Is Tess a Victim of Society? Research Paper on the Tess of the D' Ubervilles Novel

2021-07-21 13:39:39
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University of Richmond
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Research paper
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In the last two centuries, much has happened in the society as it pertains the situation of women and looking back one might be taken aback by how far as a society we've come. In the modern society, as a woman, one can do anything she wills to do, but at times the community takes a woman's action of less importance. In the Victorian society in the 19th century, men always were at the forefront in formulating the customs and the laws. In Hardy's Tess of the D' Ubervilles, Tess is a character to sympathize with for all she undergoes in the Victorian society. She lives in a society where which family one is born to matters, which gender one, is equally matters, and the reaction of the church matters in some circumstances. In the research, the focus is going to be, bringing light that Tess is a victim of the society she lives in. There are some aspects that proof that she is a victim of the Victorian society. The first aspect is that she is a woman. The second aspect is that she was born and brought up in a low-income family. The last aspect is that she is one of the church members in the Victorian society.

In the Victorian era, it was not easy being a woman in the male dominated-society (Yu, 71). The women were accorded with many obligations and rendered with very minimal options, and this had consequences for Tess. She is a victim of her gender and finds herself in a situation where she is oppressed by the men. Tess encounters Alec D'Urbervilles her supposedly cousin. Alec is very obsessed with Tess. She then meets the priest's son Angel Clare who is expected to be Tess's guardian but turns out not to be so. Tess is a young, innocent, and beautiful girl according to Hardy. Describing Tess by her looks, the various descriptions of her lips and mouth by the author implies that the young woman is being objectified.

When Tess met Alec at first, he offered her some strawberries and forcefully wants to put them in her mouth. Tess doesn't feel comfortable about this and requests to do it on her own but Alec forces her, and he ends up having his way. This shows how a woman has no say over a man in the Victorian era (Hooti, 630). A woman strictly had to do as the man says. It is in this encounter that Tess is raped by the so-called cousin of her Alec. However, somehow someone may view it as not rape but blames Tess for her ignorance, but in the real sense, it is clear that it is rape. Tess is an innocent victim of what happens in her society where the only people with a say are the men. Therefore, according to Hardy, being a woman one has a less positive influence on anything that happens in the society.

Tess and Angel first met at the May-dance (Hardy, 23). They then find themselves working in the same place and grow fond of each other. However, for Angel, he is in love with the imagination of a perfect woman more than Tess. A human being cannot be perfect, and Tess is no exception, but Angel seems to see Tess as an object as he makes a comparison with the Greek goddess to Tess. The standard he wants Tess to live up to is unachievable in as much Tess loves him. Most of the time this is what happens, men expect a woman to live to some unrealistic expectations so that they can be loved. This at its worst is oppression in the name of love. Since Tess is in love, she and all she yearns for is happiness she doesn't seem to see the oppression signs. When the two got married, they shared their pasts with each other. What's surprising is that despite both of them having a history, Angel ended up rejecting Tess because of her past but Tess forgave him for his past. In Tess's society, there is a clear evidence of double standards. The two had a history, however; it is Angel who is forgiven for his past since he is a man. Thus, this is a clear indication that indeed Tess is a victim of her society because of her sex.

Since she is rejected, Tess goes back the parent's house due to her circumstances. During her stay there, Alec tries to convince her to be his. She denies his marriage proposal continually but later since Tess has no option because Alec has been helpful to her family, she goes and starts living with him. Her looks are always the talk of every man she meets, and so Tess decides to make herself look ugly after all her husband doesn't want her. Correspondingly, in the end, Tess is seen become a sacrificial victim. She is hanged for killing Alec, but the great question is, why blame Tess entirely? Therefore, according to this, it is clear that Tess is a victim of sex in the Victorian society.

It is always true that we never have the freedom to choose to which family we will be born into. In Hardy's Tess of the D' Ubervilles, Tess is not to blame for being born in a family who is poor. She is the firstborn of the family and what makes it more complicated is the fact that she is a girl. The whole family since they were poor the parents included depended on her. Tess's father is told of how their ancestors were wealthy, and he starts to daydream of how different things could have been for his family. Tess's mother suggests that Tess should claim her kin from the lady they heard who bore the name D'Urbervilles. Her mother even thinks that it can turn to be a marriage and this indicates how Tess's family oppresses her because of their poverty (Yu, 72). When the horse that was used to make a living for the family died, Tess had no option than to claim her kin from the old lady even though it seemed dangerous. Thus, by doing all these Tess can be visualized as a victim of the poverty which her parents were in and the motives of her mother that by claiming her kin it would benefit her family or lead her to a good marriage.

Things go wrong for Tess as she goes to claim her kinship. It is there that Alec rapes her and this leads to her pregnancy with no husband. The same mother who had sent her there doesn't like her situation at all and ends up blaming her for not making him fall for her so that she gets to be her wife. However, for the father, he isn't bothered by the same matter. Instead of him working to fend his family, he spends time daydreaming and drinking too much, to a large he can be the one to blame for the situation that Tess is in. Tess goes on working in the fields to care for her child who unfortunately dies. It is at that point that she leaves home to start afresh elsewhere and it is this time she meets Angel who proposes to marry her (Hardy, 83). Their marriage doesn't last for long since after Tess confessed about her past Angel didn't like it and could not forgive her. She goes back to her parents who were the only option.

Once again Tess is a victim of her poor parents when she has to give her parents some money to repair the house. Her situation keeps getting harder by day. At this time Alec is seen coming after her once again, and he expresses his interest in helping Tess's parents. However, there are doubts about his motives. While she is working in the fields, her parents get sick, and she has to take care of them. The father dies, but her mother feels better. She is left to take care of her family, now since she is a girl she cannot inherit the lease, and they have no choice but to vacate their cottage (Hooti, 634). Alec comes and suggests they live at his house, but at first, she refuses. Later since she has no option than take care of her family, she gives in to Alec's wishes, but she is not happy with the arrangement. However, her family is taken care of, but all this is a price that Tess has to pay because of her family's poverty. Thus, indeed Tess is a victim of her family's situation in the society.

In the Victorian society, being poor and being a woman is a tragedy (Yu, 73). It is thus an expectation that the church should help such people who find themselves in some hard situations. For Tess's case, it was not the same for the church since she had an illegitimate child and was not married. Having a child out of wedlock due to rape was not her fault neither was it her fault to be unmarried with a child. It is however seen that when she intends to baptize her child, the church does not allow since they claim the child is illegitimate. Her child dies, she wants to do what is right by burying her child at the churchyard, however, and the church as well does not grant her a chance to do so. Therefore, apparently, Tess falls to the oppression of the religion due to her situation. Thus, this indicates that Tess is a victim of society.

According to religion, it is the responsibility of the children to help the parents in difficulties as it comes with blessings for the Bible says: "Thou shall honor thy father and thy mother." As a good Christian Tess does all this to her parents all the time since they are poor. She is seen going to claim her kin, and a man takes advantage of her and later has to pay the price by giving herself to him so that her family can be taken care of by that man. At the moment Tess is raped, going to church was becoming difficult for her since she had to stay at the back of the church, and people kept gossiping about her saying she is an embarrassment (Jones, 78). The church had the responsibility to help her with the situation she was facing, but unfortunately, it was not the case. She ended up embarrassed and made up her mind to stay indoors and only went out when it was dusk. Through all this happening around her, one can, therefore, allude that indeed Tess is a victim of her church and religion's beliefs in the Victorian society.

Once again we get to see Tess as a victim of her religion in the society the moment she enters Angel's family. She is a simple dairymaid, and the family thinks she is not fit into their exceptional family. Since they cannot approve of their wedding, they fail to attend their wedding (Hooti, 633). Again after the separation, Angel is seen leaving the country, Tess come to ask for help for Angel's parents when she faces difficulties but ends being poorly treated by Angel's brothers. Tess goes back home feeling ashamed and heartbroken from that experience. In her frustration, the church, parishes, Parson and her husband's family should at least have come to her help when she was struggling. Tess seems to be doomed, and Hardy compares her to Even of Garden of Eden. We expect that the family of her husband that had a father and sons who worked for the Lord in they would show some values inculcated in them. They would not have judged her and where she came from and her past especially as her husband did. Since they are Godly people all they could have done is give hope and a house over her head to the poor Tess. Thus, it is clear that Tess is a victim of the religion and church in her society.

Indeed Tess is an epitome of a girl from the countryside who is caught up with the male dominance that is based on the double standards and social prejudice that applies to sexuality in the 19th century. She is engulfed by the society's evil powers. The narrow-mindedness of the society she lives in makes her a victim of the beliefs of virginity and purity. In the male-dominated Victorian society, Tess comes out as a sacrifice. Instead of defining a woman biologically in the Victorian society, she is culturally defined, and this makes women like Tess victims of the society. It is clear that from Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Tess reflects what the society perceived of women. In the 19th century, it is clear that women were trodden to the bottom in the society. The circumstances that Tess finds herself in the society have made her a victim of the society all through in the essay. Being a woman in the male-dominated Victorian society, being born in a low-income family forcing her to work for the family while his father takes no responsibility, and the expectation from the church of her since she is a member is all the circumstances that make...

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