Hardy uses the setting in “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” to give a bigger impact on other issues raised in the novel. Those issues were the social concerns at that time, which were the agricultural revolution, the role of women and the religious ideas people had. He used these social concerns to portray his own views on them. As you read the novel, Hardy makes clear references about religion and how women are portrayed through his characters. At that time when Hardy wrote this novel, the society was stereotypical about women.
There was an image in their minds that women had to be perfect, gentle and harmless and had minds, which worked very simply. Hardy shows the readers that this is the case, occasionally but not always. Tess is raped because she is just a simple country girl and men are able to over-power her and make her do what they want. Later, the people of her village talk about her and judge her by her misfortune. Hardy shows how narrow-minded people are to think such thoughts. Tess’ behaviour also portrays a misconception about the women at the time.
On one hand, there are dairymaids who are quite dumb and don’t think deeply about things like Izz, Retty and Marian. But on the other hand, there is a special individual who is different to them, Tess. Even though she is uneducated, Tess is an intelligent woman, who considers and thinks deeply about matters. She isn’t weak in the sense that after being violated, her baby dies and she has to face the society, Tess has stayed strong and didn’t break down. She tried to stop her past from ruining her future and even left home to work with strangers again.
She becomes stronger after each sorrow in her life. I the time before she went to Talbothays and Flintcomb-Ash, Tess was leading two different lives. Both had the same horrific past she had once led hidden away in her bold beautiful eyes. When she left for Talbothays, Tess had been stained by the actions of Alec d’Urbervilles lustful desires. Society at that time rejected a woman conceiving a child before marriage so she was seen as impure. When she left for Talbothays, Tess was full of hopes and dreams of a new beginning after being fed up of hearing all the taunts from the people of her village.
On the other hand, when Tess Durbeyfield sets off to Flintcomb-Ash, she is in search of a ray of hope that her husband Angel Clare would find it in his heart to forgive her for her past. She wanted Angel to return to her and was very unhappy at the time. The change in mood was due to the events, which took place after she left Talbothays and before she went to Flintcomb-Ash. These events are combined with the setting to view Tess’ happiness and sorrow. Hardy’s religious ideas are also clear to the reader due to the characters actions.
Tess does not strongly believe in God even though she is very intelligent. People laughed at her pain in church so Hardy is making the Christians who go to Church out to be unfair people. He is giving the reader the impression Christians do not believe in everyone being equal. Angel Clare’s parents think that average peasants can’t be intelligent enough to think for themselves. But Hardy uses Angel to remove this misunderstanding from society. Angel realises for himself that ordinary folk like dairymen and maids can also be wise as well as wealthy people.