Leading in and out of the narrative

The narrative ‘camera'

Hardy's narrative is structured in a very straightforward manner (see Structure). In Ch 1 the narrative leads the reader into the picture, as John Durbeyfield walks home. The plot begins to unravel immediately. In the next few chapters, the narrative leads us into the village, into the house, and then the pub. We are being introduced quickly to the characters and setting and initial plot. It is done in a way that is economical, but also very cinematographic.

Tess's perspective

A similar leading-in occurs in Ch 16, as Tess journeys to Talbothays. We see through her eyes and know no more than she does. It is her perspective and viewpoint.

Only occasionally do we stray away from Tess's perspective:

  • When Angel rides back to see his parents, then we are led into Emminster (Ch 25). This time, however, Hardy stops the narrative to give a lengthy description of Mr Clare. Thus, when a dialogue opens between Angel and his father, we can see exactly how Mr Clare is likely to respond
  • Significantly, we lose Tess's perspective in the final Phase of the novel, where we rejoin Angel's. We have to discover what has happened to Tess at the same pace as he does. We know just a little more than him about where she is, enough to give a sense of dramatic irony. However, we share Angel's tension as we are led to where Tess is actually residing.

Once more the lovers are united, and although we rejoin Tess's perspective, the narrative is shared much more with Angel, and in the very last chapter, the narrative becomes his alone, as Tess's death is distanced in a bird's-eye perspective of the city (Ch 59). Again the leading out is carefully done, to balance the leading in of Ch 1. The narrative is completed; the scene fades.

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