Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

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Phase the Second: Maiden No More, Chapters 12–15: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
The Sign-painter: a man whose evangelical messages unsettle our heroine

The Parson: a vicar whose adherence to established rules nearly outweighs his true religious feelings

Infant Sorrow: Tess’s child by Alec D’Urberville, whom she is forced to baptize and bury without benefit of clergy.

Summary
Several weeks after the night in the Chase, Tess walks home to Marlott, “her views of life” having been “totally changed” by recent experiences. D’Urberville catches up to her in a carriage and offers to ride her home if she is not willing to return to him at Trantridge. Tess refuses to continue being Alec’s “creature,” and turns down his offers of financial help. Alec reiterates these offers, especially “if certain circumstances arise,” an allusion Tess does not pick up on. Alec then bids good-bye to his “four months’ cousin.”

Shortly after this encounter, Tess is overtaken by a man whose avocation is to paint Bible verses on walls in the countryside. After reading his oddly punctuated message, “THY, DAMNATION, SLUMBERETH, NOT,” Tess feels horror and shame that this man seems to know her sinfulness.

At home, Tess first speaks with her mother, who is surprised and upset that Tess does not intend to get Alec to marry her. Joan tells her daughter she should have been more careful if she did not want Alec’s affections to lead to marriage. Tess replies that her mother had not informed her of the danger men represent to women. Despite her disappointment that Tess has ruined a good chance for the family’s advancement, Joan soon is resigned to what her daughter has done, and vows to “make the best of it.”

A few friends visit, and their envy of Tess’s romantic conquest of D’Urberville lifts her spirits, but only temporarily. A few weeks later she attends church, but the whispering of the congregants convinces Tess she is not welcome even there. To avoid such gossipy disapproval, Tess takes long walks at night, hiding herself from the eyes of her fellow villagers while contemplating her own guilt.

By next harvest time, Tess has ended her isolation and participates in the work of reaping wheat. One day at noon Tess nurses her baby in the fields, but later that afternoon it is apparent that the baby, never large or healthy, is now sick and dying. Tess realizes she must get the baby baptized, but her father, inflamed again by pride over his knightly roots, and not wishing anyone to meddle in his domestic affairs, refuses to let the parson in the house. Tess improvises a baptismal ceremony, enlisting the prayers of her younger siblings. Shortly after, the baby dies. When Tess sees the parson, he says Tess’s baptism will save the baby’s soul, but he initially balks at the idea of the baby being buried in consecrated ground. (The baby is buried in a corner of the graveyard.)

Tess remains in isolation all winter, until she realizes that she could never be comfortable in a place which knew about her recent history. Hearing of a summer job at a dairy, coincidentally located not far from her D’Urberville family seat, Tess vows to start a new life there.

Analysis
Phase the Second functions as a transition between Tess’s experiences with Alec and her later life. The title of the Phase gives a sense of the changes Tess is going through physically, spiritually, and psychologically. It is important to realize that Hardy uses the idea of Tess being a “Maiden No More” in a double sense.

In one meaning, Tess is no longer a maiden in the technical, Victorian sense of the term: she is no longer a virgin, having been Alec D’Urberville’s lover. By such reasoning, Tess is a completely different person who no longer can be accorded the respect given to an untouched or a married woman.

Hardy describes Tess’s neighbors in Marlott as making her feel unwelcome at church, where their humanitarian feelings should be most engaged. Hardy uses the language of Victorian morality only to critique it. He wishes to...

(The entire section is 2,426 words.)