Tess of the d'Urbervilles By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Phase the Fourth: The Consequence: Chapters 25-30

Summary

Angel has turned a new corner in his life, feeling that he belongs on the dairy as a farmer and that Tess is the right choice as a wife. Angel leaves the dairy to visit his family and to tell his parents about Tess. Angel's brothers, Felix and Cuthbert, disapprove of Angel marrying Tess but do little to discourage him. His parents had intended Angel to marry Miss Mercy Chant, a real "lady" and local teacher. Angel is against the union and proposes to his parents that Tess Durbeyfield would be a much better choice.

Angel and his father debate the merits of Mercy and Tess as suitable wives for a farmer. Angel's wishes win out with his father's concern expressed by his question, "Is she of a family such as you would care to marry into — a lady, in short?" His parents warn Angel not to rush into a hasty marriage with an unknown woman, but his descriptions of her are enough. Reverend Clare relates a story of a convert, one Alec d'Urberville, who has become a lay minister and street preacher.

Angel returns to the dairy and asks Tess to marry him. Tess says that she cannot. Angel persists, not being too aggressive in his tactics to convince Tess, but she insists, "I am not good enough — not worthy enough." Alone, Tess wonders why her past has not caught up to her at Talbothays, and she feels both "positive pleasure and positive pain" as she wrestles with her feelings for Angel and the past that is bound to catch up to her. She resolves to give in to Angel's proposal: "I shall give way — I shall say yes — I shall let myself marry him — I cannot help it."

Tess rethinks her position, even suggesting that any of the other milkmaids would be worthy wives for Angel. Angel refuses Tess' suggestions, and when Mr. Crick needs a volunteer to drive the milk, now late for delivery, straight to the train station in Egdon Heath, Angel volunteers, and Tess goes along for the ride. It is during this ride, in a downpour of rain, that Angel learns that Tess comes from the d'Urberville family. He suggests that she adopt the "d'Urberville" spelling, and he quells her fears about his hating "old families."

Relieved, Tess accepts Angel's marriage proposal if "it is sure to make you happy to have me as your wife and you feel that you wish to marry me, very, very much . . . ." Then Tess kisses Angel, and he discovers "what an impassioned woman's kisses were like upon the lips of one whom she loved with all her heart and soul, as Tess loved him."

Tess insists that she write her mother in Marlott, and Angel then remembers that day four years earlier, during the May Dance, that he had seen Tess but had not danced with her.

Analysis

In these chapters, Hardy gives the readers a fine set of juxtaposed characters to consider: Tess versus Mercy; Angel and Reverend Clare versus Angel's brothers Felix and Cuthbert; and Angel versus Alec. The characters are developed as sets of opposites that cause the reader to consider both sides of the argument. These two sides are not a contrast between right or wrong, good or bad, but rather, they are a way to demonstrate that positions have two distinct sides, each with its own viewpoint. Mercy Chant is "accomplished," educated, able to provide a good home for Angel as a wife. Tess is presented clearly as a better choice as a farmer's wife. Of course, should Angel have chosen the life of a minister, Mercy Chant may have been a better choice.

Also interesting is the division between Angel and his brothers. Felix Clare is a parish minister described by Hardy as "all Church," while Cuthbert, dean of a college, seems to be "all College." Angel is then seen by his older brothers as "growing in social ineptness," and Angel sees his brothers as "growing [with] mental limitations." Each sees the other not as opposite, but as flawed in ways that can divide families. Cuthbert is "the more liberal minded," though "he had not much heart." Likewise, Felix is "less self-sacrificing and disinterested." Thus both men are not like Angel in many respects when "[n]either saw the difference between local truth and universal truth; that what the inner world said in their clerical and academic hearing was quite a different thing from what the outer world was thinking." Felix asks Angel if he is "somehow losing intellectual grasp." Angel responds, "[I]f it comes to intellectual grasp, I think you, as a contented dogmatist, had better leave mine alone, and inquire what has become of yours." Thus, Angel feels that "despite his own heterodoxy, he was nearer to his father on the human side than was either of his brethren."

Angel's father, Reverend Clare is a "Pauliad" or Paulist; that is, his religious attitudes are like those of the biblical Paul, meaning that he believes that conversion is not an intellectual occurrence but an emotional one. Hardy describes Reverend Clare as "sincere." He is an evangelical believer and minister, even suffering beatings and berating to convert sinners to join the church. Thus Reverend Clare and Angel are very similar in their practical religious beliefs. Angel's brothers, on the other hand, are more inclined to use their religious beliefs for their own ends and are even vain in their "fashionable" ways.

In the consideration of religion, Angel continues to be a contrast to Alec. Angel has a better concept of religion, and he practices what he preaches. Alec, on the other hand, experiences a sudden conversion from his harmful ways; he has abused Reverend Clare when approached on the subject of his Christianity. Reverend Clare is proud to have won a new convert, no matter the consequence. Angel is aghast at his father for taking too many risks, whether they be physical or mental from strangers: "I wish he would not wear himself out now he is getting old, and would leave such pigs to their wallowing." Angel admires his father's work, even though it has cost him in the past, "though the younger could not accept his parent's narrow dogma he revered his practice, and recognized the hero under the pietist."

The reintroduction of Alec in the story is important for two reasons: First, it indicates that Alec will play a part in later events. Up to this point, although we may have suspected Alec's reappearance, it was possible that his part in Tess' ruin had already been played and that it would simply be the results of the past action that color future events. Now we know that that is not the case. Alec d'Urberville's part in Tess' life is not, unfortunately for Tess, over. Second, Angel's comment that he wishes his father would "leave such pigs to their wallowing" indicates both Alec's past nature and the sincerity of his present conversion. Although no one in the novel presently questions Alec's conversion, the reader should.

Glossary

apostrophizing addressing words to a person or thing, whether absent or present, generally in an exclamatory digression in a speech or literary writing.

Dapes inemptae "unpurchased banquet" (Latin); refers to the dairyman's self-sufficiency in producing food.

black-puddings dark sausages made with meat and seasoned blood.

delirium tremens violent delirium resulting chiefly from excessive drinking of alcoholic liquor and characterized by sweating, trembling, anxiety, and frightening hallucinations.

flummery meaningless flattery or silly talk.

Calvinistic doctrine reference to the teachings of John Calvin (1509-1564), Swiss Protestant theologian, who emphasized salvation through God's grace.

pernicious causing great injury, destruction, or ruin; fatal; deadly; [Rare] wicked; evil.

"as Hamlet puts it" from Hamlet 2.2.351.

"from St. Luke" refers to Luke 12:20.

"Being reviled we bless…" 1 Corinthians 4:12-13.

Tractarian derived from the Oxford Movement, which favored a return to early Catholic doctrines in the Church of England.

pantheistic relating to pantheism, the doctrine that God is not a personality, but that all laws, forces, manifestations, etc. of the universe are God; the belief that God and the universe are one and the same.

"Sigh gratis" act or feel without expecting reward; from Hamlet (Act II, Scene 2, Line 323).

carking [Archaic] worrying or being worried or anxious.

self-immolation suicide, usually by burning oneself in a public place; deliberate self-sacrifice.

phlegmatic hard to rouse to action; sluggish; dull; apathetic; calm; cool; stolid.

Centurions the commanding officers of an ancient Roman century.

Caroline date the seventeenth century, during the reign of Charles I (reigned 1625-49) or Charles II (reigned 1660-85).

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

Near which city is The Slopes located?




Quiz