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Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Lecture 5 Phase The Second (Chap 12-15) . Phase the Second – Significance . Dormant period in Tess’s life – “changed from simple girl to complex woman” (p.99) Tess’s identity as a “girl-mother” (p.92) met with moral ambivalence

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Tess of the D'Urbervilles


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    1. Tess of the D'Urbervilles Lecture 5 Phase The Second (Chap 12-15)

    2. Phase the Second – Significance • Dormant period in Tess’s life – “changed from simple girl to complex woman” (p.99) • Tess’s identity as a “girl-mother” (p.92) met with moral ambivalence • Midnight baptism & death of Tess’s illegitimate baby named ‘Sorrow – the Undesired’ • Centres on a pertinent question: “Was once lost always lost really true of chastity?” (p.99)

    3. Structure • Begins with Tess’s backward journey to Marlott from Trantridge on a Sunday morning “not long past daybreak” • Tess returns with a “heavy” basket and “large” bundle • Provides a parallel and contrast to John Durbeyfield staggering back to Marlott on “rickety” legs, with an “empty egg-basket” at the beginning of the novel.

    4. Pictorial image of Tess burdened by her family’s financial problems, as well as the moral shame/guilt of her relationship with Alec • Straddles btwn the public sphere of work & private domain of family / household • Burden of the shame/guilt about Tess’s past transposed onto her baby, who is said to have committed “an offence against society in coming into the world” (p.92)

    5. Hardy’s elevation of Tess’s endurance & resilience • “she lugged them along like a person who did not find any especial burden in material things” (Chap.12, p.75) • “her soul that of a woman whom the turbulent experiences of the last year or two had quite failed to demoralize” (Chap. 15, p.99) • Tess not simply victim, but also a survivor

    6. Recurring image of Tess and her basket in Ch. 41 (Phase Five) after Clare has parted with her: • “instead of a bride with boxes and trunks which others bore, we see her a lonely woman with a basket and a bundle in her own porterage, as at an earlier time when she was no bride” (p.272)

    7. Voice & Perspective • Margaret R. Higonnet – Hardy constructs a code to define the differences btwn the voices of men & women • Femininity of Tess’s voice encoded by: a) silence b) assimilating her speech to her body & to nature

    8. a) Silences & Silencing of Tess • Tess is not a totally passive object of description by male characters • When she does speak up, men try to silence her by rejecting her words or interpreting them through stereotypical codes.

    9. Male/Female relations: Alec & Tess “I didn’t understand your meaning till it was too late.” “That’s what every woman says.” “How can you dare to use such words!” she cried, turning impetuously upon him, her eyes flashing as the latent spirit (of which he was to see more some day) awoke in her. “My God! … Did it never strike your mind that what every woman says some women may feel?” (Chap 12, p.77)

    10. Male/Female relations: Alec & Tess • Silencing of Tess shows her subjection to the patriarchy of class • Master-servant relationship • “See how you’ve mastered me!” (Chap 12, p.78); “a puppet, replying to his remarks in monosyllables” (p.76) • Recalls Alec’s “kiss of mastery” (Chap 8, p.56)

    11. Male/Female relations: Tess & the Painter of texts • Women & Religion • Religion (Christianity) appropriated by patriarchy to regulate sexuality • Opposition btwn men who follow the Bible & women who follow the truths of their heart • The focus of moral formulae on chastity can work against women

    12. The “accusatory horror” felt by Tess at the red “tex” of the Mosaic laws painted on the walls of barns – “THOU, SHALT, NOT, COMMIT –” • Red texts themselves act as metaphorical moral boundaries • The “trade voice” of the painter that reduces the complex moral situation of Tess: “ ‘But … suppose your sin was not of your own seeking?” • Injustice of characterising Tess as a ‘fallen woman’

    13. Male/Female relations: Tess & the Vicar • Conflict btwn maternal instinct & moral formulae in Tess’s defiant plea with the orthodox Vicar for the Christian burial of Sorrow • Despite the Vicar’s sympathy for Tess, he attempts to silence her in exclaiming, “Don’t talk so rashly” (p.97)

    14. Male/Female relations: Tess & the Narrator • At another level, the intrusive voice of the (male) omniscient narrator that speaks for Tess ironically silences her • Deliberate inscription of silences by an involved narrator constructing the figure of Tess, shaping her narrative and our appraisal of her plight • Narrative gaps that contribute to ambiguity in the novel

    15. Between the phases, the narrator has left unspoken the continued sexual relationship btwn Tess & Alec beyond the encounter in The Chase • Tess had stayed with Alec for a while after her loss of virginity, accepted gifts from him, up to a point of loathing herself for her “weakness” • Complicates the issue if Tess was raped or seduced

    16. Narrator remains silent about the details of Tess’s account of what went on in The Chase and beyond – he merely reports “Then Tess told.” (p.81) • Silence draws attention to what culture deems “unspeakable” (p.20), namely the sexual experiencing of women

    17. Shame & guilt over sexual experiences is paradoxically vocalized in its suppression (by women themselves) • Deliberately vague use of language in the dialogue btwn mother & daughter, Joan & Tess

    18. ‘It would have been something like a story to come back with, if you had!’ continued Mrs Durbeyfield, ready to burst into tears of vexation. ‘After all the talk about you and him which has reached us here, who would have expected it to end like this! Why didn’t ye think of doing some good for your family instead o’ thinking only of yourself?...” (p.81)

    19. “I was a child when I left this house four months ago. Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me?” (p.82) • Recall Joan’s earlier hunch in Chap 8 that “perhaps it would ha’ been better if Tess had not gone” (p.53) • Omission that partially contributes to Tess’s fate • Silence that binds both mother & daughter – “Her mother knew Tess’s feeling on this point so well, though no words had passed between them on the subject” (Chap 15, p.100)

    20. Critical Issues • Role of silence in the rep. of women in literature • “These are not natural silences, that necessary time for renewal, lying fallow, gestation, in the natural cycle of creation. The silences I speak of here are unnatural; the unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being, but cannot …” (Tillie Olsen, Silences – 1965)

    21. Silence is usually interpreted in feminist literary criticism as the badge of woman’s subjection and the sign of her vacancy. • Who imposes this silence? – not just male characters, but btwn female characters & Tess herself • “The soundlessness impressed her as a positive entity rather than a mere negation of noise.” (Chap 19, p.122)

    22. Multiple meanings of silence • Silence can voice resentment, conscience or erotic drives at different moments • Tess’s “guarded silence” towards Alec upon losing her hat on purpose (see Chap 8) • Tess’s silence about her past during her engagement with Angel voices her irrepressible conscience / desires as well as her mother’s advice –“she resolved, with a bursting heart, to tell all her history to Angel Clare … rather than preserve a silence which might be deemed a treachery to him” (Chap 31, p.200)

    23. In comparison with Lawrence’s WL, how do we interpret the use of silence in the rep. of strong female characters who refuse to submit to their men? • The “confidence and diffidence” of Gudrun & “sensitive expectancy” of Ursula belie their presentation as “mostly silent” in the opening paragraph of Chap 1 • This silence functions as a mark of fearful anticipation of what life forebodes for the sisters in love & marriage.

    24. Silence used as a dramatic device in Tess & WL to signal that which eludes meaning because of the failure of language • Tess ends with “two speechless gazers” with the black flag waving “silently”. • In WL, the dialogue that stages the quarrel btwn Ursula & Birkin is set up to fail, with silence as an index of momentary equilibrium and an expression of sexual consummation • “Their hands clasped softly and silently, in peace.” (Moony, p.261) • “Darkness and silence must fall perfectly upon her, then she could know mystically, in unrevealed touch.” (Excurse, p.331)