Tess of the D'Urbervilles

The Hole in the Dam

Men have learned to harness nature, but they have yet to transcend it. The laws of nature powerfully affect human behavior, and these laws are often antithetical to those of society. Thus the conscientious human being is constantly in flux---at once pulled by primal and civilized forces. In Tess of D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy portrays Tess Durbeyfield as a character under this type of duress. She and the men that love her are unable to achieve a compromise between their animal lust and their civilized sensibilities---and their collective inability ultimately destroys her happiness.

Hardy shows Tess has primal desires. At the May Day procession, she is the distinctive girl with the deep red mouth, mobile face, red ribbon, and abundant endowment. Her figure exudes sexuality. Hardy even places Tess in scenery that matches her sensuous, nature-given attributes. Following the sound of Angel's harp, she walks across a garden "damp and rank with juicy grass, which sent up mists of pollen at a touch...upon her naked arms [were] sticky blights which, though snow-white on the apple-tree trunks, made madder stains on her arms" (97). The heavy, ripe description in this passage screams sex. The wetness and pollen are...

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