Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Tess of the D'Urbervilles Summary and Analysis of Phase 3, Chapters 16-24

Phase Three: The Rally

Chapter Sixteen:

Tess leaves home for the second time, deciding that were she to remain, her younger siblings would probably gain less good by her precepts than harm by her example. On the way to Talbothays, Tess passes Kingsbere, the area in which her ancestors lay entombed. She dismisses ideas about her ancestors, realizing that she has as much of her mother as her father in her. Tess arrives at the dairy around milking time, half-past four in the morning.


Upon leaving Marlott, Tess Durbeyfield once again confronts the ancestors whose discovery by her father prompted Tess to be sent to find ruin with Alec d'Urberville. However, while she was once intrigued by the idea that she may find fortune and security with the d'Urbervilles, by this point in her life she has rejected such unrealistic dreams. Her journey to the dairy contrasts with her first journey out of Marlott, for in this instance Tess goes to perform hard manual labor, yet nevertheless appears more calm and confident on her second journey than her more leisurely first.

Chapter Seventeen:

Tess begins milking with the other milkers, including the master dairyman, Richard Crick, who introduces himself to Tess and inquires after her family. Crick knows a little about the d'Urbervilles, but Tess dismisses the ideas that she comes from an esteemed family. Later, while Tess is on a break with the other workers, Crick tells a story about an aged man named William Dewy who was chased by a bull, but played a Christmas Eve hymn for the bull on his fiddle, causing it to lay down as if it were in a Nativity scene. After Crick tells the story, a young man remarks that the story is a reminder of medieval times, when faith was a living thing. The young man is Angel Clare, with whom Tess danced years ago. Later, Tess inquires about Angel, and another milkmaid tells her that Angel is learning milking and never says much. Since he is a parson's son, he is too taken with his thoughts to notice girls. Angel's father is Reverend Clare at Emminster, and all of his sons except for Angel are clergymen.


In contrast to Alec d'Urberville and the immediate sense of danger that he presents to Tess, Angel Clare represents a significant sense of idealism and purity. While Alec presents Tess with a forceful sexuality upon his first entrance in the novel, Angel is in a great sense desexualized; one of the milkmaids even thinks that he does not even think of girls. As Angel's family history and reaction to Dairyman Crick's story suggest, Angel is a person with deep moral convictions, although the particular religious leanings of Angel will later be revealed. Hardy indicates that the deeply moral Angel is nevertheless a religious outsider, the only one in his family who did not enter the clergy. As an outsider in some sense, Angel Clare thus bears some similarities to the outcast Tess. The meeting of these two characters seems to be the work of fate, for they had a chance meeting in the opening chapters of the novel. This bolsters the themes of fate and inevitability that pervade Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

Tess finds herself for the first time in an accommodating environment at Talbothays dairy. Dairyman Crick is cheerful and friendly toward Tess, in comparison to her manipulative parents and predatory relatives. The atmosphere is jovial and inviting, as Dairyman Crick tells absurd stories and inquires after Tess's family. Hardy constructs the dairy as an idyllic atmosphere, yet the relief that Tess finds here is certainly to be short-lived.

Chapter Eighteen:

Angel Clare has a nebulous, preoccupied quality, for he is a man with no very definite aim or concern about his material future. The youngest son of his father, a poor parson, he is at Talbothays to acquire a practical skill in the various processes of farming. His father had married his mother late in life, and his brothers had each acquired a university degree, even though Angel was the one whose promise might have done full justice to academic training. Before Angel met Tess at the dance in Marlott years before, a parcel came to Reverend Clare from the bookseller. This book was a philosophical work that prompts an argument between Angel and his father in which he admits that he does not want to be a minister. Since he was not to be ordained, Mr. Clare did not send Angel to Cambridge. Angel instead spent years in desultory studies, undertakings and meditations, beginning to evince considerable indifference to social forms and observances. He began to despise the distinctions of rank and wealth. Angel now takes great delight in the companionship at Talbothays: the conventional farm-folk of his imagination were obliterated in favor of more respectable people. Angel had grown away from old associations and now sees something new in life and humanity, making close acquaintance with natural phenomena. Tess and Angel discuss whether or not one's soul can leave his body while alive, and he finds her to be a fresh and virginal daughter of nature. He seems to discern in her something familiar that carries him back to a joyous past.


Hardy shifts the focus of the novel for this chapter, leaving his constant focus on Tess Durbeyfield for the first time to give biographical information about Angel Clare. Hardy gives greater indication that Angel Clare is a man with unconventional moral and religious views; in contrast to the narrow religious beliefs of his father, Angel is open to other moral belief systems and it is this difference of opinion that leads Angel not to attend college and enter the clergy as his father expected. Angel's political beliefs coincidence with his unconventional religious beliefs; he does not believe in the primacy of rank and social status, beliefs which clash with traditional English mores. This disdain for polite social behavior complements Tess's equal disregard for convention, thus setting up greater similarities between the two characters. Nevertheless, even at this early point Hardy foreshadows later problems between Tess and Angel. Angel idealizes Tess as a "fresh and virginal daughter of nature," a characterization that obvious clashes with her more sordid past. The knowledge that Tess does not represent the qualities he exalts in her will provide area for conflict within the novel, while allowing for the theme of the permanence of sins. At this point in the novel, Hardy indicates that Tess has found a new purity and innocence after her troubled history with Alec d'Urberville; however, others may find that her earlier actions have permanently tainted Tess.

Chapter Nineteen:

Since cows tend to show a fondness for particular milkers, Dairyman Crick insists on breaking down these partialities by constant interchange, yet the milkers themselves prefer to stay with particular cows. Angel Clare begins to arrange the cows so that Tess may milk her favorite ones. She mentions this to Angel, yet later regrets that she disclosed to him that she learned of his kindness. Tess hears Angel playing at his harp, and when she finds him she admits that she has no fear of the wilderness, but has more indoor fears. Angel admits that he thinks that the hobble of being alive is rather serious. Tess cannot understand why a man of clerical family and good education should look upon it as a mishap to be alive. She realizes that he is at the dairy so that he may become a rich dairyman. Angel asks Tess if she would like to take up a course of study, but she tells him that sometimes she does not want to know anything more about history than she actually does. Later, Tess learns from Dairyman Crick that Angel has scorn for the descendants of many noble families. After hearing this caricature of Clare's opinions Tess is glad that she had not said a word about her family.


The romance between Angel Clare and Tess Durbeyfield begins to develop this chapter, a flirtation that stands in stark contrast to the combative pursuit of Tess by Alec d'Urberville. Angel does not make any physical advances toward her, only bestowing upon Tess small favors such as arranging the cows so that she may milk her favorites. The situation between the two is intensely chaste; both seem barely able to openly acknowledge their mutual affection. Angel even begins to exhibit characteristics appropriate to his name; Tess finds him playing the harp, thus recalling a literal angel. Nevertheless, even within this idealistic and serene romance Hardy develops darker undercurrents that foreshadow later difficulties. Tess finds that she must keep certain information secretive, both her relatively lofty status as a d'Urberville and her equally lowly status as a mother of an illegitimate child.

Furthermore, Hardy develops the darker imperfections of Angel Clare's character in this chapter, demonstrating that he has the capability of being obstinate and judgmental. Although Angel has great moral convictions, he appears to have little flexibility or foresight. Angel has a particular scorn for the type of person that Tess represents, thus foreshadowing great conflict once he inevitably realizes her family history and perhaps details of her personal life.

Chapter Twenty:

Tess had never in her recent life been so happy and would possibly never be so happy again. She and Tess stand between predilection and love. For Angel, Tess represents a visionary essence of woman, and calls her Artemis, Demeter, and other fanciful names, but she insists that he call her simply Tess. Tess seems to exhibit a dignified largeness of disposition and physique. The two are always the first to awake at the dairy house, where they feel an impressive isolation, as if they are Adam and Eve.


Hardy makes explicit that Tess's time at Talbothays dairy is an idyllic respite from her normal toil and hardship, yet states that this happiness will be short-lived, foreshadowing greater adversity for Tess Durbeyfield. Hardy compares Angel and Tess to Adam and Eve in the mornings, thus foreshadowing a later fall from perfection. It is the idealism and perfection that Tess finds at Talbothays that leads to this shaky foundation for her happiness; Angel Clare adores Tess as a representation of perfection. To Angel, Tess is a goddess such as Artemis or Demeter, a symbol of perfection rather than a person with obvious faults and foibles. There is a great irony in Angel's adoration for Tess; Angel exalts Tess as a goddess for her strength and disposition, yet this perfection comes from the adversity stemming from her greatest weakness.

Chapter Twenty-One:

There is a great stir in the milk-house just after breakfast, for the churn revolved but butter would not come. Whenever this happens the dairy is paralyzed. Mrs. Crick says that perhaps somebody in the house is in love, for she heard that this will cause it. Dairyman Crick tells a story about how a Jack Dollop impregnated a local girl, whose mother came to the dairy to find him. Jack hid in the churn; the mother learned this and started the churn with him inside until he agreed to marry the girl. The problem with the churn resolves itself, and Tess remains depressed throughout the afternoon. She is wretched at the perception that to her companions the dairyman's story had been a humorous one, for none seemed to see the sorrow of it. One night, Tess's three roommates (Retty Priddle, Marian, and Izz Huett) watch Angel in the garden from their window. The three each are attracted to Angel, but Retty says that none will marry him for he likes Tess Durbeyfield the best. Izz Huett says that Angel will not even marry Tess, for he will be a great landowner and a farmer abroad. Tess overhears this conversation and feels some deal of jealousy. She believes that unequal attachments of rank may lead for marriage, for she wonders what good a lady may be on a farm.


The affection between Angel Clare and Tess Durbeyfield, although not explicitly stated between these two characters is nevertheless obvious to the others at Talbothays dairy, who realize the love that Angel and Tess feel for one another. Mrs. Crick insinuates that a romance in her household is the cause for the stalled butter churn, while Tess's roommates become jealous that she receives the most attention from Angel, whom all of them adore. The jealousy that her roommates feel leads Tess to a realization that she may have a future with Angel Clare, for she believes that he would want to marry a working woman and not a lady of his own social rank; in fact, Tess represents both social spheres, having the family history of a noble lady and the actual history of a working class girl.

Despite Tess's relative happiness at Talbothays dairy, Tess cannot fully escape her past history. The humorous anecdote that Dairyman Crick tells about the butter churn reminds Tess of the gravity of her situation; she can find the tragedy in the situation of the girl, while the others focus on the humorous of the mother and Jack Dollop.

Chapter Twenty-Two:

The next morning Dairyman Crick orders his workers to overhaul the mead, for there is garlic in it that has spoiled the milk. While searching for garlic in the field, Angel finds Tess and they search together. Dairyman Crick finds them and tells her that she should not be out in the fields, for she was not feeling well a day or so ago. Tess mentions to Angel that Izzy Huett and Retty look pretty, but Angel insists on Tess's superiority. Tess finally tells Angel to marry one of them if she wants a dairywoman and not a lady, and not to think of marrying her. From this day Tess forces herself to take pains to avoid Angel.


Tess begins to retreat from any possible romantic engagement with Angel Clare in this chapter, as he makes his feelings for her more explicit. She rejects Angel's affection for her because she believes that he wants a simple girl as a wife and not a member of a noble family. The rationale for Tess's rejection of Angel is ironic, for her shame stems not from the more lowly details of her history, but rather the lofty ones. She fears that she may be exposed as a noble lady, not that she may be exposed as an unchaste woman.

Chapter Twenty-Three:

On Sunday, after milking the milkers travel to church in the rain. The lane leading from the parish has been flooded. While they cling to the bank, the girls find Angel Clare advancing toward them through the water. Angel asks the girls, avoiding Tess, whether they are going to church, and he vows to carry them through the flooded area. Tess is the final one to be carried, and she refuses, thinking that he must be so tired. Angel tells her that he carried the other girls so that he may get the opportunity to carry Tess. On the way to church, Marian remarks that the other girls have no chance against Tess, for Angel would have kissed her if she had encouraged him. Tess's heart aches, for there is no concealing the fact that she loves Angel Clare. That night, she vows that she will never stand in the way of Retty or the other girls. Izz tells Tess that a young lady of Angel's rank who supports him will marry Angel. After this disclosure Tess nourishes no further foolish thought that there lurks a grave import in Clare's attention to her, thinking that the love is a passing summer love for her face.


Tess continues to resist Angel Clare's advances in this chapter, although his declaration of affection for her is entirely without reproach. However, even if Angel behaves quite nobly to Tess and the other girls, even carrying them across flooded terrain and refraining from kissing Tess when he has the opportunity, he remains persistent. There is a great deal of inevitability concerning the romance between Angel and Tess; she cannot hide that she loves Angel, yet believes that his affection for her is only passing. Nevertheless, there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary; Tess's belief that Angel only has a temporary affection for her is based not on Angel's behavior but instead on her own anxieties and experience with Alec, which has taught her of the inconstancy of men's affections. The test of whether or not Tess will declare her love for Angel is not whether Angel loves her, but rather whether Tess may accept his love.

Chapter Twenty-Four:

The summer air is stagnant and enervating at the dairy now, as heavy scents weigh upon them. To Tess, Angel's face has a real vitality and warmth. Tess becomes aware that he is observing her. As they milk a cow, Angel finally jumps up and clasps Tess in his arms. She is taken completely by surprise, and yields to his embrace with unreflecting inevitability. He begs for forgiveness, but Tess merely says that the cow is angry and will kick over the milk. Tess begins to cry, but Angel declares that he loves her. Something occurs between them that changes the pivot of the universe for their two natures, something which the dairyman would have despised as a practical man. A veil has been whisked aside, for a short time or for a long.


What has been obvious yet never stated in the preceding chapters becomes explicit in this chapter, as Angel makes his first physical advance on Tess and professes his love for her. His declaration of love is abrupt and oddly out of place, for he kisses her as they milk a cow, yet is the culmination of the tension that has built between the two characters. Even when Angel kisses her, he does so as an expression of love and not, as Alec did, as an expression of simple lust. This declaration of love is a pivotal event, as Hardy comments, yet even here the happiness of there love seems incredibly short-lived. Hardy reminds the reader that Tess' and Angel's outlooks will have a new horizon, "for a short time or for a long," thus indicating that whatever change occurred will be a temporary one.