How is Thomas Hardy's emotional investment in Tess's character sincere and unalloyed?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hardy's unwavering sympathy for Tess is obvious when one compares his handling of Tess's story to his portrayal of characters in his other works (Return of the Native, Mayor of Casterbridge, etc.).  Hardy demonstrates throughout Tessthat the title character is completely innocent in all that befalls her. She wants to please her parents and lift them out of poverty; so she leaves all that she has known to live with a group of strangers who might be related to her. She trusts Alec while maintaining her naivety and ends up getting raped by him. Even in the end, she tries to remain faithful and compliant and loses her life.  Not once does she manipulate her situation or other characters.  Not once does she attempt try to tempt the gods to escape what fate has in store for her. Hardy uses her to demonstrate that a purely likable and innocent character is still at the whim of the gods. 

In his other works, the reader witnesses characters such as Eustacia, Wildeve, and the Mayor try to escape their environments and being willing to use or push aside others who get in their way.  Tess, in contrast, is held captive by the whim of the gods, and Hardy does not bestow any truly negative character traits upon her.

 

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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