Tess Of The DUrbervilles Essay

Tess Of The D’Urbervilles
In the novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, Tess is faced with many
different levels of happiness, from pure joy to absolute unhappiness. As she
moves from location to location, the setting of these places portrays Tess’ joy.

From her pure happiness at Talbothay’s Dairy, to the turning point of Tess’s joy
at the old D’Urberville house, to her most unforgiving stay at Flintcomb-Ash, to
her final contentness before her death at Bramshurst Court, the reader sees
atmospheric changes that diminish then climb back up. Hardy thoroughly
demonstrates through his descriptions of her surroundings how Tess will feel
while stationed in each place. After Tess’s life has been torn apart by Alec
D’Urberville she needs to seek refuge. By leaving her home town of Marlott, she
is able to start her life anew. She escapes to the jovial atmosphere of
Talbothay’s Dairy. As Tess crosses over the ridge of the hill it seems as though
she is switching worlds. Hardy’s description portrays the field as “a
billiard table of indefinite length” (Hardy 98) with “a carpeted
level, which stretched to the east and the west as far as the eye could
reach” (97). The land is described as being as limitless as Tess’ joy. The
area is plush and beautiful, and here, Tess is able to relax and be free of her
past. Tess’ “whimsical eye” (98)sees “vivid green moss”
(98). This gives the area a childlike appeal, as though you can be young and
happy while at Talbothay’s Dairy. Tess feels warm as she watches the
“shadows… with as much care over each contour as if it had been the
profile of a Court beauty on a palace wall” (98). Even the cows have a
majestic magnetism as the “white [of their horns] reflected the sunshine in
dazzling brilliancy” (99). Talbothay’s Dairy is glowing with joy and this
warmth finds its way to a well-needing Tess. Tess is able to feel happy again
and “that she really had laid a new foundation for her future. The
conviction bred serenity” (101). This happy feeling continues throughout
Tess’ stay, as she remeets Angel, and falls in love. After their marriage, Tess
and Angel go to live in an old D’Urberville house near Wellbridge Mill. As they
are leaving Talbothay’s Dairy they hear a cock crow. The crowd immediately
thinks of the old wife’s tale of an afternoon cock meaning bad luck. While they
try to dismiss it saying that it’s “not what you think: ’tis
impossible!” (Hardy 202), it sets the backdrop for what is to come. The
mood and setting upon their arrival to the D’Urberville house are ominous,
continuing the cock’s effect. Tess is depressed by the house, exclaiming
“Those horrid women!” (Hardy 203) when she sees portraits of her
ancestors. As the night grew longer “the restful dead leaves of the
preceding autumn were stirred to irritated resurrection, and whirled about
unwillingly, and tapped against the shutters. It soon began to rain” (Hardy
204). Tess’ happiness begins to falter with the rain. She proceeds to tell Angel
the story of her past, while “the ashes under the grate were lit by the
fire vertically, like a torrid waste” (Hardy 211). Hardy describes the
coals in the fire as having “a Last Day luridness” which penetrates to
Tess, and results in her separating from Angel. This mysterious atmosphere is
portrayed by Hardy in order to be a turning point and start the decrease of Tess’
joy . As a result of her past, Angel leaves Tess, and Hardy sends her to work at
Flintcomb-Ash. Flintcomb-Ash is shown as a brutally unforgiving place. It is
through this dismal atmosphere that Hardy shows when Tess hits the bottom of her
happiness. Even while Tess is heading towards Flintcomb-Ash Hardy shows the
change. The ‘air was dry and cold and the long cart-roads were blown white and
dusty within a few hours after the rain” (263). Tess becomes part of the
“stroke of raindrops, the burn of sunbeams, and the stress of winds. There
is no passion in her now” (262). Tess finds herself approaching an area of
“irregular chalk -table land” (263) compared to the lush, green fields
of Talbothay’s Dairy. She enters the “remains of a village… in a slight
depression” (263). The land is horrid with its “stubborn soil”
(264) and Tess realizes that “the walls [seem] to be the only friend she
[has]” (264). It is appropriate that the village is filled with melancholy
descriptions, as this is exactly how Tess feels. Her loneliness, like that of
the village “was excessive” (264). This gloom remains with for as long
as she stays at Flintcomb-Ash. It is significant of all the hardships Tess has
passed through, from she experiences with Alec to her strife with Angel, that
Tess sees the “desolate drab” (267) of a land in different
“degrees of dampness” (267). Tess’ heart is as cold as the land.

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Flintcomb-Ash makes Tess spiritless. She is dismal without Angel and will remain
so for as long as she stays. After Alec’s death, Tess and angel sneak happily
off to an empty cottage snug in the woods of Bramshurst court. While here Tess
is able to become happy once more, especially due to the rejoining of herself
and true love. The cottage is penetrating with good qualities , just as Tess
feels; she is free and in love. “The weather was serenely bright, and
during the afternoon it was quite warm” (365). After entering the cottage
“a shaft of dazzling sunlight glanced into the room” (366), and Tess’
burdens are able to “rest at last!” (366). The next morning , though
“wet and foggy… apparently had no sign of sorrow” (367). “Not a
sight or sound of human being disturbed their peacefulness, such as it was”
(367). They were free to love each other in peace. The entire cottage was draped
in amiable warmth. Upon their leaving Tess sighs, “Ah, happy
house-good-bye!” (369). It is while at Bramshurst court that Tess feels her
greatest joy and peace, and Hardy shows that well through his light and joyful
descriptions. From the playful atmosphere at Talbothay’s Dairy, to the
mysterious gloom apparent at the old D’Urberville house, to the desolate, dismal
flavor of Flintcomb-Ash, to the serenity at Bramshurt Court, Hardy is able to
show through his descriptions how Tess will feel throughout the novel. He is
able to show how “the gloomy intervening time seemed to sink into chaos,
over which the present and prior times closed as if it had never been”
(368), and the fall and rise again of Tess’ joy.


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