How does Thomas Hardy present women in Phase the First of Tess of the d'Urbervilles?Please base answers only on the first part of the novel. (i.e. "The Maiden".)

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The full title of the first section of Hardy's novel is "Phase the First: The Maiden" which promptly brings to mind a young, innocent virgin. Virginity is associated with purity and the color white, so of course, Hardy has Tess in a parade of women all wearing white and marching to the May pole; it is Spring and youth and life is budding. As the first section of the book progresses we see Tess's mother traditionally attending to her duties, but also reading from the horoscopes of a book and seeking out a better fortune and life for her eldest daughter. Both mother and daughter are strong mentally and physically because husband/father is always drunk. As an inexperienced maiden, Tess feels guilted into selling herself off to a possible rich marriage because the family horse died under her care. Although strong in desire, Tess discovers her weakness in humanity and falls victim to the prey of a handsome man. Hence, Hardy presents women as superstitious, guilt-ridden weaklings who think they are strong until they are slapped in the face with reality. It is only after facing that reality that they truly become strong, as later seen in the following sections of the novel.


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