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 Third: The Rally, Chapters 16–19: Summary

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Last Updated on March 29, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 866

Tess departs from her home again on a May morning that smells of thyme. Although she feels regretful about leaving, she believes that her younger siblings will be better off without her, as she considers herself to be an immoral sister.

She journeys to Talbothays Dairy in the Valley of the Great Dairies and compares it to her home in Vale of Blackmoor. Tess notices the vastness and natural beauty of her new destination, remarking that it follows a larger pattern and the air is fresh and invigorating. The main river in the valley is crystal clear and reminiscent of the River of Life mentioned in the Bible. Tess begins to feel hopeful for the future and is inspired by the universal desire to find happiness. Despite her humiliation by D’Urberville, she is determined to move forward and make a new life for herself.

Tess encounters Richard Crick, also known as Dairyman Crick, the master of the Talbothays dairy. He greets her with warmth, and Tess promptly begins the task of milking a cow. This action instills in her the feeling that she is establishing a fresh basis for her future.

The dairy laborers are being entertained by Dairyman Crick's amusing anecdote when a male voice emanates from behind a cow, expressing a somewhat high-pitched reaction. Upon seeing the speaker, Tess suddenly recalls that he is the same man who had declined to dance with her at the Marlott club-dance. Tess is anxious about being recognized by him, but he doesn't remember her. When she inquires about his identity with her fellow milkmaids, they inform her that he is Angel Clare, the son of a clergyman who is present to train as a gentleman farmer. They describe him as an intellectual who is "too preoccupied with his own thoughts to take notice of girls."

Angel Clare arrived at Talbothays by taking a circuitous and improbable path. His father, who is a renowned Evangelical preacher, expected Angel to attend Cambridge University and eventually follow in his footsteps in the Church of England. However, Angel has become uncertain about his father's faith and has started to question it.

Angel shocks his father by purchasing a book on religious reform, leading to a heated argument in which Angel confesses that he disagrees with one of the main tenets of the Church of England and has doubts about much of the religion, which makes him unfit for religious service. For Angel's father, attending Cambridge is a long-standing family tradition that leads to a career in the church. After much discussion, Angel and his father reach an agreement that Angel will pursue a different path in life instead of attending Cambridge.

Angel spent a few aimless years where he formed unconventional ideas and had a short romantic involvement with an older woman while in London. Eventually, he decided that he wanted to become a gentleman farmer and is currently undergoing a series of internships at various farms to gain knowledge about all aspects of agriculture. He is currently residing at Talbothays farm.

The positive impact of being in a pleasant and welcoming natural environment is evident on him. Being surrounded by people from a different social class, he gains a deeper appreciation of their unique qualities and recognizes their inherent value as individuals. Instead of viewing them as mere laborers, he sees them as important human beings. This experience helps him overcome his sadness and develop a renewed sense of connection to the world around him.

Tess went unnoticed by Angel for a few days after she arrived. However, when she claimed that our souls can leave our bodies while we are alive, Angel became interested in her and thought to himself that she was a pure and innocent daughter of nature. Although he couldn't recall where he had seen her before, he was sure he had seen her somewhere on a countryside walk. This coincidence made Tess stand out in his mind among the other attractive milkmaids in the dairy.

After a few days, Tess realizes that Angel Clare has arranged the cows in a way that allows her to milk the ones that are most comfortable around her. One evening in June, Tess wanders near a garden and hears Clare playing the harp. They have a conversation, during which Tess confesses her fears about life in general. When Angel asks her why she feels this way, Tess expresses her belief that the world is brutal, merciless, and unsympathetic, leading to her dread of the future. Angel is surprised that Tess, a young and innocent milkmaid, is able to articulate the sentiments of her generation, which he refers to as "the ache of modernism."

Tess and Angel spend more time together and become increasingly attracted to each other. Tess feels inferior to Clare because of her lack of education. Angel offers to teach her history, but she declines, feeling that she would be no different from countless others who came before and after her. Tess wonders if her D’Urberville ancestry will impress Clare, who is a student of history. However, she learns from Dairyman Crick that Angel believes old families have lost their usefulness and are now worthless.

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

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Phase the Third: The Rally, Chapters 20–24: Summary