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

Tess of the d'Urbervilles book cover
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Why did Thomas Hardy write Tess of the d'Urbervilles? What was his purpose?

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It is difficult to measure the intention of a novelist when writing a piece of literature, for their might be ostensible and subconscious motives involved.  These are often referred to as the text and the subtext. Although at first publishers refused the novel, when it was published it attracted criticism for its sympathetic portrayal of a "fallen woman." Its subtitle, A Pure Woman: Faithfully Presented, was intended to raise the eyebrows of the Victorian middle classes. However, recent criticism of this and similar novels by Hardy suggest that while it might have been intended to shock its audience, the subtext of the novel was that women who break the rules must pay for their mistakes, as Tess does.  This novel was part of the “new woman” genre of the late 1800s, which typically shows a woman who crosses boundaries of what is proper for a woman and ends up, unfortunately, dead.

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Hardy explores the issues of religious, moral, and women's issues in Tess. He uses the main character's to explore these issues. Tess is central to all these issues-it illustrates the double standard of morality in this society.

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