Parallels and repetitions


In many ways Tess is a picaresque novel, tracing one person through a number of adventures which they travel to and then leave behind. Unlike in a traditional picaresque novel, Hardy employs far fewer characters, tending to recycle his characters in parallel situations (see Coincidence, destiny and fate). As is typical of the picaresque novel, Hardy uses journeys and travel to move his plot forward.


Journeys introduce new spaces in which new adventures may occur, such as:

  • Prince's death (Ch 4)
  • Tess's dare-devil ride with Alec (Ch 8)
  • Tess's rape/seduction (Ch 10,11)
  • Angel's declaration of love (Ch 23)
  • His renewed proposal of marriage (Ch 30)
  • Meeting Alec again (Ch 44, 45)
  • Tess's arrest at Stonehenge (Ch 58).


Travel to new landscapes may show different aspects of the main character:

  • See Geographical symbolism, in which the link between outer and inner landscapes is examined
  • The contrasts of valleys to each other and to the plateau in between becomes a central structure in depicting Tess's own life journey.


Journeys often mark beginnings and ends of phases in the protagonist's life:

  • The journeys to and from 'The Slopes' are described in detail (Ch 8, 12). They enclose the whole sad episode of Tess's seduction
  • Ch 12 opens the second phase, just as another journey closes the first
  • Another journey opens the third phase (Ch 16), and so on.


  • A number of the journeys in Tess contain parallel events or episodes:
  • Tess returns home husbandless in both Ch 12 and Ch 38, against the great expectation of her family:
    • The first time it is Alec who is the non-husband. The rift with the family is soon mended but the shame of it has alienated Tess from the village and so she departs again after Sorrow's death
    • The second time, it is Angel who is the non-husband. This time, Tess feels anger rather than shame, but the economic consequences are serious and later povert results in the whole family leaving the village.
  • A dramatic parallel is where Angel has to retrace Tess's steps as he tries to locate her (Ch 44, 54)
  • In another journey, Alec finds Tess tired and worn out, and therefore her resistance is low (Ch 11, 47)
  • Tess's walks with Alec show stages in their relationship (Ch 12, 45); just as Tess's many walks with Angel show the rise and fall of their love
  • Angel's journeys back home likewise show the rise and fall of his hopes (Ch 25; 39; 53).

Apart from journeys, other situations parallel each other:

  • The wedding night in the d'Urberville mansion is paralleled by the first night at the New Forest house – though with symbolic differences (Ch 34, 47)
  • The motif of the small wound that marks Prince's death parallels the small wound that marks Alec's (see motifs).
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