Summary and Analysis
Phase the Third: The Rally: Chapters 16-20
Having arranged for the position of milkmaid at a dairy in Talbothays through a friend of her mother's, Tess leaves home for a second time. At 20, she is now more experienced in the world. It is late in the afternoon when she arrives at the dairy, and she is in time for the afternoon milking of the cows. She introduces herself to Mr. Richard Crick, the dairyman, and immediately begins work.
In the milking parlor, Tess does not actually meet the other workers, but she hears them as they perform their chores. There is discussion among the other workers about some cows going "azew," or dry. Superstitiously, the workers believe that, because there is "a new hand come among us," the cows are not as likely to give as much milk. A tale from medieval times is told to entertain the workers, and a song is sung to make the work easier and to coax the cows to be generous with their milk — all the kinds of banter one would expect in a milking parlor.
Finally, a strange voice chimes in, and we are introduced to Angel Clare. Angel, at age 26, is the youngest son of an area parson; he has come to Talbothays to learn the business of the dairy farm so that he may one day become a farmer himself. Tess recognizes Angel from the May dance in Chapter 1. She fears that he will discover her past and shun her. Tess learns of Angel's past when she shares a room, which is over the milking room, with three other milkmaids.
Hardy interrupts Tess' story to explain Angel's history. Angel hopes to have a farm of his own either in England or in an English colony. Angel's desire came as a surprise to his father, the Reverend James Clare, who learned of his youngest son's intentions only when books about farming were delivered to the Clare home. When his father questioned Angel about how he can be interested in such books when he plans to become a "minster of the Gospel," Angel informed his father of his plans, claiming that he cannot support all of church doctrine; he can only accept those tenants that he himself cannot bridge. Angel went to London to see the world and to discover a new profession for himself. In London, he fell in love with an older woman, who almost "entrapped" the young Clare in marriage. He was extricated from the situation and settled on farming as a profession.
Tess and Angel's relationship starts off slowly, but begins to develop when he lines up Tess' cows for her, the ones that are hard to milk. The two later meet while Angel is playing a second hand harp for entertainment and a conversation ensues. Angel finds Tess rather mature, mysterious. Tess decries her lack of education, and Angel volunteers to tutor her in any subject she might choose. Tess replies, "I shouldn't mind learning why — why the sun do shine on the just and unjust alike." Angel chides her for being so negative about life.
The dairy of Talbothays is in the Blackmoor Valley, on the river Froom/Frome. Hardy describes this region in breathtaking terms of green valleys and abundant life. "The river itself, which nourished the grass and cows of these renowned dairies, flowed not like the streams in Blackmoor . . . The Froom waters were clear as the pure River of Life shown to the Evangelist . . . ." To Tess, the job at the diary signifies a new beginning, so much so that she now begins a new phase of her life — "she appeared to feel that she really had laid a new foundation for her future." She fits right into the diary work and it suits her.
In this sequence of chapters, Hardy introduces us again to Angel, who appeared briefly in Chapter 1. Angel's desire is to learn all he can through an internship, or apprenticeship, with an expert farmer. His training is practical, not like his two older brothers, both parsons, who were university trained at Cambridge. Angel has settled on farming in order to have "intellectual liberty." That is, he wants to be able to study and read what he wants, whenever he wants, and to pursue studies not related to the church. He comes to realize that the myth of the uneducated, simpleton farmer is not true. He sees the farm workers as his friends and regards them with high esteem. Through this changing perception, Angel "grew away from old associations, and saw something new in life and humanity."
The description of Angel in these chapters is significant in other ways: Angel Clare is a direct contrast to Alec d'Urberville. Angel makes himself aware of Tess in a slow methodical manner versus the abrupt, harsh forcefulness of Alec. Angel is well read, from a good family, and he does not regard his associates or colleagues with scorn. He uses his position of authority wisely, not to overpower his coworkers but to aid and assist them, unlike Alec who abuses his position over the servants of the house, using them for his own pleasures and whims. Angel is not opposed to working for a living, especially the hard life of a farmer. Angel seeks to better himself by furthering his own education, even offering to enhance Tess' education as his own expense. Angel is not perfect, however, as his relationship with an older woman in London suggests. Mr. Crick tells Tess how Angel views the aristocracy and the use of "old family names" as a means to establish dominance over others not so fortunate: "Oh no! he can't stomach old families!" Perhaps these views are not Crick's own but are part of Hardy's argument against establishment and order in Victorian England.
It is interesting the comparison Hardy makes between Angel and his brothers. Angel is essentially a good man — and remains a good man, despite his later inability to forgive Tess for her past and the bad decision he makes to leave her — and we can admire his kindness, fairness, and strength. His brothers, on the other hand, although certainly not bad men, do not exhibit, the admirable qualities Angel possesses. Although this comparison will become more apparent in later chapters, Hardy begins it here, and in so doing, begins the revelation of Angel's character. What we know from the information about Angel's past is that he is his own man (note that he is not going into the family business — ministering — despite his family's expectations that he will); that he does not rely on family name to determine his own or others' worthiness (a direct contrast to Alec d'Urberville who does rely on family name and, even more pointedly, relies on a family name that is not even really his); and that he views others without the prejudices associated with his privileged class.
Hardy describes Tess and Angel as "Adam and Eve" as it appears that they are the first and only people awake on earth (they are the two earliest risers at the dairy, usually up early for the morning milking). In describing the couple, Hardy uses these biblical references — of Adam and Eve and Mary Magdalene — to elevate the pair to a more heroic status. These allusions are interesting and significant in other ways: Mary Magdalene — and by Hardy's analogy, Tess — is identified with the repentant woman, specifically a reformed prostitute. Adam and Eve existed in a state of innocence in the Garden of Eden; their loss of innocence resulted in their loss of Paradise. Linking Angel and Tess with Adam and Eve (and linking Tess specifically with Mary Magdalene) foreshadows the revelation and the events that destroy Angel and Tess' happiness. When Hardy says that life at Talbothays is quite good and that "Tess had never in her recent life been so happy as she was now, possibly never would be so happy again," the reader can justifiably look to the coming action with foreboding.
van Alsoot or Sallaert Seventeenth century Flemish painters of village life.
psalter a version of the Psalms for use in religious services; here, Tess is thinking of the psalm that is part of the "Invitatory and Psalter" of the Daily Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer.
phlegmatic hard to rouse to action; specif., sluggish; dull; apathetic; calm; cool; stolid.
milchers animals that give milk.
Olympian shapes the shapes of the Greek gods, who lived on Mount Olympus.
"pinner" (dialect) a pinafore or apron with a bib.
cowcumber (dialect) cucumber.
interlocutor a person taking part in a conversation or dialogue.
vicissitudes unpredictable changes or variations that keep occurring in life, fortune, etc.; shifting circumstances; ups and downs.
kex (dialect) a dry, hollow plant stem.
nott cows (dialect) cows without horns.
stave a set of verses, or lines, of a song or poem; stanza.
tranters (dialect) carriers; hawkers.
leads milk pans made of lead.
wrings cheese processes.
"to take Orders" to become an ordained minister.
redemptive theolatry the worship of a god that promises redemption, as in Christianity.
thimble-riggers cheaters or swindlers.
Article Four the fourth of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England asserts the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Hodge a familiar term for an agricultural laborer in England; shortened form of Roger.
thought of Pascal's translated it means: "To the same degree as one has intelligence, one notices that many individuals possess distinctive qualities. People of an ordinary kind do not notice the differences between individuals." From the Pensees of Blaise Pascal (1602-1674), French philosopher and mathematician.
"some mutely Miltonic, some potentially Cromwellian" an allusion to Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (lines 59-60).
dusty death a phrase from Macbeth 5.5.23.
apple-booth apple blossom.
Valley of Humiliation from Part I (1678) and Part II (1684) of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
man of Uz Job.
"My soul chooseth strangling . . . " Job 7:15-16.
Peter the Great Peter I (1672-1725); czar of Russia (1682-1725). Before becoming Emperor of Russia, Peter studied shipbuilding.
Queen of Sheba queen who visited King Solomon to investigate his reputed wisdom: 1 Kings 10:1-13; here, a reference to the Queen's dispirited feeling after she experiences the wisdom and wealth of Solomon (1 Kings 10:3-5).
"shine on the just and the unjust alike" an echo of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:45).
niaseries nonsense, foolish thought (from French).
convenances social conventions (from French).
Magdalene Mary Magdalene was a fallen woman. Christ's appearance to her after his Resurrection occurs in Mark 16.
Artemis, Demeter goddesses associated with chastity, but the former also connected with hunting and both understood in the early anthropology of Hardy's time as fertility goddesses.