. A blind lady was the owner of the farm, she offered her a job at her poultry farm. Alec d’Urberville was here only but a spoiled son, he offered his love to Tess. The former she accepted; the latter she rejected. Little caring for her annoyance, this youth of loose morals went on seducing her. She cherished a vehement detestation against Alec d’Urberville. One night, circumstances contrived against her and in a state of semi-consciousness he looted her all, what a virgin can boast of. She could not live as a mistress there at the cost of her chastity. She returned to Marlott. In tears she told her story. In due course of time she gave birth to a son, who could not live long. His death helped Tess to forget her past which always pricked her like a thorn.

      For certain period, Tess story was upon the lips of the villagers, but time made the atmosphere clean. Gradually smile returned upon her lips, though contemplation had become her temperament. After two long years she again started to earn her livelihood. In Var Vale, at Talbothays she obtained a job as a dairy maid. It was a very big dairy. Here she fell in love with Angel Clare, the youngest son of an earnest orthodox parson of Emminster, the Rev. James Clare. For his sincere devotion to the Church, his father was praised and respected everywhere. Since Angel Clare was interested in humanity rather than divinity, his father refused him education at Cambridge. The study at home had created in Angel a love for the low and generosity of heart. He had determined to adopt farming as a career. Here he was learning the work of dairy. With the passing of time love of Angel Clare and Tess Durbeyfield went on becoming intenser and deeper. Till the situation arrived when Angel could no longer resist himself. He proposed to Tess but she did not accept his proposal. She always put him off with the excuse that she was not fit for him. Her past would always linger before her eyes. As keenly the desire to expose her sins arose in her mind as feebler she felt herself. She did not want to deceive him. Even before marriage she wrote a letter and slipped it in his room, but the letter slid under the carpet. They were married. At the wedding night inspired the story of Angel that he was once involved with a woman senior to him in age, she confessed her faults.

      Female may, but male would not forgive, because forgiveness does not apply to all the cases. Angel though he still loved her, deserted her. Disappointed from life he moved to Brazil. The little amount given by Angel was soon finished and Tess was again exposed to starvation. Due to her pride she could not move to his parents and due to the fear of the defame of Angel she could not accept indoor work.

      While shopping, once in the company of Angel, a man remarked upon Tess that she had been at Trantridge sometime. In a fit of anger, Angel had given a blow upon the chin of that man. Eventually, being disappointed from all sides she had to work under the same man at Starye-acre-land in Flint Comb-Ash. The man, to take revenge from Tess, behaved with her very rudely. He would seek double labour from her. She was crushed in drudgery here. Sometimes she fainted while working. When her limbs began to ache, she would weep and ask Angel to come back.

      When the cruelty began to cross the limits she proceeded on a Sunday, to Emminster. She was going to ask help from her father-in-law who was known for his kindness. Clare family was returning home after service. She heard the conversation of the brothers of Angel about the unhappy marriage of Angel. Her courage failed and she could not make a call.

      Frustrated and dejected when she was coming back she heard about the speech of a Christian man at Benvill Lane village. Perhaps his sermons may give her peace. With this idea she moved to the place. To her amazement, she found that the Christian man was none but Alec himself who was pretending to be a convert. She stayed no longer there Alec but had seen her. Even in religious garbs lie could not control his passions and ran after her. Then casually he went on paying visits to Flint Comb-Ash. He knew her weakness— the poverty of her parents. He again tried to seduce her in the name of past experiences. He would promise every comfort for her parents. Tess was firm upon her place. She wrote a long passionate letter to Angel to return soon or something terrible would happen.

      Tess waited and waited but her dear husband did not turn up. Suddenly her mother fell ill. She ran to Marlott caring little for the agreement with which she was bound to work for Flintcomb-Ash, till the Old Lady Day. After attending to her mother, in the kitchen, she went to the field because seeding time was passing. A strange thing happened. Instead of sick mother, father died whom she had left in the chair busy with his plans about his family.

      Jack Durbeyfield was the last man on the property, therefore after his death, they were asked to vacate the house. One after the other misery was were trying its power on this poor family. On Old Lady Day they had to leave their native place for good. Hearing about the death of her father, Alec came with his conventional mourning face and again started persuing her that he would never return for whom she had been waiting. Taking pity which was drenched in his passion, he again asked her to accept his proposal. Even on that day she bluntly refused and wrote a letter to Angel. The language of this letter was very harsh.

      They reached Kingsbere with their cart loaded with luggage but could find no house to take shelter. Heaven wanted Alec to win therefore Tess had to yield.

      On the other side, Angel failed in his experiences over the Brazilian soils. Ilbaess attacked him and turned him into skeleton. One year’s conflict with the hard life had changed his conception of morality. He has done injustice with his wife this thing set in his mind. To seek happiness in arms of his wife he returned to his home. He started his zealous search for his deserted wife. As he moved from one place to another and came to know about all the calamities which Tess had to face, he began to expiate. At last early in the morning he made a call upon the d’Urbcrvilles in Sandbourne. Tess was now living with Alec. The sight of Angel could not arouse any anxiety. He was moving as if a lifeless statue moves. She, very coldly refused to come since it was too late. With shivering legs Angel walked to his hotel and then to the station. The train was expected after an hour. He could not wait for the train in that hateful city. Let the train pick him up at the next station. He started on foot. After meeting Angel, Tess went upstairs. She went and wept, repented for her hurry and began to approach Alec for once more deceiving her. In his intoxication Alec abused Angel, she could not tolerate any insult to Angel. The ‘dinning Grille came to her hand, She freed his soul of dirty body and ran to Angel. Angel had not gone afar. She overlook him in the jungle.

      The next moment Tess was in the arms of Angel. They were walking clung to each other. It seemed as if no one would be ever able to part them. Both lived in a deserted house in the jungle for about six days—the happiest days of their lives. The next day they had to leave that house.

      In the morning Tess was captured. She had asked Angel in the name of her intense and true love to marry with Liza-Lu after her death. Angel will obey her last will. Tess was hanged. The protectors of the society felt satisfied after doing this justice.

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