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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

PHASE THE FIFTH -- THE WOMAN PAYS

CHAPTER 35

Summary

Tess's confession has a stupefying effect on Angel. The impact is so disturbing that for a few minutes, he does not seem to believe his ears. He moves about vaguely in a shell-shocked manner. All the while, she repeatedly begs him for forgiveness. He leaves the house, and Tess follows. They walk in silence for a long while, Tess occasionally begging forgiveness again.

Angel is deeply hurt and confused. Tess now has two existences for him. One is the innocent and pure female who he believed he was marrying; the other is an impostor, guilty of betraying his trust. It is difficult for him to love both parts of her. Tess, like a meek slave, promises to obey all his commands. She also volunteers to kill herself. Angel scolds her for being ridiculous and sends her back to the mansion alone. When Angel returns, Tess is sleeping. He makes a bed for himself on the couch.

Notes

Tess's confession depresses Angel. He is bitter and shocked at his misjudgment of her. He adored the pure image of Tess, and she is not the same person to him now. The most desired woman in his life has disappointed him, and he does not feel he can love her anymore.


The chapter is filled with irony. Angel has given up the chance to marry a wealthy Christian lady, chosen and approved by his family, in order to marry a pure county girl. On his wedding night, he finds out his dream is not a reality, his pure bride is not pure. The chapter also ironically reflects the contrast in morals between men and women. However much a man strays (as Angel did in London), he still expects his bride to be a virgin without any flaws.

CHAPTER 36

Summary

The next morning Angel asks Tess to say her past is not true, but Tess cannot lie to him. Although Angel is crushed, he is not harsh with Tess. He treats her gently, but refuses to accept her as his wife. Tess proposes a divorce and is horrified to learn that the law does not permit it.

For the next few days, Tess devotedly serves Angel and tries her best to soothe his broken heart. Nothing seems to change his attitude. Finally, Tess accepts that he will never accept her. As a result, she suggests going home, and Angel agrees it is a good idea. They both know that a separation will save them from the misery of further pretension.

Notes

Angel is a hard man. Although he still has deep feelings for Tess, his principles forbid him from accepting her as his wife. He can no longer imagine them living together on the farm, and he fears that if they were to have children, they would suffer. The ashes in the fireplace remind him of his wrecked relationship.

Tess is equally miserable. She knows that Angel will never accept her and feels she is getting her just reward. When she learns that divorce is not a possibility, she offers to leave him and return home. Angel agrees that it is the best idea.

CHAPTER 37

Summary

The night before Tess is to leave, she sees her husband sleep- walking. He assumes her to be dead and places her in a stone coffin after wrapping her up in a sheet and carrying her to the old Abbey church. She handles the situation very boldly and with subtle persuasion brings him back to the house. She does not mention the incident the next morning, and Angel does not seem to remember it.

On their way to Marlott the next morning, Tess and Angel visit with the Cricks, but keep their separation a secret from them. When they draw near to Tess's hometown, Angel turns to go. He leaves Tess with a good sum of money, takes the diamonds from her, and then forbids her to approach him in person. He tells her to communicate only through letters until he decides to come for her. Tess agrees to his commands, departs for home, and slips again into her suffering, melancholy mood.

Notes

Love survives on mutual trust, and since Tess has broken that trust, Angel has difficulty dealing with her. His sleepwalking expresses his state of mind. His heart refuses to believe that the girl he loves could cause him so much agony. He is convinced that the real Tess is dead; therefore, he subconsciously buries her. It is a far-fetched and melodramatic scene. Tess suffers through the whole incident in silence. Through years of practice, she has learned to accept her punishment gracefully.

On the day of their separation, Angel is a picture of practicality. He goes to the dairy and completes his business with Mr. Crick, not mentioning the fact that he and Tess are separating. He accompanies his wife on her journey until they reach the outskirts of Marlott. Then Angel gives her some money, retrieves his diamonds, and tells Tess not to contact him in person, only through letters. He says he will try to accept their situation and will contact her in the future. Tess feels totally devastated and hopeless.

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