Tess of the D'Urbervilles

The Influence of Heredity in Tess of the D'Urbervilles

In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, heredity governs life. Through the narrative voice and the character's responses, Thomas Hardy explains how Tess' "slight incautiousness of character inherited from her race" (71) defines her life. More specifically, traits from her parents and her family legacy follow throughout her life.

Tess' mental and physical predisposition originates with her parents. First of all, Tess conveys the physical beauty of Joan Durbeyfield, her mother. Hardy describes Joan as having the "freshness, and even the prettiness of her youth," that passes onto Tess as her "mother's gift, and therefore unknightly, unhistorical" (12). This passage introduces a dichotomy between Tess' appearance and social standing. In many ways her beauty implies its own nobility, attracting respectable men. However, despite her outer elegance, she never overcomes her maid status in her lifetime, remaining like her mother. Hardy relates her beauty as "unknightly" stressing Tess' normalcy in society. In the larger picture, Tess is ordinary and unimportant mainly due to her class. The voice in this passage implies that Joan carries herself as a low class woman, describing her...

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