Guilt prompts Tess to resist her attraction to Angel; similarly, scruples about damaging her life move Angel to resist expressing his love. However, the appetite for joy and nature's drive to reproduction and fulfillment carry them into an engagement and marriage. Nature, unfortunately, proves unable to overcome either the misconceptions each has of the other or the conventions and social rules that Angel and Tess have internalized.

The meaning of the title, "The Consequence," is not as clear cut as previous titles. What is the consequence? and what is the source of the consequence? Possible sources are Tess's sexual experience, her rally, her guilt and need to confess, nature's drive to joy and fulfillment, or the marriage of Tess and Angel. What do you think?


Both Tess and Angel are deluded about the true character of the other. Because of her unfortunate experience with Alec, Tess overestimates Angel's moral integrity and his personal superiority to herself. Initially she sees him not as a man but as an "intelligence" (page 126); she learns, to her sorrow, how hard his reliance on intellect can make him. She admires his self-control and sense of duty in making no effort to seduce Marion, Izz, and Retty, even though all three would be easy prey because of their love for him. She well knows the suffering that he could cause them. Tess attributes a chivalrous, honorable attitude toward women to Angel, who
was far from all that she thought him in this respect; absurdly far, indeed; but he was, in truth, more spiritual than animal; he had himself well in hand, and was singularly free from grossness. Though not cold-natured, he was rather bright than hot–less Byronic than Shelleyan; could love desperately, but with a love more especially inclined to the imaginative and ethereal; it was a fastidious emotion which could jealously guard the loved one against his very self. (pages 193-4)
This passage stresses his intellectuality--"spirituality," "imaginative," and "ethereal," which originate in the mind; his predisposition to the mind is contrasted with "grossness," i.e., the sexual or animal, which is the channel for nature's drives. "Bright" connotes mind, which predominates in Shelley; "hot" connotes passion, which predominates in Byron. His love, being fastidious, is the product of the mind or imagination [fastidious: paying careful attention to detail; difficult to please; excessively scrupulous or sensitive, especially concerning what is proper or customary]. What does Hardy mean when he says that Angel's fastidious love could "guard the loved one against his very self"? Is he protecting her against his baser nature? is he protecting his own idea of her? or does it mean something else altogether?

Angel perceives Tess as "a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature" (page 121). The idea of her purity recurs in Angel's thoughts and in conversations about her with his parents. Unfortunately for Tess, his idea of "purity" and "virtue" is conventional and narrow; he equates them with physical virginity. Angel seems intellectually liberated; he does not subscribe to the religious beliefs of his father and brothers and refuses to become a minister. In reality, his underlying emotions and basic principles remain conventional, perhaps as conventional as theirs. Angel chooses intellect and ideas over emotion and instinct; in this, he contrasts with Tess who is "a vessel of emotions." In the crisis of their wedding night, his ideas have more influence than his feelings, the appetite for joy, and the drive to reproduction. A similar conflict between his expressed beliefs and underlying values exists in his view of families glorious in the past; from a political point of view, he scorns them and regards their descendants as doomed to failure, but from an imaginative or poetic point of view, he sees their glamor and romance. From a social point of view, he is pleased with Tess's ancestry, which he thinks will make her more socially acceptable; does this make him a snob?

Their misunderstandings about each other contribute to their alienation on their wedding night.

Tess makes two attempts to confess her past to Angel. The first time his indulgent attitude causes her to retreat and tell him about her d'Urberville ancestry. The second time, her letter slips under the rug, so that this effort to confess also fails. Are circumstances stacked against her, or does she bear responsibility for not telling him about her past? Would her telling him before marriage have made any difference?

Once they are married, Tess's spirits become depressed by a series of occurrences–the cock's crowing, Angel's reference to the d'Urberville coach, the horrid women in the portraits, and Retty's suicide attempt. Immediately after the ceremony she wonders whether she has any right to be his wife, whether her real husband is Alec. Hardy compares her fear that their marriage might be "ill-omened" to a quotation from Romeo and Juliet, "These violent delights have violent ends" (page 216). Does the reference to Romeo and Juliet, who were star-crossed lovers, i.e., were doomed by circumstances, suggest that Tess and Alec too are doomed by circumstances? Was chance operating against her when he did not dance with her when she was still a virgin? But would she have attracted him then? He did not choose her then because she was indistinguishable from the other country girls; Hardy notes that discerning strangers might notice her freshness but to "to almost everybody she was a fine and picturesque country-girl, and no more" (page 10). Would Angel have been that discerning stranger? And would the inexperienced vessel of emotion that Tess was then have interested him? Angel first notices her when she explains how watching stars induces an out-of-body experience, but is it her "liberal education" or sexual experience which has given her the depth and individuality that hold his attention?

Angel is moved to confess his sexual transgression on their wedding night. Like Tess, he wanted to confess during their courtship; unlike her, he made no effort to tell, afraid he might lose her. She warmly and immediately forgives him, and he accepts her forgiveness easily, "Then we will dismiss it at once and forever!" (page 227). Tess is "almost glad" at his lapse because she thinks it is the same as hers and that he will forgive her just as she has forgiven him. The details hint that her revelation will have an unfortunate outcome, with the reference to the Last Day and to her diamond necklace having "a sinister wink like a toad's" (page 227).

This section ends with her confession and ends the rally in the Froom Valley. Is it meaningful that the death of her rally occurs in a home of her dead d'Urberville ancestors or is it a meaningless coincidence? Is her personal history repeating her family history? As the d'Urbervilles decayed into the Durbeyfields, does Tess experience a deterioration in her status and 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 15, 2002