A new phase begins in Tess's life when she meets Alec again. His pursuit as much as Angel's rejection determines the course her life now takes. Is arbitrary coincidence at work in her stopping at just the time and just the place where Alec is speaking? Is it coincidence that she stands in the sun so that he notices her movement when she leaves? Is their meeting again inevitable because life follows a pattern or occurs in cycles? Or is it inevitable because her personal past with Alec cannot be escaped in society?

The title of this section applies, ironically enough, to both Alec and Angel. Due to the influence of a stranger (the Reverend Clare), Alec undergoes a religious conversion and becomes a preacher. Due to the influence of a stranger, Angel undergoes an intellectual and emotional conversion which allows him to see Tess's purity and innocence, and he returns to England and to Tess. Alec relapses to his former sensual, womanizing self when he sees Tess. Does Angel also relapse to at least some of his conventional narrow-mindedness when he sees Tess again?


The past repeats itself with Alec's pursuit of a fleeing Tess. Just as he caught up with her when she left Chasborough, so he catches up with her now. Then he accepted her leaving, with some reluctance. Why is he unable to let her go when they meet again? Is it that her beauty has developed distinction and depth as a result of her suffering? Does he want to make up for having "grievously wronged" her, as he claims? Is this the only reason why he proposes marriage? Or is his true sexual nature asserting itself, breaking through his momentary religious enthusiasm? Or is he moved by some combination of these possibilities?

The metaphor of Tess as hunted prey becomes literal with Alec's pursuit of her. Time and again he offers to take care of her and to provide for her family. He seems genuinely distressed at times by the hardship of her time. An increasingly pressured Tess continues to resist Alec. Angered when Alec sneers at her husband, she strikes him with a heavy leather glove and draws blood. Her anger and violence here foreshadow the ending; if they are traits inherited from her d'Urberville ancestors, is she a victim of the past and of circumstance? Tess immediately falls into the role of victim and passive sufferer:

          "Now, punish me!" she said, turning up her eyes to him with the hopeless defiance of the sparrow's gaze before its captor twists its neck. "Whip me, crush me; you need not mind those people under the rick! I shall not cry out. Once victim, always victim–that's the law!" (page 336)
Does Tess seek death? Or is she in despair at the possibility of falling again? This passage shows how helpless she has become since she mercifully twisted the pheasants' necks. Now she is the hunted prey, suffering the pheasants' agony, asking to have her neck twisted. Tess's prospects or possibilities are narrowing, and life offers her no mercy.


The arbitrariness of life kills off her father and allows her mother to recover. The death of her father acquires a grim meaning for his family because of changes occurring in rural society. The lease to their home expires with his death; historical changes are pushing the class to which the Durbeyfields belong out of their homes and communities. So circumstances are hostile to the Durbeyfields. Additionally, Marlott's "respectable" members, who have a narrow code of sexual morality, regard Tess as a bad influence who should leave. Her mother's irresponsibility and lack of foresight cause them to lose their cottage; she becomes angry when advised that Tess should leave and announces her intention to leave. These circumstances combine to force the Durbeyfields to leave their home and Marlott. Tess feels responsible for their eviction and deeply anxious over what will happen to the children. They become literally homeless when the rooms they are moving to are unavailable; Mrs. Durbeyfield did not confirm their rental soon enough. But it is Tess whom she blames for their predicament.

Tess falls again to Alec.

Does she have a choice, or is she overwhelmed by the hopelessness of her family's circumstances, her sense of responsibility for the children, and her loss of faith in Angel's return? Are other traits, like a tendency to self-sacrifice, operating? Has she ever had a choice? Are there times when she does have a choice and her decisions and actions are the result of her character? In answering these questions, consider the ways Tess is economically, socially, and sexually vulnerable, even powerless; how coincidence and historical movements determine events; and the role which her personal past and family past play in her life.


Phase the First: The Maiden
  Chapters 1-11, pages 1-73
Overview of Hardy
The Opening
Tess's Personal Traits
Tess and Alec
Phase the Second: Maiden No More
  Chapters 12-15, pages 74-100
Rape or Seduction?
Phase the Third: The Rally
  Chapters 16-24, pages 101-152
Nature and the Froom Valley
Phase the Fourth: The Consequence
  Chapters 25-34, pages 153-227
Tess and Angel
Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays
  Chapters 35-44, pages 228-307
Tess and Angel Part
Phase the Sixth: The Convert
  Chapters 45-52, pages 308-372
Alec Again
A Pure Woman
Phase the Seventh: Fulfillment
  Chapters 53-59, pages 373-405
The Ending
May 14, 2009