Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Tess of the D'Urbervilles Summary and Analysis of Phase 4, Chapters 25-34

Phase Four: The Consequence

Chapter Twenty-Five:

That night, after Tess retires to her chamber, Angel goes outside, not knowing what to think of himself. Angel and Tess had kept apart since their embrace that afternoon. Angel is shocked to find how great the obscure dairy where he works means to him. To Angel, everything exists through Tess. Angel decides to discuss Tess with his friends, thinking that in less than five months his term at Talbothays will be over and after a few months at other farms he will be fully equipped in agricultural knowledge and in a position to start a farm himself. At that point he would want a wife who would understand farming. One morning Dairyman Crick tells his milkers that Angel has gone to Emminster to spend a few days with his family. Crick expects that Angel will not remain long at Talbothays. Angel returns home, where he finds near his father's church a woman wearing a broad-brimmed hat and attempts to avoid her. The young lady is Mercy Chant, whom his parents hoped would marry Angel. Reverend Clare is a clergymen of a type that had nearly died out, a spiritual descendant of Luther and Calvin, an Evangelical of Evangelicals. Among his family, Angel has become to seem more like a farmer and behaves less in the manner of a scholar. After breakfast Angel walks with his brothers, two men who wear whatever glasses are fashionable without reference to their affect on their vision, and who carry pocket copies of Wordsworth when he is fashionable, and Shelley when he is. His brothers notice Angel's growing social ineptness as he notice their growing mental limitations. At dinner that night, Mrs. Clare tells Angel that she has given away the black-pudding that Mrs. Crick sent as a gift to local children, while they will not drink the mead that Mrs. Crick sent, for it is too alcoholic and they never drink spirits at the table on principle. When Angel suggests that he will say to the Cricks that the family enjoyed the gifts, Mr. Clare insists that Angel tell them the truth.


Hardy once again frames a chapter from the point of view of Angel Clare, as he leaves Talbothays dairy so that he may speak to his parents about Tess. This visit to his family at Emminster serves to illustrate the origin of various character traits that Angel Clare possesses. The members of the Clare family, particularly the parents, hold very strict religious and moral views at the expense of courtesy or consideration; they even suggest that Angel voice the family's displeasure at the supposedly immoral gift that the Cricks sent the family. Furthermore, Reverend Clare has very strict expectations for Angel, particularly with reference to the type of women he will marry. Reverend Clare demands that Angel marry a woman such as Mercy Chant who has the proper religious beliefs; Hardy thus constructs an obstacle for the possible marriage between Angel Clare and Tess Durbeyfield.

However, the obstacles that Hardy places concerning the romance between Angel and Tess in this chapter prove ephemeral. Hardy introduces the character of Mercy Chant as a possible rival, yet Angel professes no interest in her. Whatever religious objections that the Clares pose concerning Tess's beliefs soon fade as Angel convinces them that Tess certain has the proper belief systems. However, the possible obstacles that the Clares may pose to Tess fade quickly once Angel successfully argues his case.

The relative ease with which Angel secures his parents' blessing for marriage does nevertheless contain some indication of future problems that the perpetually afflicted Tess will face. These obstacles will come in the form of Angel Clare himself and not from his family; the chapter establishes a family history of dogmatic beliefs and inflexibility. This once again shifts the possible obstacle to the romance back to Tess's family and personal histories. The one hope that Hardy allows exists in the contrast that he makes between Angel Clare and the rest of his family. Angel has come to bear less resemblance to his family than before his stay at Talbothays; the possibility for a successful romance between Tess and Angel thus rests on the degree to which Angel departs from his own family's characteristics.

Chapter Twenty-Six:

Angel discusses with his father his plans for attaining a position as a farmer in England or one of the Colonies. Reverend Clare feels that it is his duty to set up a sum of money for Angel, for he did not pay for him to go to university. When Angel mentions marriage, Reverend Clare suggests Mercy Chant, but Angel says that it would be more practical to have a woman who can work as a farmer. Angel mentions that he has found a possible wife, and Mrs. Clare asks if she is from a respectable family. Mrs. Clare insists on Mercy Chant, claiming that she has accomplishments. Angel claims that Tess is full of actualized poetry, and an unimpeachable Christian. Reverend Clare tells Angel a story about a young man with the last name d'Urberville, known for his rakish behavior. Reverend Clare had confronted him when he was preaching at another church, and the two nearly got into a brawl. Angel finds that he cannot accept his parents' narrow dogma, but he reveres his father's practice and recognizes the heroism under the piety.


In this chapter, Hardy continues to develop the established character traits of the Clare family. The discussion between Angel and his parents concerning Tess illustrates how little knowledge Angel actually has concerning Tess Durbeyfield. Angel speaks of Tess in abstract and idealistic terms, claiming that she is full of "actualized poetry" but unable to produce any direct evidence of her morality or accomplishments. Angel's exalted claims of Tess are ironic, for he praises Tess for an unblemished morality that contrasts starkly with her actual experience.

Hardy includes an additional irony concerning the reappearance of Alec d'Urberville. This mention is not haphazard, but rather serves as a reminder of Alec's presence in the novel and foreshadowing his later return to prominence. This also illustrates the theme of fate that pervades Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Just as Angel met Tess by chance only to return to her life, the chance encounter between Reverend Clare and Alec d'Urberville suggests that Alec's role in the lives of Tess Durbeyfield and Angel Clare is not yet finished.

Chapter Twenty-Seven:

Angel returns to Talbothays, where he finds Tess, who has recently awakened. Angel tells Tess that he shall soon want to marry, and asks Tess if she will be his wife. Tess declares that she cannot be his wife, and she claims that the reason is that his father is a parson and his mother wouldn't want her to marry him. He counters these objections, telling her that he has discussed the matter with his parents. Angel then recounts the story that his father told him about Alec d'Urberville, not mentioning the actual name, and when he asks Tess about marriage once more she says that it cannot be.


Hardy shifts the burden of obstacles to the romance between Tess and Angel to Tess in this chapter, in which she refuses his proposal of marriage. Although Tess claims that it is her lowly status and the objections that his parents would make to her as the rationale for her rejection of Angel, the mention of Alec d'Urberville serves as a reminder that it is rather fear of her past that drives Tess to reject Angel. Tess views this as an insurmountable obstacle to her happiness; she cannot tell Angel about her past because he would reject her in turn, while she cannot keep it as a secret for he would inevitably learn of her more sordid history.

Chapter Twenty-Eight:

Tess's refusal does not permanently daunt Clare, knowing that the negative is often the preface to a later affirmative. Angel asks Tess if she loves another man, but she says that this is not the reason for her refusal. She says that it is for his own good. Tess wonders why nobody has told Angel the entirety of Tess's history. When Angel asks Tess once more, she tells him that she will tell him all about himself. She vows to tell him on Sunday. Tess feels that she cannot help giving in and marrying Angel, but feels that it is wrong and it may kill Angel when he finds out about her.


Hardy prolongs the conflict between Angel and Tess concerning marriage throughout this chapter, thus illustrating Angel's persistence and the intensity of his love for Tess. However, in equal measure this demonstrates the great extent to which Tess believes that her history prevents any possibility of happiness with Angel Clare. This persistence and intensity serve to demonstrate the inadequacy of Tess's refusal and inaction. Hardy demonstrates that her refusal stems from some sense of selfishness; Tess believes that she cannot be happy with Angel if he knows about her past, yet she cannot marry him without revealing such details.

Chapter Twenty-Nine:

Dairyman Crick tells the milkers at breakfast that Jack Dollop just got married to a widow-woman, and never married the matron's daughter. However, by marrying the widow lost her yearly allowance. Mrs. Crick remarks that the widow should have told Jack sooner that the ghost of her first husband would trouble him. Beck Knibbs, a married helper from one of the cottages, says that she was justified in not telling him, for all is fair in love and war. For Tess, what is comedy to her fellow workers is tragedy to her. Tess refuses Angel once more. Dairyman Crick sends Angel to go to the station, and Tess agrees to accompany him.


The second anecdote about Jack Dollop serves an instructional purpose in this chapter, suggesting to Tess that she is justified in not telling Angel about her now dead child. Although Tess approaches this decision as one of tragedy, she nevertheless appears ready to accept the idea that she may rightfully withhold this information from Angel. The decreased likelihood that Tess will reveal her experience with Alec d'Urberville foreshadows greater conflict between Angel and Tess rather than negating the possibility of it; now that Tess may not tell Angel about her past at an opportune moment, Angel may learn of her secrets under less fortuitous conditions.

Chapter Thirty:

Tess and Angel travel together on the carriage to the station. Tess considers the various Londoners and such who will drink the milk that they are bringing to the station. Angel once again asks Tess to marry him. Tess finally begins to tell Angel her history. She tells him that she is not a Durbeyfield, but a d'Urberville. He dismisses that information as insignificant. He claims that he hates the aristocratic principle of blood, but is interested in this news. Angel claims that he rejoices in the d'Urberville descent, for Tess's sake. Angel vows to spell Tess's name correctly from this very day, and calls her ŒTeresa d'Urberville.' Tess finally assents to marry Angel. Angel realizes when he saw Tess first, at the dance at Marlott.


Hardy postpones a tragic encounter between Angel Clare and Tess Durbeyfield in this chapter, as Tess reveals the more palatable secret about her family origin to Angel Clare. The ease with which Angel accepts this facet of Tess's history, however, is more unsettling than cause for relief. Angel frames the information about her d'Urberville ancestry as greater evidence of Tess's perfection. Tess becomes simultaneously the simple and decent milkmaid and a respectable, noble lady to Angel. This therefore gives more dramatic weight to the inevitable revelation that Tess has had a quite imperfect history.

Chapter Thirty-One:

Tess writes a letter to her mother the next day, and by the end of the week receives a reply. Her mother gives Tess her best wishes and tells her not to tell Angel anything about her past, for many women have trouble in their time and she should not trumpet hers when others do not trumpet theirs. This advice reassures Tess, who dismisses her past, treading upon it and putting it out as a smoldering, dangerous coal. As a suitor, Angel is more spiritual than animal. Tess worries when the two walk in public as a couple, thinking that it may reach his friends at Emminster that he is walking about with a milkmaid. He thinks it absurd that a d'Urberville hurt the dignity of a Clare. One evening Tess abruptly tells Angel that she is not worthy of him, but Angel tells her that he will not have her speak as such. Angel asks on what day they shall be married, but he does not want to think like this. The news of their engagement reaches the other milkmaids and Dairyman Crick. Tess tells the other girls that Angel ought to marry one of them, for all are better than she. The girls try to hate Tess for her relationship but Angel, but find that they cannot.


Tess operates under a great sense of guilt and paranoia in this chapter, in which her decision to marry Angel and not tell him of her past serves as an accumulating burden for Tess. She believes that her history makes her unworthy of Angel, yet remains on the course for marriage despite this fact. Although Tess feels reassured by the letter from her mother advising her not to tell Angel about Alec, Tess regains her worry about Angel once the news of their engagement becomes public. This paranoia serves as a motivating force for Tess, once again opening up the possibility that she may confess to Angel her former sins.

Hardy foreshadows trouble between Angel and Tess with the descriptions of Angel as a suitor. Angel loves Tess intellectually, conceiving her as an ideal as well as an actual person. This increases the possibility that Angel may react poorly to news about Tess. This also serves as a greater contrast between Angel and Alec; while Alec is carnal and ruled by his passions, Angel operates under his principles and ideals. Yet his dedication to ideals will prove as dangerous to Tess as Alec's rapacious desires.

Chapter Thirty-Two:

Tess seems to want to stay in a state of perpetual betrothal with Angel, although the beginning of November seems to be when she will marry him. Angel mentions to Tess how Mr. Crick told him how, when he leaves Talbothays it will be winter, when the workload would be light and therefore he should take Tess with him. Tess finally agrees to fix the day of the wedding. Angel wishes to see a little of the working of a flour mill, and visits one at Wellbridge, where he stays at a farm house that had once been a d'Urberville mansion. Tess finally decides to marry Angel on the thirty-first of December. Tess, however, forgets to publish banns in time, but Angel says that obtaining a marriage license will be a better means of marrying. Angel obtains a white wedding dress for Tess. She thinks of her mother's ballad of the mystic robe: "That never would become that wife / That had once done amiss." Tess wonders whether her wedding dress will betray her.


In a state of near-permanent engagement with Angel, Tess may feel secure in her relationship, for she has no obligation to tell Angel of her past experiences and need not fear the consequences of divulging this information. Therefore the inevitable fact that she must set a date for the wedding continues Tess's sense of anxiety. When Tess forgets to publish the banns for the wedding, this is an action that simultaneously reveals her fear that her secret may be exposed and her desire to sabotage the possibility of an earlier wedding. During this time in England, a couple had several means by which they could become married. The most common means by which this could be done is the publication of banns; this required the announcement of the engagement on several successive Sundays in church. This means of legally marrying is public and allows the possibility that a person may voice objections to the marriage; in the particular case of Tess, she likely fears the possibility that knowledge of her illegitimate child may be exposed. However, a less public, if more expensive means of marriage is through a marriage license, which Angel will obtain. Obtaining a marriage license therefore decreases the possibility of exposure for Tess, even if it does not relieve Tess's sense of guilt.

Hardy foreshadows the inevitable return of Tess's history with the d'Urbervilles when Angel secures a former d'Urberville mansion as the site of the couple's honeymoon. Tess will come to face her family ancestry at this location; this suggests that she will face her more personalized d'Urberville experiences as well.

Chapter Thirty-Three:

Angel wishes to spend a day with Tess away from the dairy before the wedding, thus they spend a day in the nearest town on Christmas Eve. While in town, others remark that she is a comely maid, although a Trantridge man thinks that he recognizes her. He thinks that she was once a woman of ill repute. That night, Angel has a dream that he fought with the man who insulted Tess. This is the last thing required for Tess to turn the scale of her indecision. Tess writes on four pages a succinct narrative of those events of years before and slips it under his door. The next morning, Angel meets her at the bottom of the stairs and kisses her as warmly as ever. Tess feels that her doubts were childish and he may have forgiven her. On the wedding day, Tess finds in Angel's room the note under the carpet, unopened and never seen. Tess attempts to tell Angel once more, but she does not. On the way to the church, Tess believes that she has seen the carriage before. Angel tells Tess the legend of the d'Urberville Coach, the superstition of the county that a certain d'Urberville who committed a dreadful crime in his family coach. Supposedly, members of the d'Urberville family see the coach at certain times, but Angel refuses to tell Tess when. Tess marries Angel, but feels that she is somewhat more truly Mrs. Alexander d'Urberville. When she finds herself alone, Tess prays. Although she tries to pray to God, she in fact prays to Angel. As the two leave Talbothays, Tess advises Angel to kiss her three roommates one more time. On their way out of Talbothays, they see an afternoon crow.


Tess averts the disaster that her reputation provides twice in this chapter. For the first time since leaving Marlott, Tess confronts her past when a Trantridge man recognizes her and believes her to be a woman with a tarnished reputation. Although Angel defends her, he does so without conceiving that the man's accusations against Tess may contain any truth. Tess averts a second disaster when Angel seems to respond favorably to the letter that Tess writes to him. Angel behaves as if nothing has troubled him the next morning after he has supposedly read the letter, and says nothing of its subject; his reaction, as Hardy foreshadows and eventually explains by the end of the chapter, stems from having not read the letter at all.

The realization that Angel has not read the letter concerning Tess's past serves as a turning point. The anxiety and guilt that Tess has felt in previous chapters has been internalized. After this point on the wedding day, Hardy gives this anxiety physical manifestation through several symbols of foreboding. The appearance of an afternoon crow is a conventional sign foreshadowing ill omens, while Tess's vision of the d'Urberville coach foreshadows tragedy particular to her ancestors. This further bolsters the theme of Tess's inability to escape her d'Urberville past. Although now married to Angel Clare, Tess Durbeyfield cannot fully repudiate her ancestry and personal history.

Chapter Thirty-Four:

Tess and Angel go to Wellbridge, where they stay in one of the d'Urberville ancestral mansions. On entering, they find that they have only a couple of rooms. Two life-size portraits of d'Urberville ladies frighten Tess, for she can see her form in theirs. Jonathan Kail, the servant, brings a package from Reverend Clare to Tess, containing a necklace with pendant, bracelets and earrings. Angel has Tess put on the jewelry, and imagines how wonderful she would appear in a ballroom. Tess thinks that the jewelry must be sold. Jonathan tells Tess how Retty Priddle attempted to drown herself when the Clares left, and how Marian was found drunk. Only Izzy remains as usual, but her spirits remain low. Tess feels guilty about her fate, thinking herself undeserving. Angel promises to tell Tess all of his faults. Angel admits how in London he plunged into a forty-eight hour dissipation with a stranger. Tess decides to tell Angel about her sin, and enters into her story about Alec d'Urberville and its results.


Several events in this chapter serve to precipitate Tess's confession in this chapter. Along with the earlier established feelings of guilt and anxiety, at Wellbridge Tess must face the imposition of her d'Urberville past upon her. The d'Urberville history literally faces Tess at Wellbridge, as foreboding and forbidding portraits of Tess's ancestors loom throughout the mansion. Furthermore, Tess also faces the irony of Angel's treatment of her; when he insists that she wear the jewelry sent by the Clare family, he envisions her as an esteemed lady, which starkly contrasts with her actual history. A third precipitating factor for Tess's confession comes from her realization of the consequences of her marriage; by marrying a man of whom she believes herself unworthy, Tess instigates Retty Priddle's suicide attempt and Marian's and Izz's depression. While the possibility that Tess actually prevented a romance between Angel and one of these women seems low, Tess nevertheless believes herself responsible. The final precipitating factor in this chapter is Angel's confession of his own sins. There is considerable irony in Angel's confession, for he admits to a premarital affair that seems worse than Tess's single moment of weakness; a further, tragic irony will result from Angel's reaction to Tess's similar admission. While Tess feels relieved by Angel's honesty, Angel will have a far more unforgiving reaction to Tess's sin, which he himself has committed.