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

Tess of the d'Urbervilles book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is the meaning of the recurring symbol of herons in Tess of the d'Urbervilles? Besides The Heron Inn where Tess kills Alec, is there any further meaning behind this symbolism?

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write10,877 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Bird symbolism can be important in Hardy.

Tess is identified with herons not only in terms of The Heron Inn but also when she arrives at the dairy. It is worth quoting the passage below at length, as it so well exemplifies Hardy's naturalism. He tells us that nature is indifferent to humans:

The sole effect of her [Tess's] presence upon the placid valley so far had been to excite the mind of a solitary heron, which, after descending to the ground not far from her path, stood with neck erect, looking at her.

Suddenly there arose from all parts of the lowland a prolonged and repeated call—“Waow! waow! waow!”

From the furthest east to the furthest west the cries spread as if by contagion, accompanied in some cases by the barking of a dog. It was not the expression of the valley’s consciousness that beautiful Tess had arrived, but the ordinary announcement of milking-time—half-past four o’clock, when the dairymen set about getting in the cows.

In other words, what we might in...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 713 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,150 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences


check Approved by eNotes Editorial