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 Seventh: Fulfillment, Chapters 53–59: Summary

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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

Angel Clare arrives back in Emminster in such a weakened state from his illness that his parents have trouble identifying him. His mother questions why Angel is so worried about a young country girl, to which Angel discloses that Tess belongs to the prestigious D'Urberville family that has been around for ages.

Angel wrote to Marlott in search of Tess, but Joan replied, saying that Tess had left and she would inform Angel when Tess returned. This made Angel feel regretful about how he had treated Tess. He questioned why he didn't see her in a more positive light and judged her based on her actions rather than her intentions. Angel's father told him that Tess never asked for money during her stay with the Clares, and Angel started to understand the extent of Tess's hardships.

Angel visits Flintcomb-Ash to find Tess and then travels to Marlott. During his absence, Tess has not used her married name. In Marlott, Angel realizes that Tess and her family no longer reside in their cottage, which is now occupied by a family who are unaware of Tess's past. While there, he notices the elaborate headstone of John, which highlights his prestigious lineage. When Angel discovers that the stone carver has not been paid, he performs a kind deed by settling the debt, thus helping the Durbeyfields.

Angel successfully locates Joan in Kingsbere, though their meeting is uncomfortable. Joan informs Angel that Tess currently resides in Sandbourne, a nearby tourist destination, but Joan does not know her exact whereabouts. The following day, Angel travels to Sandbourne and inquires about either a Mrs. Clare or Miss Durbeyfield, but his search proves fruitless. However, a postman suggests that there is a Mrs. D'Urberville staying at a boarding house called The Herons. Angel introduces himself to the landlady and is surprised to find Tess descending the staircase.

Tess has undergone a significant transformation and is now wearing expensive attire, which was most likely gifted to her by D'Urberville. Angel is begging for forgiveness and has finally come to value Tess for who she truly is. However, Tess responds with despair, stating that it's too late as D'Urberville has won her over, and she no longer cares about the consequences. The couple stands motionless, almost as if they're appealing for some kind of protection from the harsh truth.

Mrs. Brooks, the owner of The Herons, is not typically interested in others' affairs. However, when Angel visits, she becomes curious and listens in on Tess and Alec's conversation through the keyhole. Tess is heard scolding Alec for being the reason Angel left her again, and Alec responds angrily. Shortly after, Mrs. Brooks notices a possible bloodstain on the ceiling above her and summons a worker to investigate. The worker enters the D'Urberville suite and discovers that Alec D'Urberville has been fatally stabbed.

While Angel has gone to the train station, he notices a woman named Tess running towards him. Tess wishes to inform her husband that she is responsible for the death of D'Urberville. Although Angel is skeptical of this news, he becomes very caring towards his wife and feels the need to protect her. So they start walking on secluded footpaths towards the north. Eventually, they come across Bramshurst Court, an unoccupied mansion available for rent, and decide to seek shelter there.

Angel and Tess have an agreement not to talk about anything that occurred after they got married. They spend five days in seclusion, experiencing happiness and forgiveness for past mistakes. However, their presence is eventually discovered by the caretaker. Tess is reluctant to leave, but they plan to escape from England through a northern port town.

On that particular night, they come across a group of stone columns that emit a strange humming noise when the wind blows. Angel recognizes the location as Stonehenge, the old sanctuary where pagans used to offer sacrifices to the sun. Tess lies down on a slab that serves as an altar. Tess proposes that Angel marry her younger sister, Liza-Lu, who possesses all of Tess's good traits without any of her flaws, once she is no longer around. Angel is taken aback by this suggestion.

At daybreak, Angel observes a crowd of men approaching the old monument and urges them to wait until Tess wakes up before bothering her. Tess accepts her capture when she wakes up, saying that it is fitting and that she is prepared for it. The setting then changes to Wintoncester, which was formerly the capital of Wessex.

Angel and 'Liza-Lu are standing on a hill outside of the city, and they can see a prominent and unattractive red-brick prison that dominates the city's view. As they watch, a black flag rises over the jail, indicating that Tess Durbeyfield has been executed. This event is described as the fulfillment of justice and the conclusion of Tess's fate, in a manner that parallels the Greek concept of the President of the Immortals, who has concluded his game with her.

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Phase the Sixth: The Convert, Chapters 45–52: Summary