To What Extend Is Tess Responsible for Her Own Downfall?

In: English and Literature

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To what extend is Tess responsible for her own downfall?

In Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Tess, the protagonist can be seen as an intelligent, innocent and somewhat beautiful female that has hardships and injustices endlessly heaped upon her. From the early days in her life, her father John had begun to destroy her, which then led to Alex D'Urbervilles and eventually finished with Angel Clare. Each dominant male figure in her life seems to have contributed to her tragic downfall, which the reader encounters at the end of the novel. But others may argue that it is Tess’s own misdoings that lead on the tragedies. So is Tess to blame for becoming a ‘fallen woman’ or are those around her to be held responsible for her tragic life story?

The three dominating male in this novel are arguably the most influential figures in Tess’s life. Her father, John Durbeyfield, is a shiftless man who takes drinking more seriously than work. He’s discovery of an apparent noble lineage, the D’Urbervilles, has forced Tess to go to this relation and claim kin out of her own will. Tess’s hesitation in written as a simile ‘Tess stood hesitating like a bather about to make his plunge’. The ‘plunge’ suggests heavy movements. Readers may relate this to Tess’s unwillingness to come here in the first place, thus she is forced to take the ‘plunge’, to take a risk. The 3rd person ‘his’ is used rather than the feminine ‘her’ even though Tess is a woman, portraying the Victorian society as sexist. Men should be doing the physical sport, to be the ‘bather’.

Tess’s moral worth and innocence is made apparent when she is compared to her two lovers, both of whom are openly criticized by Hardy for their preconceived assumptions. Alec is shown to be a stereotypical bachelor that is flirtatious, untrustworthy and even devilish. This is shown through his first encounter…...

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