Chapter 57

Synopsis of chapter 57

A dazed Angel walks to the railway station to catch a train home. Because the next train means an hour's wait, he decides to walk out of town towards the next station. As he is walking, he glances behind him and sees a distant figure running towards him. It is Tess, having glimpsed him leaving the station.

She tells him that she has killed Alec, but Angel does not know whether to believe her or not. They are reconciled and they continue walking, though Angel feels it best to avoid main roads, aware that the police will soon be involved in the case. They wander northwards without any clear purpose. Angel thinks that perhaps they can make for London and leave the country.

They find an empty mansion in the New Forest. Fortunately, it still has its furnishings. They spend the night in one of its bedrooms.

Commentary on chapter 57

This begins the last journey, significantly different from all other ones. It has no clear purpose, and could be seen as much a flight as a journey. However, there is no sense of urgency or fear. In an almost surreal atmosphere of love and reconciliation, the lovers create their own world, reinforced by the provision of a mansion at the end of the day, where they can truly celebrate for the first time their wedding night.

her Antinous, her Apollo even: both were beautiful men in antiquity. Antinous was the favourite of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and, after his death by drowning was deified. Apollo was the sun god in classical mythology, and the epitome of male beauty.

Atalanta and HippomenesAtalanta's race: Atalanta, a champion sprinter and huntress in classical mythology, refused to marry anyone who could not beat her in a race. Hippomenes was given three golden apples by the goddess Aphrodite. He dropped one in front of Atalanta, who stopped to pick them up, thereby losing the race.


Hardy sets this in May, the height of spring, and the traditional time of love-making. The winter of Flintcombe-Ash is past.


Bramshurst Court: Moyle's Court, three miles north-east of Ringwood

the New Forest: a tract of forest west of Southampton, planted by William II for his hunting park in the eleventh century. Being royal property, it remained protected from development.


Damaskdamask: reversible woven fabric, richly patterned

dressing-bag: small case, hold-all

settle: settee, couch

unforefending: with no sense of protecting themselves

viands: food, provisions

Investigating chapter 57

  • 'of something seemed to impel him to the act': what is being suggested by the 'something'?
  • Discuss the use of coincidence in the chapter, and the forces working in Angel and Tess' favour.
  • How is this chapter different from the last number of chapters?
    • Do you feel this is the tide turning in Tess's favour, or is it only a temporary reprieve?
    • What, in Hardy's writing, gives you the feeling?
  • 'a moving spot, 'a white vacuity': where else have you come across these phrases?
  • What is the significance of perspective here?
  • Examine Hardy's references to purity in the chapter
    • How do they add to the ideas you have already gained from Hardy?
  • How does Hardy create an other worldly feeling, a removal from everyday reality, within the chapter?
  • In what ways is the first night at the house a redemption of their abortive wedding-night?
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