Without doubt, Tess D'Urbeyfield seems a character formed more by fate than any other element as she is shaped by harsh social injustices over which she can exert no control. In some ways, Tess is symbolic of the pristine pastoral Dorset countryside exploited by the machinery in the burgeoning Industrial Revolution.
As one critic remarks , for Hardy "landscape appears as a symbolic reflection of Tess's state of mind"; it is often an omen or an indicator of her mood. For instance, in Chapter XLV when Alec D'Uberville suddenly reappears in her life, Tess walks with him until they come to a place called "Cross-in-Hand," described as a most "forlorn" spot. Certainly, it reflects Tess's state of despondency at this moment as there is something "sinister" in the place.
- At this point, the first question can be raised about how this scene portends what is to come with Tess and how it reflects her own feelings and sense of fate:
All the way along to this point her heart had been heavy with an inactive sorrow; now there was a change in the quality of its trouble. That hunger for affection too long withheld was for the time displaced by an almost physical sense of an implacable past which still engirdled her. It intensified her consciousness of error to a practical despair; the break of continuity between her earlier and present existence, which she had hoped for, had not, after all, taken place.
The return of Alec d'Uberville into her life and the farm work at Flintcomb-Ash and the loss of home with the death of her father, lead Tess into a deep despair. When Alec returns without wearing his religious clothing, he proposes that Tess come with him. Slapping him with the glove she has removed in order to eat her lunch, Tess hits him, crying out,
"Whip me, crush me, you need not mind those people under the rick! I shall not cry out. Once victim, always victim--that's the law!" (ch. XLVII)
- Here another question can be asked about how Tess feels about herself and her family's situation, as well as the effects this attitude has upon her.
Clearly, Tess is in despair and works solely to not be a burden to her family and to help them, if she can. For, her guilt over the death of the horse in the early part of the novel still haunts her.
In Chapter XLVIII, Tess writes to Angel in her desperation; in this letter, Tess evinces some qualities that underscore Hardy's subtitle to his novel: a pure woman.
- Here the question can inquire how this letter reveals Tess's purity.
Tess tries to avoid the advances of Alec d'Uberville, but she feels herself weakening as a victim of fate. Writing to Angel in this dark time is her desperate cry for help while it is a reaffirmation of her enduring love for her husband.