Darwin and Social Darwinism
The last fifty years of the nineteenth century saw innovations in science and technology that changed society to a greater degree than ever before. The theory of evolution popularized by naturalist Charles Darwin in his On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published in 1859, had enormous cultural implications. The idea that humans were descended from apes changed accepted views of religion and society. It shook belief in the Biblical creation story and, therefore, all religious beliefs. It shocked the Victorians (those who lived during the reign of the British Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901) to think that their ancestors were animals. They glorified order and high-mindedness, and thought themselves, as British subjects, the pinnacle of culture.
To make Darwin's theory more palatable, a complementary theory called Social Darwinism was formulated. Proponents of this social philosophy argued that Darwin's ideas of "survival of the fittest" also applied to society. The existence of lower classes could be explained by their inferior intelligence and initiative in comparison to that of the upper classes. Angel refers to this theory when he expresses his surprise that there is no "Hodge" amongst the workers at Talbothays. "The conventional farm-folk of his imagination—personified in the newspaper-press by the pitiable dummy known as Hodge—were obliterated after a few days' residences." He...
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Phase the First: The Maiden, Chapters 1–4: Questions and Answers
1. How does John Durbeyfield learn about his true family heritage?
2. What is the name of the valley where Tess and her family live?
3. What distinguishes Tess from her fellow country maidens?
4. What happens at the first meeting between Tess and Angel?
5. What do the two older brothers on a walking tour wish to do, instead of dancing with local girls?
6. Who takes care of the children in the Durbeyfield family?
7. What happens on the road to Casterbridge market?
8. What is the subject of Tess’s and Abraham’s conversation as they ride to market?
9. What does Joan Durbeyfield rely on when deciding Tess’s future plans?
10. Why does Tess consent to her mother’s plan that she ask Mrs. D’Urberville for a job?
1. On impulse, a local man gives this information to John Durbeyfield as they meet by chance on a country road.
2. The Durbeyfield’s home village is in the vale (or valley) of Blakemore or Blackmoor.
3. Tess’s beauty sets her apart from her friends. She is the only girl in the procession adorned with a red ribbon.
4. Angel, drawn by curiosity, dances with a local woman at Marlott’s May-Day procession. Tess sees Angel and is impressed by his distinguished manner and looks. Angel sees Tess and is momentarily regretful he did not dance with her....
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Phase the First: The Maiden, Chapters 5–11: Questions and Answers
1. What tips the balance of Tess’s decision as to whether to approach Mrs. D’Urberville?
2. What is the name of the home of Mrs. D’Urberville?
3. Why has Simon Stoke decided to rename himself D’Urberville?
4. What job is Tess given by the D’Urbervilles?
5. How is Tess dressed when her parents send her off?
6. What is the mother-son relationship of Mrs. D’Urberville and Alec like?
7. What does Alec teach Tess how to do?
8. What defect marks the social life of the people in and around Trantridge?
9. Who picks a fight with Tess on the way home from Chase¬borough, and why?
10. What happens in The Chase?
1. Her guilt over the death of Prince, combined with her feeling that she is responsible for the family, cause Tess finally to agree to the idea of applying to Mrs. D’Urberville for help.
2. The manorial home of Mrs. D’Urberville is named The Slopes.
3. Simon Stoke has earned a fortune as a merchant, or perhaps as a moneylender, in the industrialized north of England. Stoke does not want to be associated with his unprestigious (or shady) past, and he believes that an aristocratic name would be more distinguished than his original one. He found the name D’Urberville in a history book dealing with old families in the south of England.
4. Tess is...
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Phase the Second: Maiden No More, Chapters 12–15: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Alec want to catch up with and talk to Tess?
2. What final piece of advice does Alec give Tess?
3. Who has started the sign-painter on his work?
4. Why is Tess so struck by the sign-painter’s messages?
5. Why is Joan disappointed with Tess?
6. What happens when Tess decides to attend church?
7. What does Tess do after the parson is not allowed in to see her dying infant?
8. What is Tess’s reaction to the parson saying her infant may not be allowed a standard Christian burial?
9. What name does Tess give to her infant?
10. Why does Tess wish to leave Marlott?
1. If he cannot convince her to return to Trantridge, he will at least ride her the rest of the way home to Marlott.
2. Alec advises Tess to display her beauty, her prime advantage, to the world.
3. An evangelical preacher named Mr. Clare started the sign-painter on his unusual work.
4. Tess has the uncanny, irrational feeling that this man knows what has just happened to her.
5. Having heard about Tess being a favorite of Alec, Joan assumes a marriage, which will materially help the Durbey¬fields, is in the near future. Joan is shocked and disappointed when she learns otherwise.
6. Her neighbors gossip and whisper in her direction, making Tess feel she is being singled...
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Phase the Third: The Rally, Chapters 16–19: Questions and Answers
1. What distinguishes the Valley of the Great Dairies from Blackmoor Vale, where Tess was raised?
2. What is the relationship between Tess’s inner mood and her outward beauty?
3. What are Tess’s feelings after getting to work milking the cows?
4. Why does Angel Clare reject a career in the Church?
5. What effect does this rejection have on his family’s plans for his future?
6. Does Angel notice Tess at first?
7. What comes to Angel’s mind after he first pays attention to Tess’s presence?
8. How does Angel’s time at Talbothays change his attitude towards country folk and his overall mood?
9. What rule of the dairy does Angel break for Tess’s benefit?
10. What does Angel think about aristocratic families, according to Dairyman Crick?
1. The Valley of the Great Dairies is larger than, and perhaps not so beautiful as, the valley in which Tess has so far lived her life.
2. There is an inverse relationship: when her mood is less happy, her beauty is greater; when she is happy, her looks are more or less ordinary.
3. Getting to work gives Tess a sense of security and confidence. She “appeared to feel that she really had laid a new foundation for her future.”
4. Affected by the contemporary spirit of rationalism, Angel is unable to believe in the literal...
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Phase the Third: The Rally, Chapters 20–24: Questions and Answers
1. Who are usually the first two people to wake each day at Talbothays?
2. What names does Angel call Tess?
3. What is responsible for the Talbothays butter having a bitter “twang”?
4. What is Tess’s opinion of herself as a woman as compared to the other milkmaids?
5. Who carries Tess, Marian, Izz, and Retty across a flooded lane?
6. What quality exhibited by Angel earns him Tess’s respect?
7. How do the milkmaids react when they surmise Angel’s affections are only for Tess, and why have the milkmaids thought it unlikely Angel would consider them as future wives?
8. Whom is Angel supposed to marry?
9. What technique does Tess use in milking cows?
10. What part of Tess’s body is deemed by Angel to be the most enticing?
1. Angel and Tess, “possibly not always by chance,” are the first two people to arise each day at the dairy-house.
2. Angel calls her Artemis and Demeter, the names of women from Greek mythology. Artemis was the virgin goddess of the hunt; Demeter was the goddess of fertility.
3. A few garlic shoots in a nearby meadow are responsible for imparting a bitter flavor to the butter recently produced at Talbothays. The last time this happened, Dairyman Crick thought the meadow was “bewitched”; now he has arrived at a more plausible hypothesis....
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Phase the Fourth: The Consequence, Chapters 25–29: Questions and Answers
1. How long will Angel remain at Talbothays?
2. What gifts from Mrs. Crick does Angel carry home to his ¬family at Emminster?
3. What changes does his family note in Angel?
4. What qualities are the Clares looking for in a future daughter-in-law?
5. Who is Mercy Chant?
6. How much forethought lies behind the timing of Angel’s first proposal to Tess?
7. What rationale does Tess use to explain this initial refusal?
8. What story about his father does Angel tell Tess?
9. How does Tess react to the story about the woeful rogue Jack Dollop?
10. On what errand does Tess accompany Clare?
1. Angel is planning to stay at Talbothays for about four more months before visiting another farm.
2. Angel carries home two gifts from Mrs. Crick to his family: black-pudding and mead (an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey).
3. Angel seems more countrified, carrying himself more like a farmer and less like the scholar his family had hoped him to be.
4. The Clares want a God-fearing, Christian woman for their son. Mrs. Clare, additionally, is concerned that her son marry a “lady.”
5. Mercy Chant is the woman Clare’s parents hope and expect he will marry. She is a church-going, devout girl, the daughter of family friends.
6. Angel had not meant...
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Phase the Fourth: The Consequence, Chapters 30–34: Questions and Answers
1. What is Angel’s true attitude toward the decline of renowned families?
2. What is the only modern encroachment upon the pastoral area around Talbothays?
3. Why is Angel cheered by Tess’s revelation that she is a D’Urberville?
4. What premarital advice does Joan give Tess?
5. Does Angel allow news of the marriage to be publicized?
6. Why is Angel forced to punch the man from Trantridge?
7. Do any of Angel’s or Tess’s close relatives attend the wedding?
8. What is Tess’s mood after the ceremony?
9. How do Marian, Izz, and Retty behave after the ceremony?
10. Where do Angel and Tess go for their honeymoon?
1. Angel does not believe that noble blood equals individual virtue, but his emotions are stirred by the story of a family come down in the world.
2. A railway line is the only modern intrusion upon the area around Talbothays.
3. He feels that “society is slightly snobbish,” and Angel believes Tess’s aristocratic lineage will make her more respectable and impressive to his family.
4. Joan counsels Tess not to tell Angel about the relationship with D’Urberville.
5. Angel asks the Cricks to keep the wedding date secret and also asks that the banns (announcements of an upcoming marriage) not be called out in church. He has arranged...
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Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays, Chapters 35–44: Questions and Answers
1. What prevents Angel from going into Tess’s bedroom when he hears her breathing?
2. Why does Tess reject thoughts of suicide?
3. Where does Angel carry Tess in his sleep?
4. To what country does Angel decide to go?
5. What comment does her father make upon hearing that Tess has returned home?
6. Whom does Angel ask to accompany him overseas?
7. What are Tess’s duties on the farm at Flintcomb-Ash?
8. What characters from Phase the First does Tess meet up with again at Flintcomb-Ash?
9. Who takes Tess’s boots?
10. Whom does Tess observe preaching at a local barn?
1. The fearsome, sinister-looking portraits of the D’Urberville ancestors, which remind Angel of Tess, cause him to turn back.
2. She does not want her action to bring suspicion or discredit upon Angel.
3. He carries her over a footbridge and into an open coffin.
4. Angel decides to go to Brazil, to investigate farming opportunities.
5. He asks if she really got married this time, or if her present relationship with Angel is like her liaison with Alec.
6. Angel asks Izz Huett to go to Brazil and live with him, but soon comes to his senses and rescinds the impulsive offer.
7. Tess must dig up turnip roots so they can be eaten by livestock. Her other duties include...
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Phase the Sixth: The Convert, Chapters 45–52: Questions and Answers
1. Does Tess believe Alec’s conversion?
2. With what does Tess strike Alec?
3. What happens when the rick (or pile) of wheat is nearly ¬levelled?
4. What advice does Angel receive from the cosmopolitan Englishman he meets in Brazil?
5. What are the implications of John’s death?
6. To what figure does Alec compare himself when he surprises Tess in a field?
7. What is the story of the D’Urberville Coach?
8. What generally happens each Old Lady-Day?
9. Where do Tess and her family decide to make a new home?
10. What advice do Izz and Marian give Angel?
1. Tess cannot believe that Alec has truly been converted.
2. Tess hits Alec across the face with her rough leather gloves.
3. The rats which have taken refuge near the bottom of the rick must be caught. This activity sometimes draws a crowd of observers from the area.
4. Angel is told that he was foolish in rejecting a woman who loves him, and wrong in estimating what Tess would be as a wife solely by what she had been in the past.
5. The Durbeyfield family had the lease on their cottage only until John died. Thus, the family has to move, since the owner wants the house for fieldworkers he wishes to hire.
6. Alec compares himself to Satan, the Eternal Tempter. Surprisingly enough, Tess...
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Phase the Seventh: Fulfillment, Chapters 53–59: Questions and Answers
1. How is Angel Clare’s health after his journey to Brazil?
2. What causes Angel Clare finally to reveal Tess’s noble blood?
3. What does Angel discover when he reaches Tess’s Marlott cottage?
4. Where does Joan tell Angel to seek Tess?
5. What does Tess say when Angel asks forgiveness for leaving her?
6. How is the death of D’Urberville discovered?
7. What does the bloodstain seem to resemble?
8. What is the location of the lovers’ temporary refuge from the law?
9. At what monument is Tess taken prisoner?
10. What two characters see a sign of Tess’s execution?
1. Angel is weak and emaciated after living through an attack of fever in Brazil.
2. After Mrs. Clare refers to Angel’s wife as a “mere child of the soil,” Angel tells his parents of Tess’s ancestry.
3. Angel discovers the Durbeyfields have been turned out of the cottage and that a new family is living there.
4. Joan tells Angel that Tess is living at Sandbourne, a fashionable seaside resort. Joan does not know the exact address.
5. Tess cries “Too late”—she has been won back by D’Urberville.
6. Mrs. Brooks, the landlady, notices a bloodstain and gets a local workman to go inside the room to see what has happened.
7. Alec’s blood, after...
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Tess of the d'Urbervilles tells the story of a girl who is seduced and has a child who dies. When she meets another man whom she wants to marry, she is unable to tell him about her past until after their wedding. Her husband abandons her, and Tess is driven by despair into the arms of her former seducer. When her husband returns, Tess kills the man she is living with. Hardy uses a third-person ("he/she") narrator with an omniscient (all-knowing) point of view to tell Tess's story. Thus the narrator not only describes the characters but can reveal their thoughts Hardy also uses his power as narrator to offer his philosophical insights on the action. The novel's closing paragraph, which begins " 'Justice' was done, and the President of the Immortals, in Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess" is a good example of how Hardy comments on the action. Some critics believe the novel would have been better if Hardy could have remained silent and let the actions of the characters tell the story. At several spots in the novel, Hardy's narrator loses his omniscient ability and comments on the story through the eyes of a storyteller of local history. For example, when he tells the story of Tess and Angel's first meeting, when Angel chooses another girl to dance with him, the narrator says he does not know the lucky girl's name. "The name of the eclipsing girl, whatever it was, has not been handed down," he notes.
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Compare and Contrast
1890s: The rural population was forced to move toward urban areas as low prices and industrialization of farm equipment made smaller farms less profitable.
Today: Family-run farms are disappearing across the United States at the rate of several hundred a year, primarily due to large corporations controlling food production and pricing.
1890s: The advent of rail transportation from rural to the teeming cities of the late nineteenth century made dairy farming more attractive than crop farming, since production was less weather dependent, costs were lower, and an ever-expanding customer-base was within easy reach.
Today: While small dairies still exist, increasing production costs and lower prices have forced many dairy farmers to sell out to larger concerns, with an average dairy in the western United States milking one to two thousand cows.
1890s: Women could not divorce their husbands, even for having an affair, unless they could prove their husbands had treated them cruelly or abandoned them.
Today: All fifty states permit couples to divorce by mutual consent, although in twenty, pro-family groups have proposed, and in several cases passed, legislation for making divorce harder to obtain when children are involved.
1890s: State supported education was provided for all children, with education being compulsory to age eleven.
Today: Increasing dissatisfaction with public schooling has...
(The entire section is 352 words.)
Topics for Further Study
Imagine Tess's story taking place in today's U. S. society and analyze how her story would have ended up differently or the same, refer to specific scenes from the novel in your analysis.
Research late 19th century British laws then, playing the role of either the prosecuting or defense attorney, plan your defense or prosecution of Tess for the murder of Alec d'Urberville using details from the novel.
Compare American novelist William Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County with Hardy's Wessex, examining the personality and physical description of each literary environment.
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Tess of the d'Urbervilles was adapted as a film directed by Roman Polanski, starring Nastassja Kinski, Leigh Lawson, and Peter Firth, 1980. The film received many Academy Award nominations, including one for best picture, it won Oscars for best cinematography, best art direction and best costume design. It is available from Columbia Tristar Home Video.
It was also recorded on audio cassette, narrated by Davina Porter, published by Recorded Books, 1994.
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What Do I Read Next?
Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca's widely-performed lyrical folk tragedies, Blood Wedding (1933), Yerma (1934), and The House of Bernarda Alba (1936), dealing with sexual repression and tradition in rural Spain.
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert's 1857 best-selling satirical novel of Emma Bovary's search for romantic love in provincial France.
Norwegian poet and playwright Henrik Ibsen's 1890 drama Hedda Gabler, about a woman who tries to live her life through a man, but finds it impossible to submerge her own desires and play the role of a housewife.
Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native (1878) in which Hardy explores the conflict between the forces of nature, represented by the Egdon Heath, and the area's inhabitants.
Edith Wharton' s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel of manners The Age of Innocence (1920), set in the New York City of the 1870s, examines the negative effects of social convention on three members of society's elite.
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Harold Bloom, "Introduction," in Thomas Hardy Modern Critical Views, Chelsea House, 1987, pp 1-22.
Butler, Lance St. John, Thomas Hardy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.
Donald Davidson, "The Traditional Basis of Thomas Hardy's Fiction," in Hardy A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Albert J. Guerard, Prentice-Hall, 1963 pp.
Gittings, Robert. Young Thomas Hardy. London: Heinemann, 1975.
Gregor, Ian. The Great Web. London: Faber, 1974.
Guerard, A. J. (ed.). Hardy: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963.
Albert J. Guerard, "Introduction," in his Hardy: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall, 1963, pp 1-9.
Florence Emily Hardy, "Background Hardy's Autobiography," in Tess of the d'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy, 2nd edition, edited by Scott Elledge, Norton, 1979, pp. 343-63.
Hardy, F. E. The Life of Thomas Hardy. London: Macmillan, 1962.
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Norton Critical Edition, WW Norton, 1979.
John Holloway, "Hardy's Major Fiction," in Hardy: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Albert Guerard, Prentice-Hall, 1963, pp 52-62.
Martin Seymour-Smith, Hardy A Biography, St. Martin's Press, 1994
Review of Tess of the...
(The entire section is 665 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Casagrande, Peter J. Tess of the D’Urbervilles: Unorthodox Beauty. New York: Twayne, 1992. Focuses on Hardy’s intertwining of beauty and ugliness, of moral and aesthetic issues. Examines Victorian attitudes toward women, Tess’s “terrible beauty” and parallels between her suffering and the horse’s death. Analyzes Angel as a mix of convention and newness.
Kramer, Dale, and Nancy Marck, eds. Critical Essays on Thomas Hardy: The Novels. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990. Discusses Hardy’s plots and rhetoric, with focus on individual novels. Good essay on Hardy’s understanding of Tess as a woman, examining Victorian debates and postromantic ideas. Treats awareness of language as a shaping force.
Moore, Kevin Z. The Descent of the Imagination: Postromantic Culture in the Later Novels of Thomas Hardy. New York: New York University Press, 1990. Uses language and cultural dominance issues to discuss Tess’s quest for beauty and freedom.
Vigar, Penelope. The Novels of Thomas Hardy: Illusion and Reality. London: Athlone Press, 1974. Analyzes Hardy’s techniques and style. Examines Tess of the D’Urbervilles in terms of Hardy’s notion of imaginative flights that emerge from visual effects. Analyzes the novel’s structure in terms of its contrasts—Tess’s purity and guilt, reality and...
(The entire section is 264 words.)