Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Tess of the D’Urbervilles Essay
Hardy describes vividly the relationship between social context and the fate of the individual. How does the novel represent the connection between individual and society?

In Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles Tess is portrayed as a tragic and innocent girl placed in a cruel world swept helplessly along by the events of the novel. Hardy uses Tess’s story to express his feelings about many issues that surfaced during the Victorian era.   His social commentary alerts the reader to society’s   seeming innocence,   its strict moral codes enforced upon women, and the ways in which the increased use of machinery on the land threatens   traditional ways of completing tasks. Hardy rebels against these conventions, alerting Tess to the fact that while she is a part of society, she does not necessarily need to conform to the expectations of an outdated, non-progressive society.   He places Tess in   difficult situations in order for her to realise that she has the power to become an independent woman, not merely a by-product of the era in which she is living. Although Tess finds it impossible to escape her ultimate fate because of the historical and cultural context in which she lives, she develops an individuality that would appear to be impossible at the beginning of the novel. The notion of the individual and society is a complex one and will be further explored below.

Tess inhabits the Victorian era where religion, purity and social class are extremely important. Hardy challenges these social conventions by introducing Tess as an innocent, pure girl who loses her innocence and purity after being raped.   With societal expectations demanding that women remain chaste until after wedlock, Tess thwarts these demands and produces a child from the sexual assault. When Tess returns from Trantridge after being raped, people in the church are gossiping about her, “she knew what their whispers were about, grew sick at heart and felt she could come to...