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Tess Durbeyfield is a charming country girl. Poverty forces her to work at Trantridge, where she is seduced by Alec, and then at Talbothay's farm, where she meets and falls in love with Angel.
Alec D'Urberville is Tess' antagonist and seducer. He becomes a parson out of guilt over the sin he has committed, but abandons his parish duties when he sees Tess again.
When Tess meets Angel at the lodge in Sanbourne, she is shocked to realize that he cares for her and has come to take her back. She is angry with Alec for persuading her to disbelieve her husband and kills him in her anger.
The novel has a tragic ending. Alec succeeds in ruining Tess. He seduces her, later convinces her that Angel does not care for her, and causes Tess so much anguish that she kills him. Tess is punished for the crime.