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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 SEVENTH -- FULFILLMENT

CHAPTER 53

Summary

The Clare couple eagerly awaits their son's return to the Emminster Vicarage. When Angel arrives, they are shocked at his pathetic appearance. He has aged far beyond a year in his absence, he is skin and bones, and his eyes have lost their luster. Angel asks his parents if Tess has come to them for help and is surprised she has asked for nothing. Angel also inquires about a letter from Tess and is handed the last one that is filled with scathing criticism of his behavior. Her letter touches him, and he accepts the fact that he has been cruel to her, but he does not give up hope for a reconciliation. He writes a letter to her, telling of his homecoming, and sends it to Marlott. Within a few days, Angel receives a letter from Joan, revealing that they no longer live in Marlott and Tess is not with her. Joan promises to reveal Tess's whereabouts in her next letter. A couple of days later, Angel receives the note of warning from Marian and Izz. He immediately sets out to search for Tess.

Notes

Angel's suffering shows in his appearance and his parents barely recognize him on his return home. Unfortunately, he will continue to suffer. He always thought that the arrangements that he had made for Tess were sufficient, but she has not asked for a penny. He underestimated her pride and did not realize that Tess would prefer to starve rather than ask for money from his parents. This information makes Angel feel even more miserable, for he realizes how Tess must have suffered. The news he reads in her last letter just makes matters worse. He is ashamed that he has treated his wife so poorly and does not blame her for her written hostility. In spite of the feelings expressed in her letter, Angel has not given up hope about Tess. He plans to find her, beg forgiveness, and reconcile.


It is important to notice the characterization of Mr. and Mrs. Clare in this chapter. They are genuinely concerned about their son, realize the facts surrounding his marriage and subsequent departure, and sympathize with Tess's plight. In essence, they are generous, forgiving, and loving. It is ironic that Tess has been afraid to approach them for help; if she had not been so proud, her situation would be very different. If she had received the help from them that Angel arranged, she would not have reached the bottom and made the decisions that she did. Once again, fate has had the upper hand.

CHAPTER 54

Summary

In his journey to find Tess, Angel first visits Flintcomb-Ash, where he learns she is no longer working. He continues to Marlott and learns where Joan has gone. He also finds out about John's death and sees his fancy tombstone that links him to the D'Urbervilles. He rushes on to Kingsbere, where he locates Joan. She, however, is very reluctant to give him information about Tess. Finally, she tells Angel that Tess is in Sanbourne.

Notes

In this chapter, Angel's determination is presented. He rushes from town to town searching for his wife. As he visits Marlott, Angel, like Tess, remembers the May-Day dance and is saddened to think how different things might be if he had danced with her then. He is also saddened to see the family's pathetic attempts to ennoble John by placing a showy tombstone at his grave. Angel learns that the marker is unpaid and takes care of the bill.

When Angel meets Joan for the first time, he is not surprised at her reticence with him. After all, he has deserted her daughter and hurt her greatly. But when Angel reveals his feelings for Tess and explains the pain he is going through, Joan finally tells him that Tess is living in Sanbourne. She also warns Angel that her daughter is no longer expecting him to return. Angel still does not give up hope, but pushes on to Sanbourne to find Tess.

CHAPTER 55

Summary

At Sanbourne, Angel approaches a postman for Tess's address and is glad to find she is staying at the local lodge, a stylish place, and going by the name of Mrs. D'Urberville. It is the reader's first hint of the changes that have occurred with Tess.

Angel enters the Herons and, seeing its luxury, he thinks that either Tess has sold the jewels or is working here as a maid. When Tess appears, Angel is surprised to see her expensive clothes and is overcome by her beauty. He begs for forgiveness and holds out his arms to embrace her. Tess refuses to approach him and tells him, in a tone of voice that is filled with pathos, that it is too late. Angel begs her again, and Tess then tells him that she is living in sin with Alec and pleads that he should never attempt to see her again. Broken and shattered, Angel walks out of the lodge.

Notes

Joan has not told Angel of Tess's present living arrangement, so he assumes that Tess is working in the Herons Lodge as a maid. When he finds her there in expensive clothes, he is overcome with emotion and astounded at her beauty. The scene that follows is probably the most touching one in the book. Neither husband nor wife is prepared for this meeting, and the hurt that it causes them both is immeasurable. Angel is shocked that he has lost Tess to Alec D'Urberville, and Tess is even more shocked to learn that Angel has come back for her. She does not know whether she should rejoice over seeing Angel or cry over her fate, which seems to eternally keep her from her husband.

It is obvious that Tess has become a puppet in the hands of Alec. He convinced her that Angel would never return and that her family would starve to death without his help. Finally beaten beyond resistance, Tess has given in to this despicable man. Ironically, after months of denying Alec's many temptations, she succumbs to her tempter almost at the same time that Angel arrives home.

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