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
The influence of Christianity in Victorian England
The centrality of Christian observance
Outward signs of religion were more obvious in Hardy's time than today. Churches were built in the new industrial cities and about half the population attended regularly. In villages and older towns and cities, parishes continued to be centres of the life of the community, as they had been for centuries. Moreover, even those who were not Christians or did not hold traditional beliefs would have recognised the Christian origins of the moral and ethical standards of the day.
The language of church
Whether deeply religious or not, most Victorian authors would have been strongly influenced by the King James Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Hearing readings and sermons week by week in church, they would have absorbed the language and rhythms of the Bible. Hardy himself started as a Christian believer but eventually became an agnostic. However, he still used the Bible, which he knew very well, as a source for references and allusions.
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