Thomas Hardy was able to write a powerful novel with a lasting effect. I have read Tess of the d'Ubervilles in the past, I read it again today and I am still impressed by the mastery of the storyline. Tess, the daughter of uneducated peasants, is victim of the libertine Alec d'Uberville. To escape her dishonor she leaves her family home and finds an employment as milkmaid. There she falls in love with Angel Clare. But when he offers to marry her, she is not able to tell him the truth about her dealing with Alec. I will stop here the summary in case a reader of this blog has never heard about Tess of the d'Ubervilles. It is sufficient to say that the tale will not end well in the puritan Victoria England.
As beautiful as the story is, I always felt extremely frustrated. Tess is a perpetual victim in the book, despite her strong character. She is a victim of men, one criminal (Alex), the other one too weak to fight for her before it is too late (Angel). She is a victim of her time, where the rape was not recognized as a crime but was instead considered a dishonor for the harmed woman. She is a victim of her social background. As a peasant in an impoverished countryside she does not get the education that would allow her to escape her fate.
Tess of the d'Ubervilles is considered with reason one of the masterpiece of literature. A classic that is worth to read and re-read as it still resonates strongly today.
Author: Thomas Hardy
Publisher: Free book, belongs to the public domain