Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Reread)

951400Fiction — print. Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005. 544 pgs. Library copy.

I recently re-read on my favorite books ever, Tess of the d’Urbervilles. The first time I read Thomas Hardy’s novel it was in conjunction with viewing the movie on PBS because I was too impatient to wait for the end to be broadcasted. I picked the novel up a second time because Tess has been on my mind for awhile now; I just had to read her story again.

I finished with the same euphoric high despite the fact that Tess of the d’Urbervilles is one of the most depressing books I know of. Since I had read the book almost a year ago to date, I thought I would re-examine what I wrote previously, and I was thrilled to see that it still perfectly represented my thoughts about the novel. Therefore, I thought I would reproduce it here:

Surprisingly modern for when it was written, Tess of the d’Urbervilles is full of contradictions and a pure honesty that is at times heart wrenching to read, but immiedately placed it on my favorite books list. It’s bleak and heartbreaking, but a fantastic read. No sentence is wasted, and Hardy’s character development is especially refreshing after reading several books where that is not the case. I just simply fell in love with his writing style.

“Walking among the sleeping birds in the hedges, watching the skipping rabbits on a moonlit warren, or standing under a pheasant-laden bough, she looked upon herself as a figure of Guilt intruding into the haunts of Innocence. But all the while she was making a distinction where there was no difference. Feeling herself in antagonism she was quite in accord. She had been made to break an accepted social law, but no law known to the environment in which she fancied herself such an anomaly.” (pg. 103)

I understand why Hardy had such an affection for Tess. Her story is so tragic, so heartbreaking that at times I had to look away. But Tess is such a wonderful character, and so well-written that I fell in love with her and wanted to be her friend.

“The past was past; whatever it had been it was no mare hand. Whatever its consequences, time would close over them; they would all in a few years be as if they had never been, and she herself grassed down and forgotten. Meanwhile the trees were just as green as before; the birds sang and the sun shone as clearly now as ever. The familiar surroundings had not darkened because of her grief, nor sickened because of her pain.” (pg. 109)

It’s disgusting how much Tess paid for another person’s crime, which probably inspired the title of Phase Five “The Woman Pays”. And yes, Tess of the d’Urbervilles is the bleakest book I have probably ever read, but it’s also lovely too. Hardy’s writing was full of beautiful imagery, and does an undeniably good job of pointing out injustice in society.

“She was Mrs Angel Clare, indeed, but had she any moral right to the name? Was she not more truly Mrs Alexander d’Urberville? Could intensity of love justify what might be considered in upright souls as culpable reticence?” (pg. 245)

Others’ Thoughts:


  1. I have to confess, I’ve never read Tess… or any Thomas Hardy for that matter! We do have one of his books kicking around our apartment, so maybe in a bid to read more classics this year I’ll actually give him a shot! So glad to hear you found your re-read so fulfilling!


    • I’d love to read another novel by him, but I’ve heard that Tess is his best and I’m afraid I won’t like anything else. So if you do read something of his, Steph, that isn’t Tess, I’ll be interested in your thoughts.


    • Everyone I know of who have read Tess love it, but I’ve also heard some negative reviews of his other books so I can understand how you have heard people hate him, Rebecca. I hope, though, that you end up in my camp.


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