Chapter 24

Synopsis of chapter 24

In the heat of midsummer, all the milking is done in the meads. Tess finds herself milking near Angel. As he looks at her, he impulsively rushes over to her and embraces her. Tess experiences momentary joy, then is troubled. Angel senses this and backs off, but not before telling her he loves her.

Commentary on chapter 24

This is the final chapter of Phase the Third, climaxing in Angel's declaration of love. Hardy stresses the lushness and fertility of the season, so the reader is left wondering whether Angel's passion is merely a product of these natural forces or goes deeper.

Thermidorean weather: during the French Revolution, the calendar was renamed. Thermidore was the month of maximum temperatures, 19 July – 17 August.

Ethiopic: Ethiopian-like, Ethiopia being a notoriously dry and arid country.

old Elizabethan simile: Hardy has in mind Thomas Campion's (1567-1620) poem There is a Garden in her Face, from which he quotes.

annunciation: announcement. Hardy may have been echoing the term as used in the angel's annunciation to Mary concerning the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38).


aura: shiver, frisson, like an electric discharge

cameo: a miniature portrait, usually a stone carved with a head turned sideways in relief.

diurnal roll: daily rotation of the earth

Investigating chapter 24

  • Collect together words and phrases that suggest sexuality and sexual passion.
    • What is Hardy seeking to emphasise with these terms?
  • Do Angel and Tess have any control over their feelings or their behaviour at this stage?
    • How does Hardy present the forces acting on them?
  • How is the geography of place and time symbolic?
  • What parts of Tess's body are emphasised?
    • How does this compare to similar attention given to her body previously?
    • Why does Hardy stress 'there was nothing ethereal about it'?
  • Again, Hardy implicitly compares Angel's behaviour to Tess with Alec's.
    • What are the differences?
  • How serious is Angel about Tess?
    • What evidence do we have one way or the other?
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