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Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy; 1891

  • Aug 3, 2010

This book made me upset in the end. It gave me a sort of righteous female anger at the way the world was, and the sometimes futility of life. It is not a happy ending, as happy endings usually go. It demonstrates hardship, hope, futility, strangled desires, desperation, and the hypocrisy of human nature. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a not-so-typical female heroin in a novel. I think the morality taught is one good for girls in their late teens and up. It really shows how differently life can turn out than what you might plan, and the benefits of never giving up on yourself or giving in to unhealthy pressures. It also points out the truth in feelings leading you astray, and the benefits of humility instead of pride and scorn. 

Tess of the d'Urbervilles is set in the 1800's. It is in the rural outskirts of a gentry town. Following the consequences of chance, pride, and ambition, it takes you through the life of a young country girl, Tess Derbyville. She is renowned for beauty. She is simple and kind. She is naive and longing for what all country girls were longing for: a husband and home that one could love and be loved in. She finds that her name is connected to an old gene pool that outshines her current condition. It is possible that the gaining of that  knowledge is simultaneously the worst and best thing to happen to her.  It follows the chance meetings, family and social pressures of the time, and Tess' own feelings regarding her poor lot in life and love. She experiences the worst misfortunes a person can go through in her time. Desperation, budding love, betrayal, hope, and misfortune are the main plot lines of the book. Tess begins in innocence, is guided by a devotion to her family and her fathers pride, is led astray by naiveté and ignorance. She finds true love too late, and is forced to betray and be betrayed. Her story could have still ended happily, if it had not been for her husbands pride and hers. 

Still she carries herself throughout the book with a sense of dignity and determination. She suffers and toils like a true martyr, and makes the best of her situation. In the end, love does prevail, but circumstances have developed into a force of social and societal pressure that nothing can overcome. Her happiness is as small and flighty as a summer calm before the storm, but she gets her moment in time to be happy, and this book really shows us that sometimes that is all one can hope for: a few days or hours of true unadulterated bliss in the midst of everything. 

The morality of the book seems to be appropriate for the time it was written, but something can be taken away from it at any time, if only a lesson of being true to yourself against all odds.  It gives a different take on the normal idea of morality, based on intent despite actions, rather than the other way around. Tess is all goodness and light, but she finds herself mired beyond her ability to compensate, and does the best she can in her situation. Always wanting good, always finding bad, she pulls at the readers sense of indignation and justice in the world. 

The writing style of this book is similar to that of it's time, but perhaps with less flowery prose than it's contemporaries. It leaves you wondering if the author is a champion for women, or a moralist painting a picture of what happens "when you do what's wrong" in his esteem. There are lessons to be learned on both sides of that coin. 

Overall this is a great book to read for a completely different take on the normal female heroin, and the struggles of women in that time. It ends with one sweet note of happiness, and one dark note of despair. It will keep you interested, and reading up until the end. 

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August 05, 2010
Hi darlingn, This is one of my all time favorite books, and I've read it at least 3 times (so far). I agree with you about the ending, but it's so typical of Hardy. Lovely review.
More Tess of the D'Urbervilles reviews
Quick Tip by . April 22, 2011
She keeps trying in spite of society's lack of support for women.
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Nikki Koon ()
Ranked #632
I adore reading. I pick up everything I can possibly can, and am a regular at my local discount book store. I hope to share in the thoughts and opinions of everyone here on Cafe Libri!
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About this book


This edition of the Hardy classic includes a complete authoritative text plus biographical and historical contexts, critical history, essays by five scholars, and a glossary. A fine scholarly edition for the academic crowd.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.
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ISBN-10: 0141439599
ISBN-13: 978-0141439594
Author: Thomas Hardy
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Classics
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