Tess of the d'Urbervilles Contents
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- Chapters 1-9
- Chapters 10-19
- Chapters 20-29
- Chapters 30-39
- Chapters 40-49
- Chapters 50-59
- Tess as a 'Pure Woman'
- Tess as a secular pilgrim
- Tess as a victim
- The world of women
- Tess as an outsider
- Coincidence, destiny and fate
- Disempowerment of the working class
- Heredity and inheritance
- Laws of nature vs. laws of society
- Nature as sympathetic or indifferent
- Patterns of the past
- Sexual predation
- Inner conflicts: body against soul
Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Tess of the d’Urbervilles is probably the best known of all of Hardy's novels. Hardy had a lot of trouble with it, partly because of its sub-title A Pure Woman. Victorian ideas of purity were very different from Hardy's, but despite much controversy, he refused to change it, even though he admitted it had been added at the very last moment. Tess was certainly his favourite heroine. He has even been accused of being in love with her.
These days, the novel is not controversial in that way. But it is still a challenging novel to read as it explores:
- The pathos of pure love in the face of human betrayal
- How much control anyone has over their destiny.
These questions have always been universal to the human condition. This is what makes Hardy's novel what is often called a ‘classic’.
Text used in this guide
The text used in this guide is the standard text first published in 1912 by Macmillan, Hardy's main publisher. Hardy kept revising his texts every time there was a new edition, but this edition is usually taken as his last word.
You need to be aware that the Penguin Classics edition (NOT the same as the Penguin Modern Classics edition) uses the text of the 1891 version. There are significant differences compared to later editions, but the useful endnotes in the Penguin Classics explain these changes.
Due to copyright reasons, the text supplied here and alongside this text guide is the 1891 version. Do not use it as your main text.
Thomas Hardy was born June 2, 1840, at Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, a small farming community. Like an earlier English novelist, Charles Dickens, Hardy began life in humble circumstances, but ended up famous. Read more . . .
Context of Tess of the d'UrbervillesTess of the d'Urber-villes was written in the Victorian Era. The world Thomas Hardy lived in had a profound effect on his writings and provides a lense through which one can better understand the text. Read more . . .
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Synopsis and commentary - Read a chapter by chapter summary and commentary on Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
Characterisation - Find out about the main protagonists in the novel and analyse their characters.
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