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Free Study Guide-Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES

CHAPTER 23

Summary

Tess has been on the farm for two months before she goes on her first outing. Tess and her co-workers dress in their best clothes and set out for Mellstock Church. On the way, they find the route is flooded due to heavy rains the day before. Angel, who is out in the field, sees their difficulty and comes to their rescue. He carries each of them across the water. When Tess's turn comes, Angel's ardent admiration for her is revealed again. He tells her he has carried "three Leahs to get one Rachel," a clear Biblical reference to her beauty. He also takes as long as possible in carrying Tess across. Seeing his obvious attraction to her, the other maids conclude that they do not stand a chance with Angel against Tess. Pained by all this, Tess tells them that if Angel ever proposes to her, she will refuse him. Later Tess is relieved to hear from the other milkmaids that Angel's parents have chosen a girl for him to marry. However, Angel surprises her by his confession of his sincere love for her.

Notes

In this chapter, Hardy compares and contrasts Tess with the other milkmaids. Like them, she feels at home in the country, enjoys her work, takes pleasure in small things, and seems to take an interest in men. But Hardy also stresses how she is different from the others. She is more beautiful, more refined, and more educated than the others. She stands out from the crowd, and that is why Angel has grown attached to her.


After their excursion, the milkmaids are all talk about Angel and his kindness in carrying them through the water. They all cherish the beautiful moments in his company and openly admit they love him. They also realize that Angel prefers Tess to them and express no jealousy. Tess, however, makes it clear that she is not hindering them in their pursuit of Angel. She even tells them that if Angel asks for her hand in marriage, she will refuse. Knowing nothing about her past, the other three milkmaids are shocked by her revelation. They, however, know their efforts with Angel are to no avail and lament their unsuitability for this handsome man.

CHAPTER 24

Summary

In this chapter, Angel professes his true love to Tess. On a hot July afternoon, as he works beside Tess milking cows, he is overcome with emotion for her. He leaves his milking and takes her in his arms. At first she responds, but then reigns in her emotions and withdraws from him. He is surprised at her distress over his affection and assures Tess that he loves her. Tears form in Tess's eyes as she realizes that her past stands in the way of love. Angel is unable to fathom the reason for Tess's crying, but knows that he has caused the sadness. He begs for forgiveness.

Notes

The warm summer weather again provokes passion in this chapter. Angel is no longer able to keep silent about his love for Tess. While they are milking the cows together, he is overcome with emotion, embraces her, and confesses his love. Angel's unveiled love makes things difficult for Tess.

Before meeting Angel, Tess has accepted the situation that fate has given her; she knows she can never marry because of her past. At Talbothay's farm, Angel is attracted to her for her beauty, intelligence, and seeming purity. She has tried to discourage him, pointing out the virtues of the other milkmaids to him and trying to avoid his company. Despite her efforts, Angel and Tess have fallen in love with each other. When he first embraces her, Tess, revealing her true feelings, responds to his warmth; but she quickly remembers her predicament and draws away from him. As he confesses his love, she sheds tears caused by her emotions, her confusion, and her disappointment. Because of her past, Tess cannot be at peace. Fate still has the upper hand.

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