‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’, written by Thomas Hardy was first published in December 1891, with the full title of ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles, A Pure Woman faithfully presented’. The novel was set in the Victorian age in Dorset, a bleak country of sandy heaths and chalk downs in the Southwest of England. Hardy gave the countryside in the novel a fictional name of ‘Wessex’ and altered the names of the main places, to give them fictional names.
However, Hardy’s novel drew negative reactions from a number of early critics at the time and the first two firms that Hardy submitted the novel to rejected it due to the subject matter being too explicit, offensive and conflicting with Victorian morality. Daphne Du Maurier wrote ‘Jamaica Inn’ in October 1935. The novel was set and based upon an actual temperance house on the twenty-mile road between Bodmin and Launceston, on the coast of Cornwall, that existed during the time Daphne du Maurier wrote the novel. Although the existing place-names figure in the novel, Daphne had written it as if it had been set before 1815.
Both authors are English and their novels are both set in England. The theme of tragedy plays a major role in both texts so my essay will be based on the comparison of how tragedy is portrayed in both texts. Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989), an English novelist, biographer and playwright, published romantic suspense novels, such as ‘Jamaica Inn’. Du Maurier, born in London, came from an artistic family. Her uncle, a magazine editor, published one of her stories when she was a teenager and found her a literary agent, which was her first step to becoming a novelist.
In 1935, when Daphne du Maurier wrote the novel ‘Jamaica Inn’ the First World War had been over for a while and the Second World War had not taken place yet. Meanwhile the nation rejoiced for George V’s silver jubilee. However, at this time Hitler marched into Rhineland in direct contravention of the Versailles settlement, which made the public angry with him and they feared what else he could rebel against. This was a distressing event because it created fear in the public that because Hitler was rebelling against the settlement he might start another war.
Du Maurier may have had angry feelings towards the tragedies of the First World War and the tragedy of Hitler rebelling and consequently used a lot of tragedy in her novel ‘Jamaica Inn’. Using tragedy in her novel was a way of expressing the tragic events occurring in the world at the time (mentioned earlier). Thomas Hardy, an English poet and novelist, was born on the Egdon Heath, in Dorset. He wrote is first novel in 1867 ‘The poor man and the lady’, which was rejected by many publishers. Despite this, his career as a writer grew over a span of fifty years.
Thomas Hardy wrote ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ in 1891, during the period known as the Liberal Age, in the Victorian times. At this time Britain had retreated from the Empire and unemployment was very common. At this time profits fell greatly, especially in agriculture. (This was before the First World War, which took place in 1914) This was a difficult time, where jobs were rare and profits minimal, making it a period of tragedy. This tragedy would have badly affected Hardy financially, as well as the rejection towards his novels, from other publishers, which was a personal tragedy for Hardy.
Therefore these tragic events could have been reflected in his novel ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, which could be why it is a novel filled with great tragedies, which worsen as the novel progresses. As ‘Jamaica Inn’ progresses there is one main character that causes tragedy in the novel that affects the main character, Mary. The main character who causes tragedy throughout the majority of the novel is Mary’s Uncle, Joss. He makes Mary’s stay with him unpleasant due to his violence and cruel habits. He describes how he has “killed men with my own hands” and having “beaten them with rocks and stones”.
These true stories, which she witnesses, deeply affect Mary to an extent where she feels “deadly sick” until she sees “screaming, frightened faces” in her dreams. The word “deadly” tells us Mary is traumatised by these stories so she feels violently ill, as though the stories have killed her innocence and she feels empathy for the people, as if she is dying with them. I think this word is used to show her negative feelings towards Joss’s actions and how she could never agree with what he’s done. The author describes the faces in her dreams to be “screaming” and “frightened”.
This is emotive language, used to create fear and shock for the reader, so they can understand how frightening the dreams are. They also tell us that the faces are desperate for help and in immense pain, which can be very haunting. These words are used to create sympathy and shock towards the way the victims were treated. This means that Mary must have sympathy for the victims and is distressed by the pain and tragedy her uncle caused them. Joss’s actions create tragedy in the novel because he is a murderer, which disgusts Mary and his actions haunt her to an extent where her innocent perspective on life is crushed.
Joss further torments Mary through physical violence towards her, when he is drunk. He “hit her across the face” and physically abuses her until the pain in her body is “intolerable”. This physical abuse causes Mary to sit motionless “fearing” her uncle’s return. This word is quite descriptive towards Mary’s feelings and how his actions have affected her as the novel draws on. Instead of the initial hatred towards her uncle’s murderous habits, we discover that now he has hurt her personally she fears him.
This word “fearing” explains that she no longer feels remotely comfortable in his presence and will always be on edge, unaware of what he may do, because she fears him. I think this word has been used to show Mary has lost all respect for him and she is scared of him. This possibly suggests that there is no hope for Mary to comfortably live with him for the rest of her life. The first character to cause major tragedy in the novel “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” is Alec, Tess’s cousin. He does this by seducing her in a quiet wood after she rides with him, on their way home.
Although it is not said, the scene of the wood depicts the seduction as turning into a rape. (Hardy was obliged to use different methods to get the message of it being a rape across because he had to make it less offensive). The narrator describes “darkness and silence ruled everywhere” in the wood while the seduction, or rather rape, by Alec takes place. He uses the descriptive words “darkness” and “silence” because the words express a terrible event occurring because “darkness” is a word often used to describe someone’s soul that is evil and “silence” is often something that happens when a tragic event occurs.
For example, when teachers shout at pupils, the noisy classroom the pupils are in falls absolutely silent under the great power and fear of the teacher at the time. I think the word “silence” is used to express the power Alec had over Tess during this vulnerable moment, when he seduces her. I think the word “darkness” is used to express the evil and darkness in Alec’s soul as he takes advantage of a vulnerable woman after his cheek is in “contact” with hers.
Overall, by saying these feelings of darkness and silence “ruled” everywhere explains that Tess truly was innocent in this act of seduction because the power and evil in Alec’s intentions overruled Tess’s. In this way, as Hardy does continually throughout the book, he is trying to explain that the fault lay not on Tess, but on Alec, so he did cause the tragedy that befalls Tess her whole life. I say this because this incident of seduction may have been insignificant for Alec- he was dazed by Tess and “that was all” – but it is this act that destroys the rest of her life with her husband.
In ‘Jamaica Inn’ Daphne du Maurier includes very few symbols of tragedy. For example, Joss Merlyn and his two brothers are born underneath the shadow of Kilmar. Kilmar is a great crag on Kilmar tor, of a dull, grey colour, shaped as a “devil’s hand”. The story told is that anyone born underneath the stone will take to drink. The crag, Kilmar, is described as the “devil’s hand”. As the devil is considered evil, this crag is considered a bad omen, so it is a symbol of tragedy. Joss being born underneath it makes him an excellent character to create tragedy as he is born underneath a symbol of tragedy.
This suggests that his soul is evil as he is born under the hand of the devil. In ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ Hardy uses a lot more symbols for tragedy. For example, the family horse, Prince, dies while Tess controls his reins. This is a symbol of tragedy because it leads to her visiting her cousin, Alec, for money as the horse’s death means a great loss of income. It is this encounter with Alec that ruins the rest of her life, so the death of Prince is the main symbol of tragedy that causes Tess’s life to crumble beneath her. Also, on Tess and Angel’s wedding day “cock crew”.
This is a bad omen because it means that a death will occur and Tess’s friend commits suicide that night. A bad omen on Tess’s wedding day seems bitterly ironic as Tess’s marriage to Angel has been demolished on her wedding night when she reveals the truths of her past. It is almost as if this omen curses their marriage together. Another symbol of tragedy was the sound of a carriage and horses that Tess hears in her head after her husband, Angel leaves her. This coach is said to be non-existent and only heard by d’Urberville blood; it is also considered to be of “ill-omen” and connected with murder.
This symbol of tragedy is the final curse on Tess’s marriage with Angel, which proved the omen to be correct, as two tragic deaths follow. There are several symbols of tragedy in this novel which cause Tess’s life to take a horrible turn and as a result deeply affect her emotionally, whereas in “Jamaica Inn” there are very few. Additionally the symbols of tragedy used in ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles” affects Tess directly whereas the symbols of tragedy in “Jamaica Inn” affect the other characters in the novel. The structure of ‘Jamaica Inn’ is different to that of ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’.
Jamaica Inn is written in third person narration, where the story is written to follow Mary’s, the main character’s, perspective on the story. I think this is done so that the story is not given away too early in the story so the reader is in suspense wondering what tragedies will follow, what mysterious trade Joss does and who is behind it. This is done by not narrating what happens to other characters so as to make the reader discover what happens by following the clues Mary finds or that the characters reveal to her.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles’, on the other hand has a set narrator, written in third person narration to show the other characters’ points of view in the story. The narrator also comments on the situation and how it has affected Tess so as to point out which decisions caused more tragedy. For example, when Tess loses her courage to speak to the Vicar the narrator calls it “the greatest misfortune of her life”. I think the narrator is used in this way to help shape the reader’s ideas of who is really the evil character, causing the greatest tragedies, and point out which moments develop the tragedies in Tess’s life.
After analysing the ways both novels portray tragedy I can say that they do so in slightly different ways. Although both novels contain characters which create tragedy throughout the book, Hardy’s, ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles has far more. Whereas ‘Jamaica Inn has one main character that creates tragedy (Joss), in ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ nearly all of the characters contribute to creating tragedy. It is because of this that Hardy describes a variety of tragedies that take place whereas du Maurier has only a few different tragic events.
Furthermore the tragedies in both novels are different in the sense that du Maurier portrays the tragedy to be a general image for the novel, which happens to different characters, whereas Hardy portrays the tragedies to mainly follow the main character, Tess. Additionally, both novels use symbols of tragedy, however, Hardy uses a lot more of them. There are several symbols of tragedy throughout the novel, much more than mentioned previously. The large amount of symbolic omens (for tragedy) that Hardy used can be related to the tragic events to explain why they take place.
However, so much tragedy and symbols representing it make the novel quite unrealistic because it is quite difficult to believe that so much tragedy can follow one person. As du Maurier included fewer tragic events and symbols in the novel it is much more realistic that Hardy’s novel. Finally, the narration du Maurier used in ‘Jamaica Inn’ does not emphasise the tragedy or even portray any, as it is Mary’s perspective on the situation. Hardy, on the other hand used a set third person narration that comments on the tragedies and discusses which events caused more tragedy and how this is done.
I thought this was very effective because the narrator appeared to have an opinion on the situation, which enables the reader to see the different points of view about the tragic events that occur during the novel. The immense amount of tragedy in ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, compared to ‘Jamaica Inn’, makes the novel more unpredictable and compelling to read. This is why I think that Hardy’s, ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ portrays a lot more tragedy and far better than du Maurier does in ‘Jamaica Inn’.