Ilustration of Tess on hilly pink terrain with trees and clouds in the background

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

by Thomas Hardy

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Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays, Chapters 35–44: Summary

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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

Following Tess's disclosure, Angel finds himself unable to think clearly. Tess begs for forgiveness, just as she has forgiven Angel, but to him, she seems like a different person altogether. They roam the countryside at night, with Tess trailing behind Clare. Tess even offers to end her own life, but Angel refuses to let her take such a drastic step. Upon their return home, Tess enters their bedroom and falls asleep. As Clare is about to step into the room, he is stopped in his tracks by the sight of the unyielding, haughty portraits of Tess's D'Urberville forebears, who resemble her.

The newlyweds have been living in a formal manner for a few days. Angel asks Tess if the story she told him is accurate, and she confirms it with sadness. Clare inquires if the man in question is still alive, and Tess replies in the affirmative. Angel expresses his anger and sarcasm that he refused to marry someone socially advantageous but now realizes that Tess, whom he believed to be innocent and pure, has been deprived of these qualities. Tess explains to him that his anger is a result of his own thoughts and not because of her actions.

Angel refuses to acknowledge the validity of his marriage with Tess because he believes that D'Urberville, not him, is Tess's true husband in nature. Even if he were to accept their marriage, Angel fears their children would face criticism if the truth about Tess's past were revealed. Angel suggests that if D'Urberville were dead, things might be different. Although Tess suggests getting a divorce, Angel rejects the idea due to his religious beliefs. Tess does not argue for herself and accepts Angel's rejection and indifference toward her. She is willing to do whatever Angel tells her to do. After a few days, they discuss the idea of separating. Angel suggests this idea, saying that he tends to think of people more kindly when away from them.

On the night before their departure, Angel walks in his sleep and carries Tess over a narrow footbridge. He lays her down in an empty stone coffin and exclaims, "Dead! Dead! Dead!" while confessing his love for her. However, Angel has no memory of this the next day, and Tess decides not to bring it up. The couple separates, with Tess returning home to Marlott. Angel gives Tess 50 pounds and their wedding jewelry to use as spending money until he can come to her. He advises her not to try to go to him before then.

Tess informs her mother that her husband is not with her, but she conceals the full extent of their separation. She becomes emotional when she confesses to her mother that she revealed her past to her husband, but her mother ridicules her for not following her advice. When John Durbeyfield learns that his daughter has come home, he wonders if her marriage is legitimate or if it is like her previous one. This lack of trust from her father hurts Tess's pride. She realizes there is no place for her in the house, and she believes that her presence brings shame to her family. As a result, Tess departs and gives her family 25 pounds as compensation for the trouble she has caused them.

Clare's philosophical understanding does not alleviate his problems. He informs his parents that he is going alone to Brazil for a year to investigate farming opportunities, concealing his wife's absence. When Mrs. Clare suspects something is amiss, she questions Angel about Tess's character, to which he falsely assures her that Tess is pure. During dinner, Angel's father reads a passage from the Bible that praises a virtuous wife, but Angel, blinded by societal conventions, fails to see Tess's worth as a woman deserving of such praise.

Angel needs to go to Wellbridge Manor, where he spent his honeymoon, to collect some of his belongings. While on the way there, he meets Izz Huett. Feeling upset about being mistreated and constrained by social conventions, he asks Izz to come with him to Brazil. When Angel questions Izz about her feelings towards him, she admits that no one could love him more than Tess, who was willing to sacrifice her life for him. This makes Angel realize his mistake, and he advises Izz to forget about his invitation.

During the spring, summer, and early fall, Tess earns a living by doing light farm work without using the money given to her by Angel. However, after the harvest season, Tess finds herself in a difficult financial situation and is forced to use some of the money. Despite this, she holds onto the hope that Angel will return to her soon. Unbeknownst to her, Angel is ill in Brazil. Tess avoids indoor work and decides to head towards an upland farm where her friend Marian is employed. Along the way, she encounters the Trantridge man who previously insulted her before her marriage. Fearing for her safety, Tess runs away from him and takes refuge in a forest, where she sleeps on a bed of dry leaves. During her rest, she hears strange sounds and wakes up to find herself surrounded by dying pheasants who were shot by hunters. Tess feels ashamed that she had previously thought her own problems were worse than the pain and suffering of the wounded birds. Moved by pity, Tess shows mercy and puts the dying pheasants out of their misery by snapping their necks.

The day after, Tess arrives at the desolate and featureless Flintcomb-Ash farm, which is cold and barren. She is given a demanding job that involves strenuous physical labor. Marian is surprised by Tess's appearance and reassures her that she doesn't blame either her or Angel for whatever occurred between them. Tess and Marian work together storing turnip roots and reminisce about their time at Talbothays Dairy. Tess refuses to wear her wedding ring and clothes or use Angel's name and becomes irritated when Marian asks about him. In the winter, Izz Huett joins them, but Tess struggles with the physically demanding task of drawing reeds and is harassed by her boss, who happens to be the same man from Trantridge who insulted her before her marriage.

Marian accidentally reveals that Angel invited Izz to his home, causing Tess to decide to talk to Clare about it. She tries to write a letter to him but gives up, feeling that she doesn't deserve his help. Later, in December, Tess walks 15 miles to Angel's parents' house in Emminster, but they're not home. While waiting for them, she hears Angel's brothers and Mercy Chant criticizing Angel's marriage. Mercy Chant takes Tess's boots to give to someone in need, and feeling rejected by the Clare family, Tess leaves and returns to Flintcomb-Ash. She doesn't realize that Angel's parents would have been more understanding than his brothers.

As Tess makes her way home, she notices a group of people gathered around a traveling preacher. To her surprise, the preacher's voice sounds familiar, almost identical to her seducer, Alec. As she turns the corner and takes a closer look, she realizes that the man is indeed, Alec D'Urberville.

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