Critically examine Thomas Hardy's use of symbolism in Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

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

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It is interesting to see that Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Ubervilles starts out with positive symbols of peace and happiness, but then it ends with symbols of darkness and sadness. In the beginning of the novel, Tess, along with other women of her home town, is wearing a white dress during a May festival. The opening scene portrays peace, hope and happiness because the color white symbolizes virtue and purity; the time of year also symbolizes a period of youth, birth, and playfulness since it is during the spring. On the opposite end of the novel,  however, the cloudy and cold days of winter create a mood of gloominess and darkness. In the end, one black flag waives in the distance and marks the death of Tess at a young age for a crime she would never have committed in the beginning of the story. There are also Christian symbols throughout the novel that depict Christianity's influence on Victorian society. Alec dresses as a parson when he is converted by Angel's father; Tess and her friends from the dairy farm dress nicely and go to church on Sundays; and, Tess's baby is not allowed to be buried in the cemetery of the churchyard. All of these symbols help to aide the author in relaying the story from all aspects of life so that the reader may fully understand the culture and society from which Tess hails. Other symbols include the landscape, the weather's changing, parental figures, the Fortune Teller book, and the ever-present symbol and value of money.

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