With the journeys to Flintcomb-Ash and to the Clare home, Tess's decline accelerates.


Hardy uses animal imagery to indicate Tess's sensuality and sexuality and her harmony with nature. At Talbothays, she yawns, and Alec sees "the red interior of her mouth as if he had been a snake.... The brim-fulness of her nature breathed from her" (page 169). She is "warm as a sunned cat" (page 179). There is neither artificiality nor social constraint in her actions, her feelings, or her body.

On the journey to Flintcomb-Ash, the animal imagery begins to change. She still maintains her connection to nature, being like "the wild animal in the unreflecting instinct with which she rambled on–disconnecting herself by littles from her eventful past at every step, obliterating her identity" (page 278). Outside society, she is still part of the natural cycle of life and so has the possibility of fulfillment. But her past, with the connections to Alec and Angle, individualizes her and cuts her off from the natural cycle of renewal. her appearance draws male attention and makes her a "hunted soul" (page 279). The imagery of Tess as a hunted or trapped animal occurs earlier in the novel. For a sympathetic Hardy, the young Tess was victimized by Alec "like a bird in a springe" (page 197); a springe is a trap which is set off by the lightest touch. With the journey to Flintcomb-Ash, the hunted and trapped images increase in number and emotional intensity, until Tess seems "harried from place to place at what seems like gradually increasing speed" (John Holloway).

Tess's prospects in nature are not hopeless, whatever her situation may be in society's judgment. She sleeps under a tree a tree which wounded and dying pheasants fall out of. Here Tess is associated with literal birds who have been hunted to death, yet she is not identical with them. She is still able to make choices and to act; to end their suffering, she tenderly wrings their necks. She compares her situation to theirs and feels encouraged, "I be not mangled, and I be not bleeding, and I have two hands to feed and clothe me" (page 281). She feels ashamed of her self-pity and hopelessness of the previous night, which were "based on nothing more tangible than a sense of condemnation under an arbitrary law of society which had no foundation in nature" (pages 281-2). At Flintcomb-Ash, however, Tess finds herself caught in a threatening position between Car Datch and her sister and Farmer Groby, "like a bird caught in a clap-net" (page 294). Does their reappearance suggest the inescapable nature of the past in society and the cyclical repetition of past? Does her stay at Flintcomb-Ash suggest a happy or even positive future for Tess?


Flintcomb-Ash is indeed, as Marion described it, a starve-acre place. Nature is brutal and life a struggle. The feebleness of the life force is symbolized by the half eaten and frozen turnips, which even have phallic shapes. The birds of Flintcomb-Ash are "gaunt, spectral creatures with tragical eyes–eyes which had witnessed scenes of cataclysmal horror in inaccessible arctic regions... that no man could endure" (pages 290-1). The slightly ominous birds of the Froom Valley, who were subject to the inexorable laws of nature, contrast with the traumatized birds of Flintcomb-Ash, who have experienced a nature so cruel that human beings could not survive it. Is there a hint here that Tess may not be able to survive? The near-sterility of Flintcomb-Ash obviously contrasts with the fertility and fulfillment of the Froom Valley.

The course of Tess's life parallels the seasons. The novel opens in late May, a hopeful time when life renews. She arrives at the d'Urberville home in late spring; her parents hoped for financial support from the wealthy d'Urbervilles, and Tess hopes to earn enough to replace their horse. A few years later, she has a renewal or rally in the spring. Her courtship with Angel takes place over the summer, a time of ripening and fulfillment in nature and of love and happiness in her life. She spends the winter, a time of death in nature, at Flintcomb-Ash. If Tess's life follows a natural cycle, does this mean that the course of her life is predetermined or fated?


Amid the lifelessness of Flintcomb-Ash, Tess has a renewal of hope and possible happiness with her plan to appeal to Angel's parents. The trip itself proves to be a false hope and an unfortunate coincidence puts her in Alec's way once again.

Does her trip to Emminster fail because of coincidence? She arrives when the entire Clare household is at church. Would arriving when her in-laws were home have changed the outcome of her visit and her life? She overhears the conversation of Angel's brothers which discourages her. Hardy suggests that it is unfortunate that she encounters the brothers rather than their more compassionate father. The brothers' conversation makes her feel "almost as if she had been hounded up that hill like a scorned thing" (page 304). Is her reaction inevitable or is it caused some personal trait(s) in Tess, like pride? She leaves "without knowing that the greatest misfortune of her life was this feminine loss of courage at the last and critical moment through her estimating her father-in-law by his sons" (page 304). Does she fail because of cowardice as a woman?

To what extent the consequences of these journeys seal her doom? Do the consequences arise out of her character, the past, coincidence, etc.?


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