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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 56

Summary

The Herons' landlady, Mrs. Brooks, overhears a part of the conversation between Angel and Tess and grows curious. When Tess leaves Angel and returns to her room, Mrs. Brooks follows at a distance and peeks through the keyhole. She hears Tess scold Alec for making her believe that Angel would never return. She then listens to the heated exchange that occurs between the two. A movement inside the room finally makes Mrs. Brooks hurry downstairs. Awhile later, the landlady notices Tess going out. Soon after Tess's departure, Mrs. Brooks happens to glance at the ceiling and sees a red spot that seems to be growing in size. Convinced that something is wrong, she calls a workman who breaks into the D'Urberville's room. Alec is on the bed, stabbed to death.

Notes

Alec's cunning temptations have caused Tess to betray her true feelings and her true husband. When she sees Angel in his pathetic state, she is overcome with feelings of grief and guilt. She tells Angel the truth and sends him away, which almost kills her.

In confusion and anger, Tess goes back to the room and turns on Alec. She accuses him of making her believe what he wanted her to believe. They fight bitterly, and Tess obviously loses all self- control. Knowing she will never be able to escape her satanic tormentor, she stabs him to death.

It is important to notice that the whole scene is portrayed through the eyes of the landlady, and the details have to be filled in. Hardy obviously wanted to spare the reader from excessive gore.


CHAPTERS 57 - 58

Summary

A dejected Angel plans to take the first train out of Sanbourne. He returns to his hotel and quickly packs. As he walks toward the station, he sees Tess running towards him. She immediately confesses to having killed Alec, but Angel believes his precious Tess is only having "temporary hallucinations." Tess, however, insists the murder is real and tries to justify it. Angel begins to believe her and comfort her. He tells her that he loves her, that he will protect her, and that he will never desert her again. They wander around without any destination in mind while looking for a safe accommodation. At last they spy an empty mansion, which they enter through a window. They spent their first night together as a true couple.

They remain at the mansion for the next five days, living in a dream world filled with love and happiness and never discussing the past year. The caretaker arrives early on the sixth morning and discovers the loving couple still in bed. It is time for them to move on. Tess dreads facing the reality of the outside world and feels her days are numbered. Angel tries to give her hope, saying they can escape to safety in the north.

They travel at night to escape notice. They come upon the ancient pillars of Stonehenge, where Tess lies down exhausted from the flight. As Angel watches over her, she begs him to take care of her sister Liza Lu after her own death; she even suggests they might marry. Then Tess falls asleep amongst the ruins.

As daylight breaks, Angel sees men closing in on them, and for the first time, he is forced to accept the truth of Tess's misdeed. When they draw near, he begs them to let Tess sleep, but Tess awakens and realizes what is happening. She is almost relieved that the ordeal of her life is at last coming to an end; she know that fate would never let her happiness last.

Notes

It is impossible for Angel to believe that Tess is capable of killing anybody, even Alec. For him, his wife is once again a fragile, vulnerable, and delicate woman, incapable of doing harm. Therefore, he thinks her confession is just a temporary imagining. He does not understand Tess's situation or the depth of her love for him. She knows that she will never be able to escape the evil of Alec and spend time with her husband. The thought of living without Angel or with Alec is more than she can bear. Her life means nothing to her in her present circumstances. In her total frustration, she can accomplish the murder.

Her seducer's death frees Tess to spend her last moments with Angel, her only true love. During the next few days with him, Tess finds Angel to be everything she has always dreamed him to be. He is kind, loving, thoughtful, forgiving, protective, and encouraging. It is ironic that Angel could accept her as his wife and consummate the marriage when he learned that she was not a virgin; now he fully accepts her as his wife even though she is a murderess. Brazil has certainly changed Angel!

It is important to recall Angel's fateful question in Chapter 36 when he asks Tess, "How can we live together while that man (Alec) lives?" Now that Alec is gone, Tess and Angel have the opportunity to live in glorious bliss for five days, hidden away from the world and the truth.

It is also important to notice the setting for the last scene that Tess and Angel will spend together. They are in the ruins of Stonehenge, a heathen temple. Tess lies upon the altar, which was used for sacrifices in ancient times. Now she is being sacrificed. Amazingly, she is at peace when her captors appear. She has spent her last days in joy with Angel at her side. She knows, because of fate, that her happiness could not continue; therefore, she can easily accept death.

CHAPTER 59

Summary

The final Chapter has Angel and Liza Lu nearing the West Hill. Looking down at the valley below, they watch a black flag rising on the tower, which indicates that Tess has been executed as the law demands. "The two speechless gazers bend themselves down to the earth, as if prayer." Hardy ends the book that "justice" was done and the "President of the Immortals has ended his sport with Tess."

Notes

The final chapter has Tess being punished for the murder of Alec. It is a brief chapter and no details of her death are given. Angel and Liza Lu simply watch the black flag rising. The lack of description surrounding the event is a clear statement by Hardy; Tess's death seems small in comparison to the sufferings she has undergone in life, all as a result of Alec's lust. Hardy, therefore, implies the tragedy of the law; while it punishes physical acts of violence, such as murder, it does nothing to punish the perpetrator of emotional violence, who also destroys life. The final words of the novel "justice was done" are spoken by the author in bitter irony. It is an intense statement about the tragedy of Tess Durbeyfield Clare. "Sport" is also an apt word to describe the painful experience that Tess underwent. Indeed her life was a game of fate in which she was no more than a pawn, mauled and handled mercilessly to prove that a mere mortal has no right to rise above destiny.

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