Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Tess of the d'Urbervilles book coverTess 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

Thomas HardyThomas 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'Urbervilles

The VictoriansTess 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 . . .

Dive in to the Tess of the d'Urbervilles text guide

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.

Themes and significant ideas; Imagery, metaphor and symbolism - Research themes, ideas and imagery that feature in the book.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles e-book - Read the book and research the text, all for free and online.

How to do well in your Tess of the d'Urbervilles essay

Decide what the key words of the question are, and underline them.

If you are asked to analyse an extract, read it through two or three times.

Do not adopt the first possible approach - be willing to dispute the terms of the question if you are given the opportunity.

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