"The Rally" is the next stage in Tess's development [rally: a renewal or recovery of strength, activity, health, etc.]. Just as, in the world of plants and lower animals, life renews itself in the spring, so life is renewing in Tess. As Tess journeys to the Froom Valley, she "felt akin to the landscape" (page 102). Though she may feel cut off from society and the community at Marlott, she is still a part of nature and subject to its laws, including the renewal of life. Thus, Tess still has a chance for survival and fulfillment, in nature.

D.H. Lawrence ascribes the wonder and beauty of Hardy's novels to his view of nature and the superiority of its laws to society's laws:

The vast, unexplored morality of life itself, what we call the immorality of nature, surrounds us in its eternal incomprehensibility.... And this is the quality Hardy shares with the great writers, Shakespeare or Sophocles or Tolstoi, this setting behind the small action of his protagonists the terrific action of unfathomed nature; setting a smaller system of morality, the one grasped and formulated by the human consciousness within the vast, uncomprehended and incomprehensible morality of nature or of life itself, surpassing human consciousness.


The twenty year old Tess journeys again, this time to the lush Froom Valley, where nature fulfills itself on a large scale. It is known as the Vale of the Great Dairies, in comparison to Tess's home, the fertile Vale of Blackmore, which is known as the Vale of Little Dairies. As she walks, she is mastered by "The irresistible, universal, automatic tendency to find sweet pleasure somewhere, which pervades all life" (page 103). This tendency, which Hardy also calls the appetite to joy, fills Tess with "vitality" (another word for sexuality?), which she represses (page 126). The appetite for joy is a mechanism nature uses for reproduction.

Nature's fulfillment becomes so intense that it even becomes painful; the udders of the cows are so full of milk that the veins stand out and they leak.


The intensity of nature's push to regeneration or reproduction sweeps every living being along. It is an imperative force which drives Izz Huett to kiss the mouth of Angel Clare's shadow. Its mercilessly grip torments Izz, Retty, and Marion one hot summer night:
            The air of the sleeping-chamber seemed to palpitate with the hopeless passion of the girls. They writhed feverishly under the oppressiveness of an emotion thrust on them by cruel Nature's law–an emotion which they had neither expected nor desired. The incident of the day had fanned the flame that was burning the inside of their hearts out, and the torture was almost more than they could endure. The differences which distinguished them as individuals were abstracted by this passion, and each was but portion of one organism called sex. (page 147)
Though they may find Angel personally attractive and romantic, they are driven in this passage by an impersonal sexual drive. Angel is the object of their passion because of the urgency of a physical sexual drive; because they are overwhelmed by the same sexual passion, Hardy says they are part "of one organism called sex." Hardy's view of nature encompasses its joys and its hardships; he lyrically describes nature's joy and fruition and also depicts nature's harshness and inexorability; the three maids in their passion experience both these aspects of nature, which is "ecstasizing them to a killing joy" (page 147).


Because Tess and Angel are subject to nature's drive to joy and fulfillment, they are swept away by biological forces in their courtship, "converging, under an irresistible law, as surely as two streams in one vale" (page 129). The expression of that drive takes different forms in Tess and Angel. Hearing Angel play the harp, Tess is drawn through a weed-overgrown garden "rank with juicy grass, which sent up mists of pollen at a touch, and with tall, blooming weeds emitting offensive smells–weeds whose red and yellow and purple hues formed a polychrome as dazzling as those of cultivated flowers" (page 123). Cuckoo-spittle stains her skirt, she steps on snails, and thistle-milk and slug-slime rub on her arms. These vivid, specific details are an excellent example of Hardy's ability to make us see the scene or person he is describing; because of their physicality, I have always thought an artist could use them to create a painting. With these details, Hardy realistically paints nature's variety, its simultaneous ugliness and beauty, repulsiveness and attracting force. They also show Tess's integration into nature; at this point she is not separated from nature by society's morality or by Angel's intellect or thinking.

The sensuality and sexuality of fulfillment in late summer are overwhelming and even painful; it is then that sexual desire masters Angel. Notice, in the first paragraph, the intensity of ripeness so full it seems about to burst . Sexuality is implicit in words like "rush of juices," "fertilization," and "impregnated." Is there a sense of orgasm in the first paragraph and the release after orgasm in the second paragraph?

Amid the oozing fatness and warm ferments of the Froom Vale, at a season when the rush of juices could almost be heard below the hiss of fertilization, it was impossible that the most fanciful love should not grow passionate. The ready bosoms existing there were impregnated by their surroundings.
            July passed over their heads, and the Thermidorian weather which came in its wake seemed an effort on the part of Nature to match the state of hearts at Talbothays Dairy. The air of the place, so fresh in the spring and early summer, was stagnant and enervating now. Its heavy scents weighed upon them, and at mid-day the landscape seemed lying in a swoon. Ethiopic scorchings browned the upper slopes of the pastures, but there was still bright-green herbage here where the watercourses purled. And as Clare was oppressed by the outward heats, so was he burdened inwardly by waxing fervour of passion for the soft and silent Tess. (pages 148-9)
In the second paragraph the parallel between high temperatures and the heat that sexual desire produces is obvious. What does a phrase like "Ethiopic scorchings" suggest about Angel's feelings? Why is he "burdened" by his growing passion for Tess? Does the reference to"fanciful love" clash, however mildly, with the rest of the paragraph? A fanciful love originates in the imagination or is nourished in the mind, not in nature. The expression of this is indirect; Hardy does not simply, explicitly say, "The most fanciful love grew passionate." Is it appropriate that a somewhat convoluted or complex sentence describes a love generated in the mind? Does the use of two negatives, "impossible" and "not," suggest some resistence to the natural drive, which must overcome fanciful love by force? Is Angel's love "fanciful," at least to some extent?


The positive or wholesome effect nature may have on those who work on the soil and are still connected to nature can be seen in the farm laborers at Trantridge. Though they are a rougher, harder drinking group than the folk at Marlott and the workers at Talbothays Dairy, they retain their connection to nature. At the dance, their harmony with nature allows them to be swept up by natural sexual force. They become "a sort of vegeto-human pollen" (page 61), part of the generative movement that sweeps through nature and connects all life, plants and animals, human and non-human alike. Uninhibited by false social laws, they are carried along by the sexual urge; they repeatedly change partners until they are "suitably matched" (page 62). In this they contrast with Marion, Izz, and Retty, who are fully aware of the social differences that separate them from Angel. The dance passage uses the image of pollen to express natural or uninhibited human sexuality. The pollen metaphor recurs in the courtship of Tess and Angel; as Tess listens to his harp, "the floating pollen seemed to be his notes made visible" (page 123).

Drunk as the Trantridge workers are on their way home, they each perceive a halo of light around themselves, the effect of the moonlight. Their

erratic motions seemed an inherent part of the irradiation and the fumes of their breathing a component of the night's mist; and the spirit of the scene, and of the moonlight, and of Nature seemed harmoniously to mingle with the spirit of wine. (page 67)
Their integration into nature could hardly be stated more directly nor more lyrically. Hardy comments that drunkenness could "scarce injure permanently" these "children of the open air" (page 67).


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 15, 2002