Chapter 8

Synopsis of chapter 8

The viewpoint now shifts to Tess on the gig with Alec. He is in daredevil mood and drives as fast as possible down several steep hills. Tess is terrified and clutches on to him, pleading for him to go more slowly. Alec will only do so if he can kiss her. Tess wipes the kiss off her cheek, then lets her hat fly off.

When Alec stops the gig to let her pick it up, she refuses to re-mount, saying she will walk the six remaining miles to 'The Slopes'. She even considers turning round and abandoning the whole enterprise, but feels she has committed herself. Alec, at first annoyed by her resistance, now seems to like her even more for it.

Commentary on chapter 8

The opening of the chapter is a good example of Hardy's use of bird's-eye viewpoints. The colour symbolism of green and grey is significant, too. The main emphasis of the chapter, though, is the link between journeying and danger, already hinted at in Tess's first journey.

'protect me as my kinsman': a kinsman is a near relative. Traditionally, such a person would be the first person to call upon in times of need. The book of Ruth in the Bible is the subtext to show the role of kinsman (See Ruth 3:9-13). Ironically, Alec is in reality not a kinsman, and certainly feels no protectiveness towards Tess.

d'Urberville exhibited a sort of fierce distress... : Hardy is setting up a pattern of behaviour for Alec: attempts at mastery and recklessness followed by a sort of repentance. It is the quality of the repentance that needs to be examined as much as the pattern of mastery preceding it.


Hardy is stressing the steep descents and Tess's feeling of danger, a clear example of his symbolic geography. Notice the name 'The Slopes' chimes in with words of steepness, such as acclivity and declivity.


holmberry: holly berry

raillery: teasing mockery

vacillating: frequently changing one's mind

Investigating chapter 8

  • What could you see the bird's eye view at the beginning of the chapter as symbolising?
  • 'It was my fate':
    • Is it really 'fate' or is it Alec's character?
      • What does the whole chapter show us of Alec's character?
  • How does Hardy create a sense of danger for Tess?
  • Discuss the meaning of the sentence: 'This dressing her up so prettily by her mother had been to lamentable purpose'?
  • 'hardly yet aware of her own modesty':
    • How does Hardy's description stand in opposition to what Alec thinks of 'cottage girls'?
  • How physically possible is it to undo a kiss?
    • How does this attempt anticipate other acts of Tess later on?
  • What is the implication behind Tess agreeing to ride with Alec, then refusing to?
    • Is there an inner conflict, and if so, what exactly is it?
      • How does this situation anticipate future events?
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