Tess of the d'Urbervilles Questions and Answers
by Thomas Hardy

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What are a few examples of realism in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles?

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Realism, with regard to literature, is a relative term. Thomas Hardy's novels, in my view, exemplify realism more fully than other English writers of his time and earlier, but less than a contemporary such as Emile Zola. Tess of the D'Urbervilles, though it's reasonably frank in its subject matter, is still reticent (compared not only to Zola but other writers such as Tolstoy) about sexual matters to the point where, for example, we are never told directly that Tess's encounter with Alec is, to put it mildly, non-consensual. That said, the fact that Hardy deals with pregnancy and single motherhood at all, and the issue of sexual double standards between men and women, is a huge step forward in realism for English and American writers of the time. Tess and her family are simple country people. Realism, and the more intense form of it labeled naturalism, typically focus upon people of limited circumstances and their misfortunes. Often their exploitation by the rich and the stark difference...

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