Chapter 40

Synopsis of chapter 40

Angel makes final arrangements to leave for Brazil. He deposits money in the bank for Tess to draw on, should she need. He briefly talks with Mercy Chant on her way to a Sunday school class. He goes back to the house where he and Tess had their abortive honeymoon, to settle the rent and collect items. He is reminded of the good moments they had there.

Izz Huet comes in while he is still there. Angel tells her he is off to Brazil by himself. He gives Izz a lift and Izz reveals how much she loves him. On an impulse, Angel asks her to go with him and she agrees. But when she admits that no one could love Angel as much as Tess does, Angel repents of his move, telling Izz to forget it. She is devastated as Angel drops her off and travels on to London where he embarks on his journey.

Commentary on chapter 40

Angel barely knows what he is doing. The Brazil project is impulsive; his request to Izz is impulsive; even his final talk with Mercy Chant is impulsive. He comes close to repenting of his treatment of Tess, but his iron will overrides his better feelings.

It could be said that the plot element of having four milkmaids all in love with Angel, who then fall into a decline, is excessive, a piece of male fantasy. However, Hardy is trying to create a parallel between Angel and Alec, demonstrating that an apparently decent male like Angel can, in fact, do as much harm as a rake and idler like Alec. He poses his readers the problem as to why this should be so. What exactly is missing in Angel?

Thou art in a parlous state...: Angel's mockery echoes Shakespeare's As You Like It III.ii.40-44, with the clown's false logic. 'Parlous' means fraught with danger. Like Mr. and Mrs. Clare, Mercy is worried Angel will become Roman Catholic which she would view as losing his faith. In fact, his faithlessness is of a much more human variety.

thirty pounds: perhaps an echo of the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas to betray Jesus (Matthew 27:3). The thirty pounds added to the fifty already given Tess would have been sufficient for about a year.

'Twas down in Cupid's garden...': popular ballads from the previous century

social ordinances: Angel is presumably referring to the strict divorce laws of the time.

kissing the pedagogic rod: 'to kiss the rod' is to embrace one's punishment, 'pedagogic' because the law is likened to a schoolmaster (or pedagogue) in Galatians 3:24-25. The biblical thought is that Christians have been set free from the law. This seems to be Angel's thought, too, though not in the sense the Bible intended.

the prophet on the top of Peor: a reference to the prophet Balaam who was told by King Balak to curse the Israelites. He tried, but only blessings came out his mouth (see Numbers 23:5-12).

Because nobody could love 'ee more than Tess did! ... She would have laid down her life for 'ee: Izz's declaration associates Tess's love with that described by Christ John 15:13 which was demonstrated by his own death

as a dying man to the dying: echoing 2 Corinthians 6:9, it is a quotation from a non-conformist minister, Richard Baxter, whose writings were still widely read in Victorian times.


dorsal: coming out of the back(bone)

emanation: emission

heterodox: unorthodox, heretical

Investigating chapter 40

  • What does Angel mean by 'snaps the continuity of existence'?
    • What particular 'snapping' has he been guilty of?
  • Hardy creates two encounters with women in the chapter.
    • What is Hardy's purpose?
    • How does Hardy portray Angel's emotional state?
    • Does Angel treat the two women well and in character?
      • How is it that Angel manages to do so much harm to the women with whom he comes into contact?
  • Look at Angel's 'if only' ('If you had only told me sooner').
    • Does this stand up to close examination?
    • In what ways is Angel trying to make himself a victim?
    • Are you convinced by these efforts?
  • What positive thing emerges for Angel out of the temptation to take Izz with him?
    • What does the encounter fail to do?
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