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
Synopsis of chapter 38
Tess returns home husbandless for the second time. News has already reached the village of her marriage, and her father has been busy celebrating with his friends at the village pubs. Her mother greets her, as before, with anger at Tess's having failed to secure a husband, but quickly accepts the failure with an easy fatalism. Her father is touchier, since he had hoped this would restore the family fortunes.
Tess quickly realises she has no place in the family home any more. She hears from Angel that he has gone north, and, to save the face of the family, makes an excuse that she has to join him. She leaves her mother half the money Angel gave her, which is soon spent. She sets off into the unknown.
Commentary on chapter 38
New Year's Day.. when changes were made: many rural jobs were for a year only, after which the labourer was re-hired or looked for another position. Hardy is making a point about the continuous change in the rural economy, even when many of his readers would think nothing ever changed in the countryside. Tess finds similar changes at her home, small but significant.
in the time o' the Romans: as in the first few chapters, Hardy is making fun of the peasants' historical confusion.
The villagers' discussion as to the social status of the clergy indicates the lowering of the clergy's status. In earlier times, village clergy, often drawn from aristocratic families, would be seen as upper class. The villagers now see them as middle-class professionals ('clerks').
impingement: collision, impact
mortification: sense of shame
quarter-hogshead: small beer cask
Investigating chapter 38
- List references to Tess's loss of identity and place.
- Why does she sense she has no place at Marlott any more?
- At the end of the chapter, do we have any indication where Tess is going and where she belongs?
- Has she become a wanderer?
- Compare Tess's return with her previous return from Trantridge (Ch 12).
- How does her mother come to accept the new situation so quickly?
- Does Tess's family benefit from the gifts provided for them, either from Alec or Angel?
- List some of the ironies Hardy creates in the chapter.
- Which seems to you the most poignant?
- How does Hardy continue to stress Tess's purity?
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