Tess of the D'Urbervilles

The Birds of Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Constituting one of the dominant symbols in Thomas Hardy’s classic work Tess of the D’Urbervilles are the continually reappearing birds. The birds symbolize varying degrees of freedom, foreshadowing the events of Tess’s life and frequently paralleling them as well. Tess encounters birds in the wild, birds in captivity, and birds that are fatally wounded, each of which represent an important theme in their respective scenes.

One obvious appearance of birds is during Tess’s job on Mrs. D’Urberville’s fowl farm. Tess notes upon arrival at Tantridge that "the lower rooms were entirely given over to the birds, who walked about them with a proprietary air, as though the place had been build by and for themselves…The rooms in which dozens of infants had wailed at their nursing now resounded with the tapping of nascent chicks…hens in coops occupied spots where formerly stood chairs supporting sedate agriculturalists." (Hardy 57)

One way of interpreting this passage is to see Hardy’s words as a commentary on the social class division. The Stokes family is of a higher social class than the Durbeyfields, but they bought their D’Urberville title. The Durbeyfields on the other hand are peasants from a noble line, now trying to...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1174 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 9057 literature essays, 2374 sample college application essays, 399 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.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in