Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

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Phase the Third: The Rally, Chapters 16–19: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Dairyman Crick: the kindly and welcoming manager of Talbothays Dairy

Angel Clare: a 26-year-old looking for a direction in life

Reverend Clare: an earnest, traditional minister scandalized by his son’s freethinking nature

Summary
On a “thyme-scented” May morning, Tess leaves her home for the second time. She is sorry to depart, but she knows her younger siblings will fare better without the presence of their immoral sister.

She travels to the Valley of the Great Dairies, towards Talbothays Dairy. She mentally compares this valley to her native Vale of Blackmoor and notes the immense scale and natural beauty of her destination: “The world was drawn to a larger pattern here…the new air was clear, bracing, ethereal.” The main river in the valley of her new home is “as clear as the pure River of Life shown to the Evangelist.” Tess begins to feel hope for the future, and is inspired by the “universal…tendency to find sweet pleasure somewhere.” She is going to live through her humiliation at the hands of D’Urberville.

Tess meets the master-dairyman of Talbothays, Richard Crick, more commonly known as Dairyman Crick. He greets her warmly, and Tess immediately sets to work milking a cow. Getting to work makes her feel she is laying a new foundation for her future.

The dairyworkers listen to a humorous story from Dairyman Crick. From behind a cow, a male voice utters a rather high-toned reaction. When Tess sees the speaker, she remembers with a start that this was the same man who walked away from the Marlott club-dance without dancing with her. Tess fears to be recognized by this man, but he does not remember her. When she asks her fellow milkmaids who he is, they tell her the man is Angel Clare, a parson’s son here to become a gentleman farmer. He is, they say, an intellectual “too much taken up wi’ his own thoughts to notice girls.”

Angel Clare found his way to Talbothays via a roundabout and unlikely route. His father, the Reverend Clare, is a well-known Evangelical minister who assumes his son Angel will go to Cambridge University prior to a career in the Church of England. Angel, however, has been struck by doubts about his father’s religion. Angel scandalizes his father by ordering a book about religious reform. In the ensuing argument, Angel reveals that he does not believe in one of the primary Articles of Religion of the Church of England and that he has doubts about much of this religion, thus disqualifying him from religious service. To the father, it has always been a family tradition that Cambridge is a “stepping-stone to Orders alone.” Angel and his father agree Angel will not go to Cambridge, but will attempt a different path in life.

Angel drifts through several desultory years, marked by development of unorthodox opinions and a brief affair with an older woman in London, until he decides he will become a gentleman farmer. To prepare himself for this career, he is undertaking a series of residencies at different farms to learn all aspects of agriculture. Presently, he finds himself at Talbothays. The effects of this natural, friendly environment on him are beneficial. Surrounded by people of an unfamiliar class, he becomes impressed by the realization of their humanity and individuality; he sees them as people of real worth, instead of looking down on them as mere farm workers. He loses his melancholy and makes a new acquaintance with the world around him.

Angel does not notice Tess until a few days after her arrival. When she asserts that “I do know that our souls can be made to go outside our bodies when we are alive,” Angel’s ears perk up and he remarks to himself, “What a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature that milkmaid is!” He is sure he has seen this woman before, perhaps on a countryside walk, but can’t remember where. The coincidence lodges Tess in his mind, in preference to the dairy’s other pretty milkmaids.

After several days, Tess notices that the...

(The entire section is 1,761 words.)