Phase the First: The Maiden, Chapters 5–11: Summary and Analysis
Alec Stoke-D’Urberville: the young son of a wealthy merchant, a dashing, gallant, forceful ladies’ man
Mrs. D’Urberville: an eccentric blind widow and the reluctantly loving mother of Alec
Car Darch: nicknamed Queen of Spades, coarse, aggressive, jealous woman, once linked romantically to Alec.
Nancy Darch: nicknamed the Queen of Diamonds, Car’s sister, also a former favorite of D’Urberville
Car Darch’s mother: a laconic peasant woman with a moustache
Tess is pressured by her mother to approach Mrs. D’Urberville, a rich lady living not far from Marlott. The Durbeyfields believe she is of a junior branch of the D’Urberville family and thus will render the Durbeyfields some material assistance in their time of need. Tess undertakes an initial visit to see Mrs. D’Urberville.
Tess is unsettled by what she sees at the D’Urberville manor, an estate called The Slopes. The house does not fit into its environment; it has been built solely for pleasure and not at all for agricultural functionality. “Everything looked like money—like the last coin issued from the Mint.” The manor exists primarily to show off the wealth of its nouveau riche owners. Tess is disappointed that when she sees the son of the family, Alec D’Urberville, he compares unfavorably to the mental picture she had of her “D’Urberville” relatives as dignified, ancient, and bearing traces of their illustrious past.
Alec announces that his invalid mother cannot see Tess, but that he might be able to help her. Tess feels that her appeal for aid must sound foolish but manages to explain her family’s financial need, occasioned, she admits, by her killing the family’s horse. Alec’s roving eye lights upon Tess’s beauty, her “luxuriance of aspect,” and he keeps her on the estate for a few hours, feeding her freshly-picked strawberries and adorning her with roses.
Tess travels home to report on the visit but finds a letter offering her a job tending the estate’s fowls has preceded her arrival. The letter appears to be in a masculine handwriting. Tess has misgivings, but for the sake of the family, she decides to take the job.
Two days later, Alec D’Urberville arrives for Tess and her belongings. Joan and her children follow along to the edge of town, where Joan has a fleeting moment of doubt about the path on which she has set her daughter.
Alec angers Tess by driving too fast down an incline, which forces Tess to put her arms around Alec so as not to fall out of the carriage. When Tess criticizes Alec, he shows a flash of anger. Alec asks to place just “one little kiss on those holmberry lips.” Tess capitulates icily, offering her cheek to Alec, and he gives her “the kiss of mastery.” To avoid further close contact, Tess lets her hat blow off and will not remount the carriage after picking it up. She angrily walks the rest of the way to The Slopes as Alec drives the carriage alongside her.
Once working at The Slopes, Tess is surprised to learn that Mrs. D’Urberville is blind. She never learns that Mrs. D’Urberville has not heard of their supposed family relation. Tess does her best to fit in and do a good job tending the fowl. Mrs. D’Urberville assigns Tess the odd job of whistling to her pet bullfinches to keep them entertained. Alec, attracted to Tess but biding his time, teaches Tess to whistle.
After several weeks of working, Tess is persuaded to go to a dance one Saturday night in the nearby town of Trantridge. She has been up working since early in the morning and is physically exhausted. When her friends consent to leave the dance, an unfortunate accident results in everyone laughing at Car Darch, a woman who was once favored with D’Urberville’s affections. Car and her sister, Nancy, start a fight with Tess. Along rides Alec D’Urberville, who offers Tess an escape via his carriage. Feeling pleased to remove herself from danger, Tess climbs in.
Alec rides in circles through the dark night,...
(The entire section is 2,372 words.)