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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 30

Summary

One evening as Tess and Angel transport the milk, Angel points out an old mansion that used to belong to the D'Urberville family. Tess takes it as a sign that it is time to tell Angel about her past. When he begs her again to marry him, she says that she needs to tell him some things about herself. She discloses that her ancestors are D'Urbervilles; she assumes Angel will be upset, for she knows his dislike towards old families and the D'Urbervilles in particular. Angel dismisses her apprehension and proclaims that her background will not affect their love. He also believes that such a relationship will impress his mother and further Tess's cause with her.

Tess's strong desire to reveal the rest of her story without prevarication weakens. She tells Angel she will marry him and then begins to cry. Angel kisses his fiancée passionately and then recalls that he has seen her before at the dance in Marlott.

Notes

In this chapter, a panicked Tess tries to disclose all of her past misadventure to Angel, but her courage fails her. Instead, she only manages to tell him that she is from the D'Urberville family, a fact that she thinks may discourage Angel's love. Quite the opposite happens; Angel realizes that this association will make Tess more welcomed as his wife by his mother and society. Undone by this reaction on Angel's part, Tess looses all resolve to stay single. She tells Angel she will marry him. Angel rejoices at her acceptance. Tess, however, sobs over breaking her vow of remaining single and failing to reveal her past. Angel is perplexed by her tears but is delighted in her passionate kiss. It begins to rain on the engaged couple. They are quickly drenched, but proclaim that their love will be able to face all the odds. The reader is not so certain.


CHAPTER 31

Summary

Tess writes to her mother telling her about her dilemma with Angel and seeking her advice. Joan is very quick in replying. She advises her to bury her sorrowful past, stating that Tess was not at fault. She also discourages her daughter from telling Angel about her past and defends it by saying that many women have concealed such experiences. Tess is relieved at her mother's advice. For the first time, she feels she can celebrate her happiness. When Angel announces their engagement to Mr. Crick and the farmhands, everyone celebrates with the couple. The milkmaids are particularly delighted for Tess.

Angel asks Tess to set the date for the wedding, but Tess hesitates once again, wishing things could just continue in the present peaceful state of existence. Angel decides that they should wed before he starts his new business. Tess thinks again that she must tell Angel about her past before the day of the wedding.

Notes

Joan responds to her daughter immediately with practical advice. She warns Tess not to confess her past to Angel, fearing Tess may lose the golden opportunity of getting a good husband. Although Joan's guidance is against moral standards, it is based upon love and concern of a mother for her daughter. Joan knows that Tess's past, if revealed, will stand in the way of her daughter's happiness. Joan also realizes that there is unequal treatment meted out to women for sins of passion, and she truly feels Tess has been the innocent victim of Alec D'Urberville, who has not suffered at all.

Joan's advice convinces Tess to remain silent, and she feels greatly relieved at the decision. She even celebrates her upcoming marriage with the other farmhands, particularly the milkmaids. At the back of her mind, however, she still feels that it is treacherous to betray the man she loves and thinks that her silence is wrong and immoral. When Angel insists that the wedding take place before he begins his new business, Tess promises herself once again to tell Angel the truth before they marry.

CHAPTER 32

Summary

With the winter months approaching and the work being less, Angel decides to have the wedding around Christmas and sets the date for December 31. He buys Tess a wedding outfit and makes plans to stay in an old D'Urberville mansion the week after their wedding. He also makes arrangements for the marriage license.

Tess still worries about telling Angel the truth. She writes another letter to her mother seeking further advice, but Joan does not reply to this one. As a result, Tess moves forward with the wedding plans but fears that her happiness will not last.

Notes

Angel continues to control matters. He sets the date for the wedding and plans the honeymoon. Unfortunately, Angel's choice of the old D'Urberville mansion is the cruel hand of fate at work. Angel also continues to work on making Tess into the woman he wants her to be. He is delighted that she has learned "his manner and habits, his speech and phrases, his likings and his aversions." Angel feels certain that in a couple of months she will be ready to present to his parents.

There also continues to be a constant battle within Tess, who is fearful of lurking dangers. The unanswered letter to Joan makes her apprehensive. Her own silence drives her to distraction. She realizes Angel is a sensitive soul, and an explanation about her past after the wedding is sure to hurt him. Tess fears her happiness will be short-lived, a clear foreshadowing of the tragic fate of this young woman.

Tess also remembers Joan's ballad that once a woman loses her chastity she is no longer suitable to become a wife. The words of the song terrify her, and she fears that her wedding robe will betray her as it had betrayed Queen Guinevere.

It is important to note that Angel seems to have some reservations about the wedding. He asks Crick to keep the date of the marriage a secret, and he does not publish the banns, as is customary. He also is not ready to take Tess home to meet his parents.

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