Do you think Angel is worthy of Tess's love and sacrifice? Give reasons.Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Uberville

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is kind of an opinion question that can be argued either way. So, I will give you my opinion. When I was a young person and read this novel, I disliked Angel intensely, believing him to be very unworthy of Tess' love and sacrifice. I found him to be an immature idealist that did not appreciate how much Tess loved him. When he refused to forgive her relationship with Alec after she forgave him for his "affair", I found that to be selfish and cruel. When he abandoned her, that was the ultimate betrayal.

After I lived for awhile, though, I have come to view Angel in a different light. He was young, confused, trying to find himself and make a place for himself apart from his family. He loved Tess, but he was too immature to appreciate her unconditional love because his love had conditions. However, he grows in the novel and at the end, he redeems himself, even honoring Tess after her death by marrying her sister. So, ultimately, is he not another imperfect human in need of a bit of grace and forgiveness? From this viewpoint, perhaps none of us is worthy of the love we receive from our relationships, but isn't that what love is supposed to be? It is not based on the worth of the other individual and often is not based on how much the other individual returns that love. This view is perhaps a bit unorthodox, but Hardy's novels contain very complex characters and Angel is one of them.

What do you think?

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Ubervilles, there is a difference between Angel and Tess that can never be dismissed.  Not only is there a class distinction, but there is also one of intrinsic nature.  Tess is the human who suffers beyond what she ever deserves and lives a life more degraded than she should.  In his perception of Tess as the perfection of nature, Angel idealizes her and fails to understand her as a person of flesh and blood who has had a complicated life.  When Tess is honest with Angel, he rejects her because she falls beneath the image of the Victorian woman who was admired on her "pedestal of moral superiority only as long as she remained there silently."  The fateful burdens of modernism have poisoned Angel.

When he finally returns from Brazil, Angel seeks Tess, but he fully expects her to leave Alec d'Ubervilles and be with him.  So, in a way, Angel is responsible for Alec's death as his return obligates Tess to go with him. Because he is of a different thinking, and because of his lack of understanding for Tess as a child of nature, Angel is NOT worthy of her love and sacrifice.

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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