Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Analysis of Social Critiques in Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles provides social commentary on many issues prevalent in Victorian society. In particular, Hardy uses Tess’ submission to her parents, Alec d’Urberville, Angel Clare, and society as a whole to examine the sexual double standard prevalent in Victorian society. Tess is a strong character, enduring many hardships in her life; however, this double standard seals Tess’s fate as the society she lives in prevents her from successfully rising above her oppressors. Hardy also uses Tess’s submission and subsequent destruction to parallel other aspects of the society he critiques, such as the fall of the rural society Tess represents.

The first source of Tess’ oppression is her parents, John and Joan Durbeyfield, who dream of reaching beyond their status as a working class individuals to create an easier life for themselves. The opportunity to receive financial assistance from the aristocratic d’Urberville family sets Tess’ fate into motion. Blinded by their greed, John and Joan send their daughter to marry into the d’Urberville family without a second thought. After her encounter with Alec, Tess returns home only to be rebuked by her family for allowing herself to be seduced by the d’Urberville....

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