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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 51

Summary

Since the Durbeyfield family has to leave their old house, they find rooms at a lodge in Kingsbere. As they are preparing to leave Marlott, Alec arrives once more to offer help and presses Tess to give into his desires. He offers the family shelter in his garden house at Trantridge, promises to provide a good education for her brothers and sisters, and offers to buy Mrs. Durbeyfield a flock of birds to tend. Tess is touched by his generosity, but still refuses the offer. Alec is very annoyed with her stubbornness and pride and quickly departs. In an emotional state and filled with self-pity, Tess writes the last letter to Angel, accusing him of cruelty and injustice. She says she will try to forget him, but she will never be able to forgive him for deserting her.

Notes

Alec knows Tess very well and realizes that he must wiggle his way into her heart. He tries to argue that as the father of their deceased child, he is really her true husband. Such logic upsets Tess. Then Alec tries to get to Tess through her family, for whom she cares greatly. He tells Tess that he will provide the family lodging, education, and employment, certainly a great temptation in their present plight. But Tess, at this point, is still strong enough to refuse. She is genuinely touched by Alec's generosity, but she cannot accept it.


At the end of the chapter, it is obvious that Tess's determination is beginning to weaken. For the first time in a long time, she is angry and filled with self-pity. She writes a letter to Angel stating that she is trying to forget him and will never be able to forgive him of the cruel and unjust way in which he has treated her. It is the first time she has ever had such negative thoughts about her husband. Obviously, Alec has gotten under her skin, for no one seems to be able to upset Tess like he does.

It is important to notice the presence of two re-occurring symbols in this chapter. Alec tells Tess about the D'Urberville coach, which is supposed to be an ill omen. The sign painter also reappears and reminds Alec of his drifting away from the scriptures and from his life as a preacher.

CHAPTER 52

Summary

The Durbeyfield family sets out to Kingsbere in a wagon carrying all their belongings. During a rest stop, Tess sees Marian and Izz, who are off to find new employment. Tess confides in them that Alec has found her and that Angel has not returned. The former milkmaids feel terrible for their friend and want to help in some way. They exchange addresses with Tess and promise to keep in touch.

As the Durbeyfields approach Kingsbere, they are shocked to learn that the rooms they are planning to move into are already let out to another family. Despite an ardent search, they meet Izz and Marian on the way. They are unable to locate another lodging. As a result, Joan tells the driver to unload their furniture in the churchyard. They set up a makeshift tent in the graveyard, directly under the D'Urberville window and close to the tombs of the D'Urberville ancestors.

Tess goes into the church and sees the D'Urberville vaults for the first time. As she looks closely at one of the tombs, she spies Alec. He tells her again that he wants to help her. In spite of the miserable situation she and the family find themselves in, she still tells Alec to go away. As he departs, Alec tells Tess that "you'll be civil yet!" After he leaves, Tess wonders why she cannot join her ancestors in the tomb in order to find relief from her misery, pain, and sorrow.

Marian and Izz have settled into their new jobs and think about Tess. In a compassionate gesture, they write to Angel informing him about the critical situation Tess is in and beg him to come back to his wife. They send the letter to his parents in Emminster, hoping it will be sent on to Angel.

Notes

Hardy masterfully tries to prepare the reader for the shock of the next phase in Tess's life. In this chapter, he depicts his protagonist as a beaten woman, begging for the relief of the grave. Her family, which is all she has left, is reduced to living in a temporary tent in the graveyard of the church of the D'Urberville ancestors. Tess has no means of helping them on her own, and she is still too proud to approach the Clare family. The evil Alec, who has been cast throughout the book as an evil Satan tempting the innocent Tess, sees his golden opportunity and lies in wait for Tess. He appropriately hides amongst the tombs of the ancient D'Urbervilles and makes the last temptation to Tess. When she refuses him one more time, he sees her weakening and says, "You'll be civil yet." He knows Tess cannot hold out much longer.

The tragic irony of the chapter is that Tess's letters and the letter from Marian and Izz arrive in Angel's hands too late to prevent cruel fate from taking the upper hand.

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