‘Hardy … suggests that life is characterised by ethereality or abstract values and emphasises the daunting rigour of maintaining life.’
‘The novel’s concentration on Tess’s trapped existence becomes so intense and unremitting.’
“A struggle between man on one hand, and an omnipotent and indifferent fate, on the other hand goes on and that is Hardy’s interpretation of the human situation.”
"Happiness is but an occasional episode in the general drama of life”
‘Her sexuality is above all provocative: she is a temptress to the convert Alec, an Eve to Angel Clare’
‘Tess is an example of the destructive effect of society’s pressures and conventions upon a nature naturally pure and unstained’
‘Nature seems to disdain, ignore or make mockery of the laws which social being impose on themselves. The fetish of chastity is a ludicrous aberration in a world which teems and spills with such promiscuous and far-flung fertility every year’
“A century later, it is fascinating to consider the extent to which his [Hardy’s] views – radical enough at the time to scandalise the critics – have become almost conventional.”
"It’s superiority is largely due to a profound moral earnestness”
“From the moment of the meeting in the garden the harmonious relations between Tess and her world begin to be repressed and displaced by certain abstractions mediated by Angel’s idealising vision.”
“…The passionate commitment to exhibiting Tess as the subject of her own experience evokes an unusually overt maleness in the narrative voice.”
“He [Hardy] picked up and remarkably embodies one of the characteristic themes of the new social situation: that of mobility through education.”
‘Angel…finds it easier to love from afar an idealised humanity in the abstract than a flawed human being, close at hand, in the flesh.’
“At least twice in the book Tess seems to Hardy and the surrounding characters larger than life, but in all such instances it is not to make her a goddess or a metaphor, it is to understand her embattled womanliness. ”
“The female in her was indomitable, unchangeable, she was utterly constant to herself. But she was, by long breeding, intact from mankind. Though Alec d’Urberville was of no kin to her, yet, in the book, he has always a quality of kinship.”
“The narrators undeniably erotic fascination with her [Tess] takes the form of a visual preoccupation with her physical presence, and it has even been suggested that the narrator derives an almost sadistic pleasure from Tess’s suffering, that he shares in part the distorted views of her held by both Alec and Angel, and that he in some sense does himself violate her with his male voice and his male eye.”
‘For an artist as visually sensitive as Hardy, colour is of the first importance and significance, and there is one colour which literary catches the eye, and is meant to catch it, throughout the book. This colour is red, the colour of blood, which is associated with Tess from first to last.'
“By placing a moral evaluation of Tess at the very beginning of the novel, Hardy invites his readers to judge and evaluate Tess as well.”
“The condition of women in the nineteenth century is a litmus test of the idea that society is self sustaining and inclusive entity, and consequently their condition rivets public attention.”
“The ‘loss’ of a maids virginity implies carelessness, this carelessness is demonstrably that of society, and the maids parents. Ideally, parents provide a protective environment for their children, teaching them the skills they need to survive. Individually however, they are shown to chase political or economic gain at the cost of their child’s happiness.”
‘Cast out by a morally hypocritical society, Tess identifies most strongly with the natural world and it is here that Hardy’s textual lyricism comes into its own.’
‘Deliberately or instinctively, Hardy is using Romantic values as a critical instrument against those of his own day’
“Tess’s death is artistically as inevitable as Juliet’s…She is up against a social situation that she can do nothing to resolve except tragically, with drastic human loss”
“It seems impossible to read the novel with a complete disregard of the idea that Tess is somehow responsible for her fate…The narration is everywhere buttressed by words such as ‘doomed’, ‘destined’, and ‘fated.’ But the critical linking is never made and one remains uncertain about why Tess’s fate is inevitable”
(talking about the country people)- “between custom and education, between work and ideas, between love of place and experience of change”
‘From the time of the book’s publication, the question of whether Tess was raped or seduced has divided critics’
‘Tess is an example of the destructive effect of society’s pressure and conventions upon a nature naturally pure and unstained’
“His bleak and open treatment of sexuality and marriage caused such an outrage among the puritanical Victorian public”
'From the clash between a person’s ideal destiny and the reality of his or her life to the tensions between theology, philosophy and the natural world, Hardy sets all the things that make us human on a collision course in his tragic heroine’s story.’
‘He [Hardy] insisted on writing about society as it was, making no ornament of it as those blindly optimist writers were doing.’
‘…Hardy’s feelings for Tess were strong, perhaps stronger than for any of his other invented personages.
“Tess was a woman who stabbed her husband. Then, as now, in the eyes of most judges, there is one law for men who kill their wives, and quite another for women who kill their husbands.”
“Tess is curiously ‘absent’ from most of the key events in the novel; from the death of Prince, to the strawberry scene, the night in the Chase, Angel’s return and her capture at Stonehenge, she is asleep or in a trance”
“Even Tess, considered so modern in its day, has a story which, when peeled of its realistic trappings, reveals itself as a regular folk-tale tragedy”
“The scene of sexual violence, Tess and the female subject all appear as radically unreadable figures”
“What goes on here is the idea that Tess might have given in to Alec, that the distress she suffers is shame rather than the trauma of a victim.”
"Hardy shows things as they are"
'Hardy is never sure whether the Pathetic Fallacy is a fallacy or not.'
"She was an ideal of the peasant girl, the sort of girl who in his earlier novels would have been regarded sympathetically but without personal sentiment"
It is structured entirely by the sexual and marital history of Tess Durbeyfield
According to the Preface, Hardy represented in his novel "what everybody nowadays thinks and feels"
The incarnate state of Tess’s soul appears to be as close to sleep – to unconsciousness – as it is compatible with going about her work
Tess is asleep or in reverie at almost every crucial turn of the plot
Tess herself is the less a personality than a beautiful portion of nature violated by human selfishness
Her sexuality is above all provocative: she is a temptress to the convert Alec, an Eve to Angel Clare.
Angel is ‘the ‘god-like’ Adam to Tess’s Eve
She is doomed by her ‘exceptional physical nature’ and by inevitability of an erotic response from men.
All the first part therefore is a sort of prologue to the girl’s seduction which is hardly ever and can hardly ever be out of the reader’s mind
Tess embodies ‘the agricultural community in the moment of its ruin’
At the centre of critical debate is the correlation of two discourses, that of 'nature' and that of 'gender'
A tangle of inconsistencies
It is as if Hardy were not quite aware of what he did, as if his consciousness held more than he could produce.
If she be faithfully presents, she was not at all faithful to her own sense of duty in the course of the story.
A story with a moral.
Powerful and valuable as a contribution to the ethical education of the world.
It is as if the possibility that Tess is raped protects her from the position of having engaged in 'liberated' sex, as if the idea of free choice might sully her important purity.
Tess chooses her sexual initiation, this makes her highly erotic.
We understand Tess as the Eve who rather too quickly yields to the temptation of the snake in the grass.
I have not been able to put on paper all she was or is to me.
Tess is not the victim here, as the narrative line suggests, but the victimiser.
‘Her speech, decision making… and even her sense of self are characterised
by a curious absence’