Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

so, I finished Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy for the Classics Challenge... This was one of the most depressing, frustrating things I have ever read.

Tess cannot catch any breaks in life. Part of this is bad luck, part of it is her own fault. When things happen to her, she immediately blames the on herself and takes actions that only serve to make things worse. it is like watching a car accident - you know it is going to end badly, but there is nothing you can do except stand by and watch the carnage.

also, this book is extremely to my largely feminist ideals. I understand that this story took place a long time ago and that things were (drastically) different back then, but still. the ridiculous double standards and unreasonable ideals are just beyond my the realm of my modern-day comprehension. I just cannot understand why any self-respecting (actually, I think that is a big part of the problem here - her entire lack of self-respect) person, woman or otherwise, would put herself so much at the mercy of other people. the whole book is just a long line of people using her as a doormat. I don't care if it is for love or money or whatever, I would not let myself be treated in such a manner. and then, on top of that, to fell guilty and deserving of such treatment? I just don't get it.

having said all of this, I did enjoy the book. just because I don't like the way a story turns out or agree with the actions of a character doesn't mean it isn't a good book. I am glad that it made me feel such strong emotions. I also admire that the author did not give in and give this story a blissful, happy ending. it is refreshing, really.


  1. I agree with you on the Most Depressing Book Ever Title. I felt like, life is hard, then it gets a little more difficult, then it gets even harder, and eventually after being very unhappy for a very long time, you die. I also wanted to slap Tess into next month for being such a wet dish rag.

    My initial reaction was also the same as yours. I would have liked to slap Hardy to for propounding such total codswallop. Since then, however, I’ve begun to ask myself if he wasn’t parodying Victorian life and pointing out that such ridged adherence to religious ideals was damaging in itself. I don’t know if that’s what readers would have thought back then, but it’s certainly what I got out of it. I intend to do some research on this one sometime.

    If you haven’t read it already, try The Return of the Native by Hardy. He must have been on Happy Pills when he wrote that one because it’s actually pleasant, especially in comparison to most of his other works. Just as a mention, The Woodlander will royally tick you off in the women’s lib area, so if that angers you, don’t bother with it.

  2. Hmm, I never thought about it that way, but I like it!

    I'll have to try both of the books you mentioned - the first one to enjoy and the second to enrage me. I like good book that makes me angry!

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  3. Kyra, I enjoyed your perspective of your read of Hardy's "Tess of the d'Urbervilles." It is an incredibly powerful novel, and one that will stay with you the rest of your life (it sure has for me). Hardy's point was that there was a huge double-standard that was in place in Victorian society, and it largely didn't apply to men. While Tess perhaps makes some poor decision, with Fate's assistance, it is really Alec and Angel that completely destroy her, and I will never forgive either one of them for that.

    Personally, I believe that Hardy loved 'Tess' the best of all of his female protagonists, and I think her ultimate fate must have been just as agonizing for him to write, as it is for us to read about.

    I also encourage you to read his other novels, especially: "Far From the Madding Crowd," "The Return of the Native," "The Woodlanders," and Hardy's 'magnum opus,' "Jude the Obscure." Hardy cared very much about the fundamental rights of women, and was profoundly disillusioned with how women were treated in the UK in his day. Hardy was a 'Naturalist' and his fiction (and poetry) reflects that there really aren't any 'Happy Pills' out there, and that Life is one desperately difficult struggle, and that most of are incapable of making good decisions 100% of the time, leading to some bad outcomes (again, with Fate's helping hand).

    I apologize for rattling on, but wanted to share my thoughts about Hardy, who is, in my opinion, a very important author. Cheers! Chris

  4. thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I definitely intend to try some of his other books.