Tess of the d'Urbervilles Phase the Seventh: Fulfillment, Chapters 53–59: Summary and Analysis
by Thomas Hardy

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Phase the Seventh: Fulfillment, Chapters 53–59: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
A family of farm laborers: the new inhabitants of the cottage where the Durbeyfields once lived

Mrs. Brooks: a generally uncurious landlady at a fashionable Sandbourne lodging-house

A Sandbourne workman: the first to view D’Urberville’s corpse

The caretaker at Bramshurst Court: a woman who oversees a property for its owners

Sixteen policemen: hunters of a wanted murderess

Angel Clare returns home to Emminster so ravaged by his illness that his parents can scarcely recognize him. When his mother wonders why Angel is so anxious about a “mere child of the soil,” Angel reveals that Tess is a member of the ancient D’Urberville family.

Angel sends a letter to Marlott looking for Tess. A reply comes from Joan, who informs him that Tess is gone from her, but that she will write Angel when she returns. Angel is chastened by his treatment of Tess. He wonders why he did not view his wife “constructively rather than biographically, by the will rather than by the deed.” His father tells him Tess never asked the Clares for any money during his sojourn, and Angel begins to realize how much Tess has suffered.

Angel goes to Flintcomb-Ash in search of Tess and then on to Marlott. He learns Tess has not used her married name in his absence. In Marlott, he discovers Tess and her family are no longer living at their cottage, which is now inhabited by a family concerned only with its own circumstances and completely ignorant of Tess’s history. Angel sees the elaborately carved headstone of John, which details his illustrious ancestry. When he discovers the carver has not been paid, he does a good turn for the Durbeyfields by paying off the bill.

Angel is able to find Joan at Kingsbere. Their meeting is awkward, but Joan tells him Tess is at Sandbourne, a local resort town, at an address unknown to Joan.

Angel Clare arrives in Sandbourne the next day. Asking around for a Mrs. Clare or a Miss Durbeyfield, Angel receives no information. A local postman says there is a Mrs. D’Urberville at a lodging house called The Herons. When Angel announces himself to the landlady, Tess herself descends the stairs.

It is a much-changed Tess: she is dressed in luxurious clothes, evidently given her by D’Urberville. Angel pleads for forgiveness. He now appreciates Tess for what she is. “Too late, too late!” cries Tess in response; D’Urberville has won her back; she no longer cares what happens to her. The unhappy pair stand paralyzed, seeming to “implore something to shelter them from reality.”

The landlady of The Herons, Mrs. Brooks, is a usually incurious woman, but Angel’s visit leads her to eavesdrop at the keyhole of Tess and Alec’s room. She hears Tess remonstrating Alec for causing her to lose Angel a second time, and she hears Alec’s sharp reply. A little while later, she notices what seems to be a bloodstain on the ceiling above her. She flags down a local workman, who goes into the D’Urberville suite and discovers that Alec D’Urberville has been stabbed to death.

Meanwhile, Angel has gone to the train station. Running towards him, he sees, is a woman—Tess, who wishes to tell her husband that she has killed D’Urberville. Though he scarcely believes this news, Angel is at last completely tender toward his wife. He must now be her protector. The pair walk northward on remote footpaths. When they see a mansion called Bramshurst Court, unoccupied because it is for rent, they decide to take refuge there.

By unspoken consent, Angel and Tess do not speak of anything that happened after their marriage. They spend five days of bliss isolated from the world, experiencing “affection, union, error forgiven,” until the caretaker notices their presence. Tess does not want to, but they leave, planning an escape from England out of a northern port town.

That night, they stumble across a series of stone pillars which make an odd humming sound in the wind. Angel realizes the place is Stonehenge, the ancient temple at...

(The entire section is 1,568 words.)