In “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”, Hardy uses weather, seasons and nature to an extent as which it is almost another character. It produces a third dimension on the plot, and is used to portray the characters near fates. Tess herself, is a beautiful young woman, but, she as a peasant is looked down on by society due to the social class divides that were strongly in place, at that times in the 19th Century.
Hardy uses pathetic fallacy, phallic images, sensual language and references to natural things, such as flowers brilliantly to describe the changes between Angel and Tess in the dairy at Talbothays, where they first meet and to enhance the reader’s experience. When they first meet, it is spring, and like the flowers themselves, their love is developing; growing. Later on, it is summer, and their love is blooming rapidly. However, when Tess is forced to return to Flintcomb-Ash, it is winter, which deepens the sense of Tess’ loneliness and feeling of abandonment. The book itself is based on Hardy’s disbelief in God, as agnosticism was rising swiftly.
This is reflected in the book, as Tess is a character whom nothing good happens to her, although she herself is a girl who tries her best to do only good in the world, showing that Hardy believed there was no God that protected good people. Angel himself, is a Romanticist, which was a belief that was taking the place of Christianity in the 19th Century. Hardy is also in touch with the agricultural changed in farming practices, as later on in the book, he mentions the use of agricultural technology in place of the workmen/women.
Leaving behind her problems in Marlott, Tess travels to a new start, at the Talbothays Dairy. Hardy uses the surroundings to display her emotions very well. While Tess is travelling to Talbothays, Hardy goes on to say: “The new air was clear, bracing, ethereal.” The use of the word “ethereal” is quite spiritual, reminding us of God and makes it seem as if he is going to look over Tess in Talbothays. At that moment it might seem that God is looking over her, as it seems, everything is starting to turn a corner. It could also be interpreted, into that Tess’ old self is dead, and she is now in heaven, living a better life.
Hardy’s continual use of descriptors gives the reader a sense that we are present in the book. Hardy also, although questioning the fact of a caring, loving God, does refer to biblical topics to emphasise Tess’ innocence and purity. This quote about a stream, from which Tess was approaching Talbothays, “the Froom waters were clear as the pure River of Life” shows Hardy using those biblical topics.
At Talbothays, Tess meets and works with Angel, a dairyman. In this part, Hardy uses the seasons to show Tess & Angel’s relationship. One time, when Tess is milking, she hears Angel playing his harp; “Tess was conscious of neither time nor space. The exaltation which she has described as being producible at will by gazing at a star.” This shows how happy and dreamy, she is, almost as if she is lost in herself, her soul now unaware and all her troubles have been forgotten.
The use of the stars, means we could interpret it as both their souls floating in the sky, lost in this moment, bright, but a part of something much bigger, or again, a sign of reincarnation, as many people, I for one, believe that people are reincarnated in the stars. We see that Angel is attracted to Tess, but as the reader, Hardy makes sure we can see Angel idealising her as “a fresh and virginal daughter of nature”. This gives us the idea that Angel is in love with the idea of Tess being innocent and pure, because he is oblivious to Tess’s history past, and the fact that, actually, she isn’t a virgin, therefore not ‘pure’.
Their feelings for each other start to develop and Hardy uses the idea of the season summer to show their love blossoming. He writes “Rays from the sunrise drew forth the buds and stretched them into long stalks.” As the reader we can interpret this as the buds being Tess and Angel’s love, as it starts to develop into something visible. It also reminds us of dawn when Angel and Tess go out to meet each other before the other dairymaids get up “in that strange and solemn interval, the twilight of morning, in the violet or pink dawn.” This quote shows that either Tess or Angel find what they are doing, and the feelings they are feeling slightly strange, but beautiful, like the morning twilight.
After Tess and Angel are married, she reveals to him that she is not “a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature”, Angel claims that Tess is now another person because he has found this out, although he fell in love with the girl that had been through Alec’s control, so we, as the reader, see that the only way she has changed, is that for the better since she has met Angel. He says “You were one person; now you are another”. This is typical 19th century double standards, emphasising the obviousness of sexism in this period.
After Tess is abandoned she goes to work at Flintcomb-Ash, where she has the worst of times, being heart broken and in hard laborious work picking turnips. It is unwelcoming, muddy and desolate, which depicts an image of a period of misery and loneliness. It is a very effective landscape for Tess to suffer in as it conveys her emotions with the sad and grey weather in winter.
He writes “a white vacuity of countenance with the lineaments gone.” The word “vacuity”, meaning empty, expresses how Tess is empty of any positive feelings, has no features or details, and how she is there, only in person. Tess’s position was again shown in the surroundings, “the few lonely trees and thorns of the hedgerows appeared.” Tess is lonely like the trees, facing the world, alone, without her true love. The thorns, Hardy makes us feel as if getting too close to Tess could cause you pain.
Hardy wrote a poem about Flintcomb-Ash called ‘We Field-Women’. The poem reads:
‘How it rained
When we worked at Flintcomb-Ash,
And could not stand upon the hill
Trimming Swedes for the slicing-mill.
How it snowed
When we crossed from Flintcomb-Ash
To the Great Barn for drawing reed,
Since we could nowise chop a swede.
Flakes in each doorway and casement-sash:
How it snowed!’
This poem emphasises the misery, desolation and sadness of working at Flintcomb-Ash, and the repetiveness of their job, slicing Swedes for the slicing mill. This in itself is probably one of the most boring jobs anyone could ever think of, and in weather, in which it rains, could make anyone clinically depressed. Tess, already upset and confused about losing Angel, goes to work here, which deepens her sadness, and maybe anger towards him. This poem is set in the winter, again, which deepens the reader’s sense of anguish, loneliness and bleakness towards Tess, helping us sympathise with her.
Hardy continues to use pathetic fallacy to great effect all through “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”. He uses it to greatest effect, in the chapters about Talbothays, when Tess meets Angel, and at Flintcomb-Ash, where he describes Tess’ anguish towards life. He also makes other comparisons, using Marian to show this, describing her as “the single fat thing on the soil…and she was an importation.”
I think Hardy was a very skilled writer with genuinely brilliant ideas and skill, as he doesn’t portray Tess in the way, many writers may have done, as someone who is asking for all the trouble she will receive, Hardy portrays her as a poor woman, living at a time where men and woman values were not equal. Hardy was also very brave to write and publish this novel at the time at which he did. At the time, many people had a strong belief in God, and this novel showed people, that bad things happen to good people, implying that there is no God at all, which maybe contributed to the swift rise of agnosticism.
The way Hardy writes makes us feel for Tess, and his use of the nature to display emotions, and thoughts, emphasises those feelings of sympathy and empathy towards her, and, ultimately, make them more powerful. Hardy has to be one of the most skilled writers that has ever published a book, instead of writing a blunt point, he metaphorises his point, making it both more wonderful and poetic to read, and helps emphasise his point, in a way that many people would not be able to use in such a successful way. I think “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” shows off Hardy’s creative writing techniques brilliantly and is an incredible illustration of his work.