Tess of the D'Urbervilles

The Significance of Paganism in 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' 12th Grade

Upon reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, one may notice that references to pagan goddesses and ancient religions of the past are strewn throughout the book. These allusions range from the affectionate names of endearment by which Angel Clare refers to Tess, such as “Artemis” and “Demeter,” to the climax leading to the end of Tess’s wretched life at Stonehenge. The motif’s frequency suggests that it carries more meaning than meets the eye, and that paganism is not present in the novel simply as a means to carry forward the plot. It is very easy for the reader to spot the link between Tess and the goddesses of antiquity. What is Hardy trying to prove to the reader by associating Tess with divinities from a bygone time? Ultimately, the entire novel carries across a potent message about the identity of Tess herself.

Before considering the relation of paganism to the story, it is important to consider certain elements of this motif. Ancient religions saw the female figure as highly significant in society because it carried with it the association of fecundity and prosperity. The ability of the female to give birth was celebrated and regarded with respect in ancient times. There are multiple theories as to why women...

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