Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Tess of the D'Urbervilles Summary and Analysis of Phase 5, Chapters 35-44

Phase Five: The Woman Pays

Chapter Thirty-Five:

Tess finishes her story, which she had given in a monotone and without any displays of emotion. She watches the flame in the fireplace flicker, as everything around her seems to mock her situation with its lack of response. Angel stirs the fire, having not yet comprehended the events. His face withers as he cries out that this cannot be true. She begs for forgiveness, for she has forgiven him the same. Angel claims that forgiveness is irrelevant, for she was one person before and now is another. He calls her another woman in her shape. She bursts into tears as she asks whether or not she still belongs to him anymore. Tess vows not to do anything unless he orders her, and vows to behave as a wretched slave and die if he so desires. He tells her that there is a discordance between her present mood of self-sacrifice and her past mood of self-preservation. Angel leaves the room for a walk. Tess follows him, but the two say nothing. Finally she asks what she has done, saying that it is his mind that has changed and that she is not the deceitful woman that he thinks she is. She claims that she was a child when it happened and knew nothing of men. He claims he forgives her, but forgiveness is not all. Tess says that her mother has told her of many cases in which similar situations occur, in which the husband survives and still loves the wife. Angel claims that his situation is one for satirical laughter rather than tragedy, and asks Tess to return to the house to go to bed. Angel returns later to find her sleeping soundly. He turns to leave and sees a portrait of a d'Urberville lady that appears sinister.


There is little surprising in Angel's reaction to the news about Tess's imperfect history, yet Hardy finds irony in the external circumstances surrounding this event. For both Tess and Angel, the revelation that Tess had a child is a momentous event that inalterably changes Angel's perception of his new wife and brings the possibility for Tess to have a happy marriage to an essential end. However, as Tess notices, the actual external conditions around Tess do not change; while both characters believe to a great extent that their world has ended, essentially nothing differs from before.

The character traits that Hardy has previously elucidated concerning Angel Clare become manifest in this chapter and his reaction to the news aligns completely with these traits. Angel exhibits a dogmatic inflexibility concerning his belief in Tess's moral infallibility. He cannot comprehend his own self-delusion toward Tess, for he cannot conceive of Tess as anything less than the perfect person whom he has envisioned. This recalls Angel's intellectualized ideas concerning his wife. Perhaps more than the actual person of Tess, Angel loves the theoretical conception of Tess. The news that she is not the chaste woman he assumed too greatly conflicts with this vision of Tess.

The intellectual character of the love that Angel feels for Tess becomes apparent in Angel's reaction. He speaks calmly and rationally rather than resorting to a burst of anger at the news. His behavior is cold and clinical, and his words cautious and precise. This contrasts sharply with Tess's emotional behavior, as she vows that she would die for Angel if he were to so demand. This lends a particularly chilling quality to Angel's newfound contempt for Tess: he grounds his objections to Tess in such solid and inarguable ground, as when he contrasts her current self-sacrifice with past self-preservation, that he leaves no room for his own personal flexibility. Angel's principles doom him to forsake the woman that he previously loved.

Chapter Thirty-Six:

Angel arises at dawn; the neighboring cottager's wife knocks on the door, but he sends her away because her presence is awkward. Angel prepares breakfast, and the two behave civilly to one another, although the pair are "but ashes of their former fires." Angel asks again if it is true, and he asks if the man is still in England. Tess says that he can get rid of her by divorcing her; her confession has given him adequate grounds for that. She tells him that she thought of putting an end to herself under the mistletoe, but did not because she felt it would cause scandal. Tess continues to do chores around the house for Angel while he visits a local miller, but he scolds her for behaving as a servant and not a wife. Tess breaks into tears, claiming that she had told him that she was not respectable enough to marry him, but he urged her. Her tears would have broken any man but Angel Clare, whose affection masks a hard, logical deposit like a vein of metal that blocks his acceptance of Tess as it blocked his acceptance of the Church. He tells her that it is not a question of respectability, but one of principle. Angel tells Tess that it is imperative that they should stay together to avoid scandal, but it is only for the sake of form. Angel tells Tess that he cannot live with Tess without despising himself and despising her. He considers what their possible children may think. She considers arguing that in Texas or Australia, nobody will know about her misfortunes, but she accepts the momentary sentiment as inevitable. Angel's love is doubtless ethereal to a fault, imaginative to impracticability . He orders her to go away from him, and she says that she can go home. She claims that she has convinced him and that she thinks it best.


In this chapter, Hardy focuses on Angel's principles and the effects that they have on his marriage to Tess. As earlier established, it is the idealistic perception that he has of Tess that blocks his acceptance of her; he can envision her either as a wholehearted saint or sinner, without any room for more subtle shadings. His stern devotion to these principles cause a certain inconsistency of behavior. He values his idealized conception of Tess as well as values of courtesy and duty. Angel does not allow Tess to act as a servant because, in principle, she is his wife and should not behave as such; nevertheless, his principles prevent him from treating Tess fully as his wife and partner. Angel will behave well toward Tess only insofar as he wishes to prevent scandal and assuage his guilt.

Tess thus finds herself bereft at the end of this chapter, recalling her earlier fate after leaving The Chase. However, in this situation her fate occurs because of opposite impulses from the rejecting suitor. While Alec behaves only according to his passions, Angel cannot operate on a level that is not intellectual. Hardy therefore constructs a situation in which Angel, if he were to behave more like Alec, his entirely unscrupulous polar opposite, he would act more honorably to Tess. Instead, by remaining tied to his principles of morality, Angel acts far less decently than he would if he were to be more subject to his passions.

Chapter Thirty-Seven:

At midnight, Angel enters the bedroom to find Tess, who was asleep. Standing still, he murmurs in an indescribably sad tone "dead, dead, dead." Angel occasionally walks in his sleep as he does now. Tess sees this continued mental distress. Angel bends low and encloses Tess in his arms, and rolls her in the sheet as in a shroud. He lifts her from the bed and carries her across the room, murmuring "my dearest darling Tess! So sweet so good, so true!." He leans her against the banister as if to throw her down, but rather kisses her and descends the staircase. Tess cannot determine Angel's ultimate intention, but finally realizes that he is dreaming about the Sunday when he carried her across the water with the other milkmaids. He carries her near the river, and she believes he may drown her. He walks through the shallow areas of the river carrying her, but they reach the other side in safety; if she had awakened him, they would have fallen into the gulf and both died. Angel carries her to the empty stone coffin of an abbot, where he lays Tess and then falls down asleep. Tess sits up in the coffin, but does not awake Angel out of fear that he may die if awakened from sleep-walking. She walks him back to the house and induces him to lay down on the sofa bed. The next morning, Angel seems to know nothing about the previous night's events. The two leave Wellbridge to return to Talbothays to pay a visit to the Cricks. At Talbothays, Tess learns that Marian and Retty have left Talbothays, and she fears they will come to no good. After Tess and Angel leave, Mrs. Crick remarks how unnatural the two look, as if they were in a dream. Angel tells Tess that he has no anger, and he will let her know where he is going as soon as he himself knows. He tells her that until he comes to her she should not come to him, and that she should write if she is ill or if she wants anything.


Hardy explores the depths to which Angel has been wounded by Tess's revelation in this chapter, in which Angel, while sleepwalking, reveals the great psychological torment that he feels. He so fervently believes that his wife is dead that he carries her to a coffin and lays her there. This is a departure from previous chapters in which Hardy has portrayed Angel as coldly observing his principles without any display of affection for his wife. Here the unconscious Angel shows that he still loves the previous conception he had of Tess, yet cannot reconcile it with this new information about her. His anguish is so great that it possesses him while asleep. However, that Angel cannot realize what he has done while sleepwalking demonstrates that he is unaware of the deep emotional vein of his torment; rather, he focuses on the intellectual disappointment.

If Hardy allows Angel greater sympathy in this chapter, he also shows the degree to which Tess will sacrifice herself for her husband. Tess remains completely submissive to her sleepwalking husband as he carries her across the river and to the cemetery. She remains open to the possibility that he may murder her or cause their mutual death, but remains still rather than disturb Angel. Tess therefore makes manifest her promise to Angel in previous chapters by leaving her life in his hands.

The final separation of Tess and Angel that ends this chapter leaves some degree of room for consideration. Angel remains calm, as always, yet realizes that it is he who must change before he can accept Tess again. He therefore places the burden of acceptance on himself rather than on Tess, while still allowing for her sustenance. Angel takes grudging steps toward admitting his own fallibility; his struggle to sacrifice his principles for greater ones and Tess's reaction to her new fate will provide a great deal of the narrative drive of the rest of the novel.

Chapter Thirty-Eight:

Tess returns to Marlott, where a turnpike-keeper tells how John Durbeyfield's daughter has married a gentleman farmer and the Durbeyfields have since been celebrating. Tess attempts to arrive at home unobserved, but cannot. She sees a girl whom she knew from school and claims that her husband is now away at business. When Tess arrives at home, she admits to her mother that she told Angel about her past. Tess claims that she could not so sin against him, but Joan replies that she sinned enough to marry him first. Tess finds that there is no place for her at home anymore; her old bed is now used by two of the younger children. Her father is a foot-haggler now, having sold his second horse. When John finds out what has happened to Tess, he laments the humiliation he will receive, and claims that he will put an end to himself. Tess decides to stay only a few days, and receives a letter from Angel informing her that he had gone to the north of England to look for a farm. Tess uses this as a reason to leave Marlott, claiming that she will join Angel. Before she leaves, she gives half of the fifty pounds Angel has given her to her mother, as a slight return for the humiliation she had brought upon them.


Once again Tess must endure the indignity of separation from a lover, as she returns to the Durbeyfields for the second time. In this chapter Hardy emphasizes the mistakes that Tess has made; Joan reminds Tess that she committed a sin by marrying Angel without telling him about Alec, thus she cannot behave as if her admission to Angel was an act of complete nobility. However, both Durbeyfield parents focus solely on the effect that Tess's marriage has on them; just as they manipulated Tess when they sent her to claim kinship with the d'Urbervilles, they can view Tess only in terms of how her fate affects their own. This emphasizes the theme of Tess as a pawn of others. No matter what actions Tess undertakes, she is subject to her parents' wills as well as Angel's.

Chapter Thirty-Nine:

Three weeks after the marriage, Angel returns to his father's parsonage. His recent conduct has been desultory, and his mood became one of dogged indifference. He wonders if he had treated Tess unfairly, and returns to Emminster to disclose his plan to his parents and to best explain why he has arrived without Tess without revealing the actual cause of their separation. Angel tells his parents that he has decided to go to Brazil. They regret that they could not have met his wife and that they did not attend the wedding. Mrs. Clare questions Angel about Tess, asking if he was her first love, and if she is pure and virtuous without question. He answers that she is. The Clares read a chapter in Proverbs in praise of a virtuous wife. After reading the chapter, Mrs. Clare thinks about how the passage so well describes the woman Angel has chosen. Angel can no longer bear this, and goes to his chamber. Mrs. Clare follows him, thinking that something is wrong. He admits to his mother that he and his wife have had a difference. Mrs. Clare senses that Tess is a young woman whose history will bear investigation, but he replies that she is spotless. Angel perceives his own limitations, knowing that he is a slave to custom and conventionality. In considering what Tess was not, he had overlooked what she was.


Angel Clare begins to break down his reservations against Tess, yet this process is slow and by no means reaches a conclusion by the end of the chapter. The most significant step that Angel takes during this chapter is admitting that he may have treated Tess harshly, but at this point he does nothing to make reparations. Rather, he admits his own faults without yet taking steps to amend them. However, just as Tess's guilt over her failure to tell Angel about her past accumulated before her wedding, Angel's guilt over his treatment of Tess builds throughout this chapter. Hardy constructs this as an interesting parallel; in both cases, their respective guilt becomes their sole preoccupation and every tangential detail relates to it. In this case, the passage from Proverbs and the Clares' questions about Tess serve as a constant reminder of the actions Angel wishes to forget.

Chapter Forty:

Angel discusses Brazil with his parents at breakfast, then does errands around town. On the way to the bank, he encounters Mercy Chant, carrying an armful of Bibles. Angel suggests that he may go to Brazil as a monk, implying Roman Catholicism, which shocks Mercy, who claims she glories in her Protestantism. He apologizes to her, telling her that he thinks that he is going crazy. Angel deposits money for Tess and wrote to her at her parents to inform her of his plans. Angel calls at the Wellbridge farmhouse, where he surprisingly reminisces about the happier time there. Angel wonders whether he has been cruelly blinded, and believes that if she had told him sooner he would have forgiven her. Angel finds Izz Huett there. She tells Angel that if he had asked her to marry him, he would have married a woman who loved him. Angel admits to Izz that he has separated from his wife for personal reasons, and asks Izz to go to Brazil with him instead of her. He warns her that he is not to trust him in morals now, for what they will be doing is wrong in the eyes of Western civilization. She admits that she does not love him as much as Tess did, for Tess would have laid down her life for him and Izz could do no more. Finally Angel claims that he does not know what he has been saying, and apologizes for his momentary levity. He tells Izz that she has saved him by her honest words about Tess from an impulse toward folly and treachery. According to Angel, women may be bad, but are not so bad as men in such things.


The result of Angel's realization that he has treated Tess poorly is not that he makes amends for his actions; rather, he descends into undertaking a series of haphazard and self-destructive actions. Having realized the inadequacy of holding dogmatically to his own principles, Angel seems to abandon them altogether. His conversation with Mercy Chant, although sly and humorous, reveals a decadence and tendency to shock not previously exhibited by Angel Clare, while his proposal that Izz Huett accompany him to Brazil is an altogether abandonment of his moral code. Angel's decision to go to Brazil itself represents Angel's rejection of his principles; when he discusses Brazil with Izz Huett, he frames the journey as a means to reject the tenets of Western civilization.

It is only when Izz Huett reminds Angel that no woman could love Angel more than Tess did that Angel returns to more grounded and rational behavior. This reinforces the theme of Tess's absolute love for Angel, and serves as a reminder that, even if Tess herself may not have a perfect personal history, in her love for Angel she is flawless.

Chapter Forty-One:

Eight months after Angel and Tess part, Tess is a lonely woman who found irregular service at dairy-work near Port Bredy to the west of Blackmoor Valley. She had concealed her circumstances from her mother, but Joan wrote to Tess that the family was in dreadful difficulty, and Tess sent money to her. Tess is now reluctant to ask Reverend Clare for money, as Angel suggested that she could, for she fears that the Clares despise her already. At this point Angel lies ill from fever in Brazil, having been drenched with thunderstorms and persecuted by other hardships. Tess now journeys to an upland farm to which she had been recommended by Marian, who learned of her separation through Izz Huett. On her journey, she meets the man whom Angel confronted for addressing Tess coarsely. He tells Tess that she should apologize for allowing Angel to inappropriately defend her honor, but Tess cannot answer him. Tess instead runs away, where she hides in the forested area. She remains in hiding until morning, where she finds dying birds around her, the remains of a shooting party from the night before. She puts the birds out of their misery.


A combination of shame and honor render Tess unable to ask for assistance from the Clares, not knowing that they have no knowledge of the details of her separation from Angel, who himself suffers in Brazil. This chapter serves largely to illustrate the dire situation that Tess faces. She has essentially no support, despite the advice of Angel which she refuses to heed, and remains perpetually at the mercy of her past. This second encounter with the man who recognizes her as Alec d'Urberville's mistress serves to reinforce the idea that Tess is perpetually at the mercy of her past, which recurs no matter her wish to escape it. This character also symbolizes Tess's guilt concerning her treatment of Angel; she placed Angel in danger when he defended her honor, despite the truth of the accusations against her.

When Tess kills the dying birds that were shot by the hunting party, she demonstrates her compassion and sympathy with the afflicted. She demonstrates mercy by sparing the animals' pain; although a direct analogy between Tess and the wounded birds is a drastic oversimplification, this event nevertheless introduces the idea of death as a compassionate end to suffering and thus appropriately frames and foreshadows the inevitable end to Tess Durbeyfield.

Chapter Forty-Two:

Tess starts again alone toward Chalk-Newton, where she has breakfast at an inn. At this inn, several young men are troublesomely complimentary to her because of her good looks. After leaving the inn, Tess covers her chin and hair with a handkerchief and cuts off her eyebrows to deflect against men's admiration. She thinks that she will always be ugly as long as Angel is not with her. Tess walks onward, from farm to farm in the direction of the place from which Marian had written her. Tess finally reaches Flintcomb-Ash, the place of Marian's sojourn. The place is barren and rough. Tess's plain appearance surprises Marian, who thinks that she has been abused. Tess asks that Marian not call her Mrs. Clare. Marian tells Tess that she will be employed at swede-hacking, a rough profession. Tess asks Marian to say nothing about Angel, for she does not wish to bring his name down to the dirt.


In this chapter, Hardy focuses on the innate sexuality within Tess Durbeyfield, framing it as a force that Tess can do little to control and which remains the center of her life's maladies. Tess has remained the focus of sexual attention for primarily manipulative or self-serving reasons, as when her parents use her looks to gain her a gentleman husband and Alec d'Urberville uses her only as an object for his lust. By rejecting Tess, Angel Clare himself frames Tess in terms of her sexuality. Her attempt to remove this sexual component of herself by making herself less attractive therefore represents a measure of self-defense. Tess mutilates herself in order to ward off the attention that has damaged her.

Flintcomb-Ash serves as a territorial representation of the adversity that Tess faces. The territory is barren and rough, in contrast to the more idyllic region of Talbothays Dairy; this parallels Tess's impoverished situation as well as her new appearance. Yet Tess accepts the surroundings at Flintcomb-Ash largely because of the adversity it offers; she considers it as a form of purgatory, as shown when she refuses to allow Marian to speak about Angel, whom she still considers too noble for the conditions she now faces.

Chapter Forty-Three:

Tess sets to work at Flintcomb-Ash, sustained by her sense of patience. For Tess, patience combines moral courage with physical timidity. The movement of the swede-hackers shows a mechanical regularity, as they work hour after hour unconscious of the forlorn aspect they bear on the landscape. Marian now has alcohol as her only comfort. She proposes to Tess that they invite Izz Huett and Retty Priddle to come to Flintcomb-Ash. Marian soon hears from Izz that she is coming. The winter is particularly harsh, one day preventing work altogether. Marian tells Tess that the harsh weather improves Tess's beauty, and that her husband should see her now. Tess reprimands Marian for her mention of him. Along with Tess, Marian and Izz, two other women working at Flintcomb-Ash are Car and Nancy Darch, neither of whom recognize Tess. Tess finds that her employer is the Trantridge native from whom she had taken flight. He laughs that he has regained his superior position. Tess does not answer him, so he demands an apology. Izz tells Tess that Angel was a splendid lover, no doubt, and tells Tess that Angel has left for the New World. Tess claims that she can always find out where Angel is. Tess continues to work, but she finally sinks down upon a heap of wheat-ears at her feet. Marian cries out that the work requires harder flesh than hers. The farmer suddenly enters and reprimands her for not working. Izz and Marian continue working to make up for Tess after the farmer leaves. Marian tells Tess how Angel asked Izz to accompany him to Brazil, but changed his mind. Tess cries at this news, thinking that she has been wrong and neglectful. Tess writes a letter to Angel, but cannot finish it. Afterwards she takes the wedding ring she keeps on a ribbon around her neck and wears it on her finger.


Hardy continues to elaborate the theme of the recurrence of past events through the arrival of several characters present in earlier sections of the novel. Tess finds herself in the presence of the man who insulted Angel for the third time, now as an employer, while the other girls from Talbothays dairy also work at Flintcomb-Ash. Even Car and Nancy Darch, whose threats against Tess served as a catalyst for her nighttime ride with Alec, find themselves working with Tess. The recurrence of these characters is a particular humiliation for Tess; each of them remind Tess of humiliations or indignities she has suffered. Tess even learns about Angel's proposition for Izz Huett, thus shaking her faith in Angel. When Tess wears her wedding ring at the end of the chapter, this is more than anything a mark of desperation. Even without her husband himself, the one reassurance that Tess has is her marriage to Angel Clare. With so little to support her, Tess can rely only on a small reminder of what she once had.

Chapter Forty-Four:

Tess wonders why her husband has not written to her, for he had distinctly implied that he would at least let her know of the locality to which he journeyed. She wonders whether he is indifferent or ill. On a Sunday morning, the only morning in which Tess may leave, Tess leaves for Emminster. When Tess reaches the home of the Clares at Emminster, nobody answers, for they are all at church. Tess sees Felix and Cuthbert, but fears that they should find her before she is prepared to confront them. Tess also sees Mercy Chant, whom one of the brothers identifies; Tess remembers the name from Talbothays, and listens as the brothers discuss how Angel threw himself away upon a dairymaid. When the Clares reach their home once more, they find Tess's boots which she has left there and appropriate them as charity. Tess views this scene as evidence of her condemnation, and feels that she cannot return to the vicarage. Tess leaves Emminster and reaches the village of Evershead, where she learns that a fiery, Christian man is preaching. Tess finds this preacher giving a sermon on justification by faith. She recognizes the voice of the preacher as that of Alec d'Urberville.


Tess continues to suffer indignities during her husband's absence, as shown when she overhears the discussion between Felix and Cuthbert about Angel's seemingly disreputable wife. Hardy even includes unmotivated embarrassments for Tess such as the loss of her shoes as evidence of her dejected state. However, the seeming evidence that Tess has concerning the Clares' opinion of her remains idle gossip, for Angel's brothers merely speculate on Tess without the concrete evidence that she believes they must have.

The reappearance of Alec d'Urberville is the culmination of recent chapters' foreshadowing. Having found herself confronted with nearly all of the characters who have been a threat to her since departing from Angel, Tess now finds the person most responsible for her tragic fate. There is a certain irony concerning Alec's fate, particular in comparison with Angel; the rigidly moral son of a minister finds himself a businessman, while the unscrupulous hedonist becomes a fundamentalist preacher. Nevertheless, the amount to which Alec has changed since Tess has left Trantridge remains doubtful.