Chapter 58

Synopsis of chapter 58

Angel and Tess remain at the manor house for six days. The mist outside encloses them in a separate little world of lovers. They talk of the present or the time before their marriage. However, they are then disturbed by the old caretaker and realise they must move on, perhaps towards a port in the north.

Stonehenge, photo by Jason and Alison, available through Creative CommonsThey journey northwards, passing through Melchester, walking into the night. They stumble across Stonehenge, which they understand to be an ancient temple to the sun. Tess is weary and lies down on a stone, which they think is some sort of altar.

Before she wakes, and as the sun rises, Angel realises they are surrounded by officers who have come to arrest them. Tess wakes and says she is ready to go. She wants her life to end on this high point of Angel's love, before any disillusion has set in.

Commentary on chapter 58

The journey continues, and ends. It becomes like a pilgrimage, with a holy place at the end of it. The scene at Stonehenge seems quite other-worldly, again much more like a Romance than a novel. Within Hardy's prose it was rare for him to engage with the supernatural.

death had not divided us: echoing King David's lament over King Saul and his son Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:23.

Temple of the Winds: a 4th century BC building in Athens, which has been likened to Stonehenge as an ancient device for keeping time.

sister-in-law: see social context below.

Like a greater than himself: a reference to Jesus' silence in Matthew 27:14, when he refuses to answer his accusers at his trial. The context does not seem exactly parallel, however.

the whole county is reared: justice and policing were carried out on a county basis. The police and police volunteers in that county were on full alert.

Social context

Tess's request for Angel to marry her sister when she was gone was not legally possible at that time, as Angel probably realises, due to a law that came into force in 1835. The Deceased Wife's Sister Act, which would have allowed this, was not passed until 1907. However, from Tess's remarks, it would appear in country areas the law was by-passed regularly.


The symbolism of Stonehenge being a place of sun worship is central to the novel. This is certainly what was believed in Hardy's day, though later archaeologists have shed doubt upon this.

In earlier versions, Hardy had them avoid Melchester, crossing the River Avon further east.

Melchester: Salisbury

Upper and Mid-Wessex: the counties of Wiltshire and Hampshire

the Great Plain: Salisbury Plain, situated a few miles north of Salisbury and stretching north and west.


architrave: the shelf resting on top of a column, or, as here, the horizontal slab resting on two vertical columns.

contiguous: adjoining, nearby

monolith: single standing stone (see Cross-in-Hand, Ch 45).

trilithon: literally, three stones

Investigating chapter 28

  • Hardy sets up a strong contrast between outside and inside as Tess speaks.
    • List phrases that convey this.
      • What seems to you the most striking feature about how Tess speaks?
      • How does her 'inside' language relate to time?
  • In what way does the mention of the stone coffin episode anticipate future events?
  • The reader sees the lovers from an outside perspective just once.
    • Why do you think Hardy chooses to use this perspective?
  • What is particularly significant about Stonehenge, that Hardy should climax his story there?
    • What do you see as symbolic in the landscape and their journey to Stonehenge?
  • What do you make of Tess's request for Angel to marry Liza-Lu?
  • Notice the perspective of the officers' approach.
    • In which other situations has Hardy employed this perspective?
  • What is Tess's consolation in dying?
    • And what is she denied?
  • Do you think that the climax of the novel is marked more by a sense of fulfilment or by a sense of loss?
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.