Chapter 29

Synopsis of chapter 29

On the Sunday when Tess had promised to give Angel her reasons for not marrying, Crick tells the dairy people that Jack Dollop, the man mentioned in Ch 21 as having jilted his pregnant girl-friend, has married a widow for her money. But in fact, after the marriage, she had told him there was no money. This leads to a discussion about whether she should have told him the truth before the wedding or not.

Tess is upset by this, as she was the first time she heard about Dollop. In fact, when Angel approaches her, all she can do is to once again refuse his proposal, but she fails to give her reasons. Angel refrains from kissing her. But as they are thrown together so much and he repeats his proposal, Tess senses that it will not be long before her resolve weakens, and she will agree to marry him. The chapter ends with Angel driving the milk to the station with Tess by his side.

Commentary on chapter 29

One theme that emerges from the last chapter is that of truth between a man and a woman. The Jack Dollop story of deception raises this again and it is to stay with Tess till her wedding day. In a contemporary Western society which encourages openness and honesty in personal relationships, this reluctance may seem exaggerated. However, in Victorian culture many areas of personal relationships were simply not talked about and the stigma of previous sexual relationships was much greater. Many of Dickens' novels, for example, have plots that hinge round such secrets, for example Bleak House and Great Expectations.

the heaviest of crosses: a reference to Christ having to carry his own cross to the site of his crucifixion until he is relieved by a bystander, Simon of Cyrene (Luke 23:26).

their condition of domiciliary comradeship: Angel is sensitive to the fact that Tess cannot escape his attentions since they live under the same roof.

neither a religious sense...union: a reference to the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament that any sexual union has a spiritual significance (Mark 10:6-9). In other words, Tess feels there is a moral and spiritual force in her previous union with Alec, and there is a need to be honest about this, something she cannot fulfil.

his tutelary guidance: her nature seeks to be guided and taught by Angel, not just because he is educated, but because he is refined and has the same sensitivities she has.


The chapter is set round the Autumnal equinox, usually September 22. The yield of milk is now lessening and not so many milkers are needed. It is again dark when they rise and go to bed.


peremptorily: in a commanding manner

scram: puny

self-immolation: self-sacrifice

tremulous: timid, trembling

Investigating chapter 29

  • Work out the parallels between the Jack Dollop story and Tess' situation.
  • Compare Alec and Angel in terms of their behaviour towards Tess, when Tess is forced to be always near them through her employment.
    • For all his sensitivities, is Angel being as predatory as Alec?
  • How does Hardy handle the supposed ‘day of truth' his readers were led to expect at the end of the previous chapter?
    • Do we sense there will be a day of truth at all?
  • Explain:
    • 'she coveted the recantation she feared'
    • 'our tremulous lives are so different from theirs'.
  • Trace the sequence of Tess's acquiescence to Angel.
    • To what extent is Tess trapped?
    • By what?
      • Does Hardy really allow Tess any power over her own life at this stage?
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