Tess of the D'Urbervilles Summary

The novel “Tess Of The D'Urbervilles” written by Thomas Hardy, talks about the struggles of 16-year-old Tess in society. Being born in a challenged financial household, Tess is seen to be taking decisions that fulfill her family's demands, meanwhile herself being trapped in the catacombs. She was the daughter of John and Joan Durbeyfield. Her father comes across Parson Tringham by luck and finds out that he has a lineage with the D'Urbervilles, a very old family line who has a great amount of wealth and land to their name. The lands they owned were all held since the time of William the Conqueror in the year 1066, which meant they had great value. After this revelation, the financially paralyzed Durbeyfield took no time to decide on sending Tess to the D’Urbervilles in hopes of getting some income out of the fortunes they may give Tess. Expectant of the fortune, Tess leaves her jolly teenage life in the village and makes way for the task given by her parents. Upon arriving at the D’Urbervilles mansion, instead of giving her prestigious work for the fortunes she had expected to receive, Alec D'Urberville gives her work in the D'Urberville estate of tending fowls. This may have upset Tess since it hadn't been anything she had been expecting. But she did not complain as she felt responsible for the incident which damaged her family's horses, the only source of good income they once had. She remains unaware of the fact that Mrs. D'Urberville was not actually the D'Urberville lineage her family had thought to be. In fact, Mrs. D'Urberville had been married to a merchant named Simon Stokes who had decided to change his name after retirement. Hence the family name became D'Urberville.

Tess works in the D'Urberville estate for several months now, hoping to scrape together whatever earning she can to send to her family. As time passed, Alec gives her the responsibility of taking care of his mother. Meanwhile, he grows a great interest in her. This in time, develops into an obsessional liking which propels Alec to repetitively pursue Tess. Tess, however, is sure that she does not have any feelings for Alec and continues to reject him. During a fair, Alec then tries to seduce and eventually rapes Tess once he had found her alone in the forest. Devastated by the incident, Tess leaves the D'Urberville estates and makes her way home. She soon finds out that she is pregnant with Alec’s child and decides to keep it. During christening, she names the child Sorrow and decides to live with her family away from the estates. However, she does not witness many good times as Sorrow leaves the world at a very early age. This mentally cripples Tess and she spends a sorrowful year in her own home. After she had started to recover from the trauma, she decides to get back to work in order to help out with her family's income. She soon finds a job as a milkmaid at the Talbothay’s dairy.

Her hours at the Talbothay’s dairy go by merrily. She is able to recover from her past traumas during her time there. She makes new friends at the dairy firm who were also milkmaids like herself and finds out a vast common ground within themselves. Tess is able to relive her younger self who'd loved to spend time happily with her friends. She also comes across a charming young man called Angel Clare. He turns out to be the same guy she had met during the first festival the story opens up with. Even though their romance was left untended previously, this time it is seen to be taking shape. Both Tess and Angel end up falling for each other as time passed between them. The ever-growing love leads Angel to ask Tess’s hand in marriage. Tess, remembering the struggles of her past, continues to reject Angel's persistent proposal but eventually she gives in, knowing how much she loves him. However, the thought of her past being unknown to Angel bothers her and she tries to confront him numerous times but fails. Finally, she decides to leave all the details of her past incidents on a piece of paper for Angel to find but that too gets missed by him. After their wedding the confrontation takes place from both ends. Angel informs Tess about affairs he had with an older woman back in London. Meanwhile Tess decides to open up about all of her past with Alec and Sorrow. Even though Tess did not take a minute to hesitate and forgive Angel, he on the other hand, struggles with accepting Tess. He was having a hard time dealing with Tess’s past and hence ended up asking for time so he can process the whole situation rationally. In this time, he also boards a ship for Brazil in hopes of establishing a business. He asks her to stay back and not to follow him but to wait until he comes to get her back.

As Angel leaves for his work in Brazil, Tess is again left alone with the thought of never getting forgiveness from him. She ends up settling on a job that had unfavorable working conditions and the business itself was also struggling. Tess wishes to visit Angel's family in hopes of getting familiar with them but then she hears his brother speak of Angel's unsuccessful marriage which shatters her. She quickly leaves without confronting anyone and comes across this preacher in the streets. She soon finds out the preacher was none other than Alec D'Urberville. He had been converted to Christianity by Angel's father who was known as Reverend Clare. Both of them remain dumbstruck by the encounter. While Tess is infuriated with rage, Alec approaches her and tells her not to seduce him as he had become a pious person now. Later, he immediately asks for her hand in marriage. Tess, baffled by the turn of events and witnessing Alec’s audacity, decides to refuse his proposal. Alec continues to be persistent with his marriage proposal, meanwhile, Tess remains headstrong.

Tess finds out about the deteriorating health conditions of her mother from her sister Liza Lu. This forces Tess to return home immediately and take care of her mother who was very near to death. However, when her father suddenly dies the entire family is left in shock. They are kicked out of their house soon after her father’s death but Alec shows up to lend a helping hand. Tess still remains headstrong as she is well aware of Alec’s ulterior intentions of only wanting her. As time passed and the probability of Angel returning for Tess slims down, Tess becomes more and more vulnerable to Alec’s lucrative proposal at a time when her family needs the financial backing. Alec also continuously keeps mentioning how the return of Angel was improbable. Having her back against a brick wall, she gives in to Alec’s proposal for the sake of her family’s well-being.

Meanwhile, back in Brazil, Angel realizes how wrong he had been to judge Tess so harshly and decides to go back to her. When he comes back to see her, he finds out she was not in her parent’s home. Joan informs Angel that she had been in Sandbourne which is a luxurious sea beach resort in the south of England. Angel confronts Tess here and sees her living a lavish life as an upper-class woman with Alec D’Urberville. Tess tells Angel how late he had been and that she had waited for him. Heartbroken and desolate, Angel decides to leave meanwhile, Tess is angry and frustrated by the turn of events for her. Angel had been the person she had been in love with and if she had waited for a while longer then they could have been together. She blames it all on Alec and goes upstairs to confront him. Out of rage she lashes out on him, stabbing him with a knife. Understanding what she had done, she flees to Angel and tells him about the incident that had taken place. Meanwhile, the landlady finds the dead body of Alec D’Urberville and notices the absence of Tess. She immediately calls the police and informs them of the murder, hence setting them off on Tess’s tail. Even though this disturbs Angel a great deal, he decides to accept her back as his lover. They both decide to travel out of the country in order to stay untraceable. They spend their time blissfully in an empty house until they are tracked down by the police. Tess is soon arrested for the murder of Alec. Tess requests Angel to marry her little sister Liza and take care of her family after her death. In the city of Wintoncester, Tess had her death penalty carried out. Angel and Liza, torn by the outcome that had befallen on Tess, mourn her death and leave the city to get married as promised.