With the journeys to Flintcomb-Ash and to the Clare home, Tess's
PHASE THE FIFTH: THE WOMAN PAYS
THE ANIMAL AND HUNT IMAGERY
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?
NATURE AND FLINTCOMB-ASH
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
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?
THE VISIT TO ANGEL'S PARENTS
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,
DISCUSSION OF TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES