Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Existential Failure in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles
When wilt thou awake, O Mother, wake and see
As one who, held in trance, has laboured long
By vacant rote and prepossession strong
The coils that thou hast wrought unwittingly;
Wherein have place, unrealized by thee,
Fair growths, foul cankers, right enmeshed with wrong,
Strange orchestras of victim-shriek and song,
And curious blends of ache and ecstasy?
(Hardy, "The Sleep-Worker")
Inherent in the ruthless progress of society, there paradoxically lies a growing moral deterioration. In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy "faithfully present[s]" Tess as a paragon of virtue, utilizing her as an instrument of criticism against a society too debauched to sustain the existence "of its finest individuals" (Wickens 104). Unwilling to compromise her strict adherence to personal morals, Tess suffers immensely; her ultimate inability to exist on this "blighted" (21) star exposes the regression of a hypocritically sanctimonious society, whose degraded values catalyze her destruction.
Innocently unaware of "cruel Nature's law[,]" (115) Tess is violated by the response which her sexuality arouses in Alec. Yet, although it is nature which induces Tess to lose her virginity, it is society...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 1039 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 8013 literature essays, 2248 sample college application essays, 348 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in