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    Tess of the D’Urbervilles and The Driver’s Seat Essay

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    In the novels, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and “The Driver’s Seat” Tess and Lise are presented as victims of many things, mainly society, men, themselves and fate. Firstly, both women are presented as victims of societal and domestic circumstances despite their dissimilar backgrounds; Tess, on one hand, comes from a poor background in a period where women were seen as second-class citizens in comparison with men. Lise however is presented as a very isolated character due to the fact that there is no mention of family in her life.

    Both women are also portrayed as victims of men; Tess suffers the rape/seduction by Alec and Lise escapes rape herself on numerous occasions. In addition to this, they are both presented as victims of themselves, Tess because of her naivety, extremely passive nature and her good looks; Lise whereas is shown as having a more self-destructive nature, we see this through her search for “her type” of man. Finally we see them presented as victims of fate; Tess is constantly plagued by her past, yet Lise seems to make her own fate by searching for her killer.

    The narrative voices are key to both of the novels, Hardy on one hand is constantly foreshadowing Tess’ future, through Hardy we also learn of Tess’ thoughts and feelings as not a lot is revealed through her words, Hardy also constantly uses pathetic fallacy to express Tess’ emotions. Spark has a very different narrative style, she writes from the perspective of a detached observer, unlike Hardy’s omnipresence, she also is very unsure of the present but is able to tell the future of Lise.

    In the novel, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” Hardy presents Tess as a victim of her social and domestic circumstances. Tess is shown as a victim of domestic circumstances many times throughout the novel; an example would be when Tess’ mother, Joan is trying to force Tess into claiming kinship “… You must got to her and claim kin… ” the use of the word “must” by Mrs. Durbeyfield suggests that it is vital that Tess goes to claim kin, it is this urgency that makes Tess go, as she finds herself unable to put her feelings of doubt above her mother’s desires.

    By sending Tess away to claim kin Mrs. Durbeyfield has unknowingly left her nai?? ve daughter vulnerable to Alec d’Urberville, the word “her” suggests that Mrs. Durbeyfield knows little about the d’Urbervilles, meaning that she knew nothing of Alec’s nature. This apparent lack of care shown by Tess’ mother makes the reader feel sympathy for Tess. Tess is also a victim of her drunken and idle father, John Durbeyfield. John spends the night drinking at Rolliver’s, leaving him in a drunken state.

    This shows recklessness on his part, as he was unable to handle copious amounts of alcohol “… He had, in truth, drunk very little- not a fourth of the quantity which a systematic tippler could carry to church on a Sunday afternoon without a hitch in his eastings… ” the words “in truth” suggest that John’s appearance was not an accurate reflection of his activities, as in truth he had drank much less than it would appear. This recklessness however turned out to have larger consequences for Tess.

    The next day John Durbeyfield he was in no fit state to make his journey to market, so Tess sets out with her brother Abraham for company. Tess and Abraham are unable to stay awake and collide with a mail cart, killing their horse. Tess feels like a murderess and that she is personally responsible for ruining the family business, which relied heavily on the horse, “… ‘Tis all my doing-all mine!… ” the repetition of the word “all” emphasises how Tess is piling the blame onto herself where in actual fact it was a situation she should never have been in, had it not been for her careless father.

    Such displays of dramatic unfounded admissions from Tess only make things worse for her in the long run as she feels even more obliged to go to the d’Urbervilles, thus meeting her eventual downfall in the form of Alec d’Urberville. Tess’ parents evidently can be blamed for starting Tess’ troubles they seem to be extremely poor at helping her get out of her troubles. Fro example, when Tess returns home pregnant her mother accepts the pregnancy yet is angry and disappointed that Tess has not got Alec to marry her, “… And yet th’st not got him to marry ‘ee!… the use of the word “yet” suggests that Mrs. Durbeyfield expected them to have prepared for marriage long ago.

    Mrs. Durbeyfield clearly left Tess vulnerable to the advances of Alec but although she saw the affect her actions had had on her daughter she was unable to admit so “… Well, we must make the best of it, I suppose… ” the words “make the best of it” suggest that although Mrs. Durbeyfield’s plan had not gone as she thought she knows that nothing can be done to change the past, so she therefore feels that its not her fault. Tess feels let down be her mother “…

    How could I be expected to know? I was a child when I left this house… ” the word “child” symbolises Tess’ innocence and lack of life experience, a void which she feels should have been filled by knowledge from her mother. Mrs. Durbeyfield merely saw Tess going to Alec as an easy way out for the family; Tess was made a victim of her family’s opportunism. Tess is also a victim of society. In the particular era the novel is written in we know that the society was very male-orientated; men held the most power and women seen almost as men’s subordinates.

    The class system was also of prime importance in pre 1900 England, meaning that Tess was a victim of the class system, as she was a working class citizen; she had little money and very few opportunities. Mrs. Durbeyfield shows an old-fashioned attitude and no understanding of the social divide that made a marriage between Tess and Alec highly improbable in the first place. Lise, in complete contrast is not presented as a victim of direct family pressure; in fact it is probably the lack of family influence that has the greatest affect on Lise.

    Because of the evident lack of family in Lise’s life the reader is left to assume her past and present family situation. Because of this Lise is presented by Spark as an isolated character, there is no mention of family or a boyfriend/husband. Lise is also a victim of the society in which she lives, although she lives in a much more liberal society it still has the same male-dominance of Tess’ era. This is shown through the hierarchy in her place of work, “… She has five women under her and two men. Over her are two women and five men… ” this shows the uneven split of male and female workers.

    This spilt suggests a stereotype that women cannot compete in a male-orientated society; this is one of the ways that Lise is presented as a victim and is an issue that is no doubt dear to Spark’s heart keeping in mind that she is a feminist writer. Lise’s need to be the centre of attention makes her a victim of society; she makes herself the centre of attention through the clothes she wears- which are often brightly colours and clash with one another, this unique dress sense is not acknowledged by the people around her, for example when the sales girl talks to her colleague “…

    All those colours together… ” the use of the word “all” by the sales girls suggests that she thinks Lise’s judgement is poor and that all the colours don’t work together. This is not the only time in the novel that we see Lise being victimised for her choice of clothing, just as she is leaving her block of flats Lise is humiliated by the porter “… My goodness, what colours!… ” the use of “my goodness” by the porter shows his complete shock, this shows how Lise is presented as a victim of the narrow minded and somewhat conservative society in which she lives.

    This is not the only way in which Lise is shown as a victim of society, she also finds it necessary to lie to other people about her marital status “… Yes, I have my boyfriend… ” this is just one of a number of occasions where she blatantly lies to people, usually to impress. This suggests that Lise feels inadequate to the people around her, Lise is presented as a victim of a society that preconceived ideas of what people should be like, or at least that’s how Lise views the people around her as thinking.

    In the two novels we also see Tess and Lise presented as victims of men. We see Tess presented as a victim of all the men she meets yet her turmoil stems mainly from Alec d’Urberville and Angel Clare. These are the two main male characters in the novel that have a considerable affect on Tess’ emotions and actions. Tess is portrayed to the reader as a victim through her innocence, naivety and passivity. Tess’ passivity is noticeable from the beginning of Tess and Alec’s relationship, “…

    She obeyed like one in a dream… ” the word “obeyed” shows how she was unable to tell Alec how she felt at the time, instead she just let him carry on; by doing this she gave Alec the impression that she was comfortable with there situation, making him more inclined to pursue her. Alec does pursue Tess more intently, hoping that she will return his feelings of affection; to do this Alec employs bully tactics, these are evident when he takes pleasure in frightening Tess by driving down hills at high speed.

    He feels as though his tactics have paid off when she holds his waist in fear. Tess’ inexperience is clearly noticeable here as she gives Alec the impression that he makes her feel safe. Tess allows Alec to kiss her, this is again due to her inability to prevent such tricky situations; although she manages to leave the cart, it was too little too late, and this can be put down to her lack of experience and her passive nature. This naivety, passive nature and lack of experience show Tess presented as a victim of herself, not only men.

    Tess’ downfalls are constantly being used to Alec’s advantage, he takes advantage of her failure to say no, he constantly orders Tess to do things she is uncomfortable about doing, an example being when Alec puts a strawberry in her mouth “… ‘Nonsense! ‘ he insisted; and in a slight distress she parted her lips and took it in… ” the word “distress” shows Tess’ uncomfort to his seductive advances, it is also a prime example of Tess easily giving into Alec, not sticking to her principals but instead going along with Alec, this behaviour only helps Tess get into more difficulty later on.

    With the passivity shown towards Alec, Tess has now left herself extremely vulnerable to Alec’s self-centred and bully-like nature. When Tess finds herself in a dangerous with Car, Alec comes along to rescue her, or at least that’s how he makes it seem yet some of the women laugh as if they know what Tess has let herself in for “… Out of the frying pan into the fire!… ” this phrase suggests that it was obvious to everyone what Alec was going to do, yet Tess’ lack of life experience means she is unaware. They ride along and Alec complains to Tess about her resistance to his advances.

    She realises they have gone out of their way and accuses him of treachery. Alec offers to guide her or take her home but leaves her with his horse while he goes to look for directions. When he returns he finds Tess asleep, this is when the seduction/rape takes place. Hardy constantly makes references to classical mythology, which refers to tales of sexual passion; these references serve to prepare us for the rape/seduction in The Chase. Because of the conventions of the time in which Hardy was writing in, he was unable to describe what happened between Alec and Tess.

    The issue was highly controversial at the time because of the moral and social implications the rape/seduction scene held, the issue of rape itself, sex before marriage and having a child out of marriage were all sensitive issues could easily prevented the publication of the novel. This means that the decision is left to the reader, I feel as though it was seduction rather than rape, I put this down to Tess’ passive nature and despite Alec’s forceful manner I think that Tess could have escaped the situation.

    By this point Tess’ virginal innocence has been lost. Hardy constantly presents Tess as a victim of the incident as it troubles her future relationships and ultimately brings about her tragic end. Hardy’s narrative voice becomes at its most important from here on, as he uses nature to help the reader identify with Tess’ feelings of sorrow and hurt. The reader finds that the natural surroundings and the stages of the seasons are often in keeping with the events of the novel, which borders on pathetic fallacy.

    The novel begins with Tess at the May dance, it is in autumn when Tess returns pregnant, The Valley of the Great Dairies it is described as being a land of milk and honey and it is here, during the summer where Tess is at her happiest, then her suffering at Flintcomb-Ash- a bleak place, takes place in winter. Hardy’s narrative voice is used to build the atmosphere throughout the novel and conveys Tess’ deepest feelings through nature, an example would be when she sees the birds, “…

    The birds had been driven down into this corner the day before… ” the birds have be driven in the woods, just as she has, she feels as if she is a hunted animal herself. The birds also symbolise her suffering “… Poor darlings-to suppose myself the most miserable being on earth in the sight o’ such misery as yours… ” Tess is suffering and can see the suffering in the birds; again we see a connection between nature and Tess’ own feelings. Hardy is constantly hinting to what will happen to Tess, foreshadowing what will become of her.

    Hardy’s subtle use of symbols is also a way in which Hardy prophesises the future, an example being in the d’Urberville manor gardens, when Alec places the roses in Tess’ bosom there is more than one interpretation of it; one interpretation would be that the rose is a romantic flower, showing the romance and passion what would come in Alec and Tess’ future, yet the rose could be seen and something disguised, it may appear beautiful and romantic yet the thorns could represent Alec’s evil side, when the thorn picks Tess it could represent the pain he will cause her for the rest of her life, the red of the rose symbolising the bloodshed that will ultimately occur from their relationship. Lise, in “The Driver’s Seat” is presented as a victim of men also.

    However, where Lise and Tess differ is that Lise seems to be a victim of all the men she meets. Lise, in contrast to Tess is a lot less passive and is able to stop a situation that she is unhappy about, “… ‘If you think you’re going to have sex with me,’ she says, ‘you’re very much mistaken. I have no time for sex’… ” this shows Lise’s ability to stop the man getting the wrong idea, this is an example of where Lise is different from Tess because Tess is much more passive in such situations.

    However, like Alec, Bill still pursues the chance of sex with Lise but Lise remains defiant unlike Tess who has a tendency to give in to Alec’s wants, and example of Lise’s defiance is shown when Bill presses her on the matter of sex, “… ‘I mean it’ she says. ‘Sex is no use to me, I assure you. ‘… ” the words “I mean it” show Lise’s straight-talking attitude and her defiance is shown through the words “I assure you”. Lise, like Tess is a victim of rape, although she doesn’t get raped she narrowly escapes it on an occasion. Lise is present as a more forceful character, able to take control in threatening situations unlike Tess. However, there is similarity between Tess and Lise, both women make the men feel as though they are interested in them, this is done through their passivity.

    Lise is also a victim of men because of her search for her type, because in her search fro her right type she encounters Bill, who seems merely interested in her for sex, only wanting his “daily orgasm” and Carlo who takes advantage of Lise when she is perhaps most vulnerable. There are many similarities between Carlo and Alec when they pursue Lise and Tess. Both male characters have an obvious desire of sex, and they both find the opportunity to get what they want when Lise and Tess are at their most vulnerable. Carlo pretends to be assisting Lise by taking her back to her hotel, away from the riot, yet in reality he uses it to get close to Lise.

    This is much like what Alec did to get close to Tess, he offered her a ride home and to help her get away from a confrontational situation. What is different about the rape scenes in each of the novels is the way in which the men act once they are in the company of women; Carlo is presented as being very rough and authoritarian, whereas Alec is presented as being more gentle with Tess, these two affects are put over to the reader mainly through the narrative voice, Hardy uses classic mythology can gentle language, however Spark uses language that presents the situation as being forced and protesting, “… She kicks him and tries to push him off, gurgling her protests… the words “kicks”, “gurgling” and “protests” show the unnaturalness of the situation, the word “gurgling” suggests that Carlo is smothering her, hoping she will change her mind.

    Spark’s narrative voice is extremely different to Hardy’s. Spark’s narrative is written for the perspective of a detached observer, unlike Hardy is constantly changing is narrative perspective. Spark’s narrative in unsure in the present, whereas hardy seems to know all that is happening. Hardy is constantly foreshadowing Tess’ fate but Spark can tell the future perfect, not sing the hinting words like Hardy, Spark uses simple and clear expression, completely different to the intimacy of Hardy’s narrative.

    Finally, in both the novels Tess and Lise are presented as victims of fate. In “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” we know that the lives of the characters are subject to forces beyond their control. Chance and coincidence bring about disasters and the characters have to deal with events in the best way they can. The characters in the novel are often fatalistic about what happens to them and believe in omens and bad luck. Tess’ mother typifies this view. After talking to Tess and showing her disappointment for Tess not having pressed Alec to marry her when she is pregnant, she says “… Well, we must make the best of it I suppose. ‘Tis nater, after all, and what do please God!… ” this shows that Mrs.

    Durbeyfield thinks that their lives are in control of God and that whatever he does is for the best, or at least they should make the most of it. Sometimes the fate lies in the characters’ own natures; for example Tess’ pride and her worry for Angel’s reputation after he has left her from getting help at an earlier stage of her troubles. Also, Angel’s stubborn morality and his unrealistic ideal of womanhood prevent him from accepting Tess for who she really is. Lise on the other hand appears to create her own fate to a certain extent. She goes and searches for “her type” which as we find out towards the end of the novel refers to someone who will kill her, not someone that she wants to spend her life with like we would assume it to mean.

    The fact that Lise appears in control is reflected in the title “In The Driver’s Seat”, it suggests that Lise is in the driver’s seat and that she is making her own choices in life, not being controlled some supernatural being, yet it could also be interpreted as the victim sits in the driver’s seat. This is totally dissimilar to “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” where the characters seem to be constantly influenced by chance and coincidence. In “the Driver’s Seat” Lise’s fate is clearly given to the reader, yet you still get the impression that Lise is in control because of her search for “her type” the fate that is being spelt out is one that she wants.

    In conclusion I think that both Tess and Lise are presented as victims in a variety of ways, in some cases they are the victims of the same things and sometimes there are not. Tess is presented as a victim of social, domestic, male and fate factors. Hardy does this through various ways. His narrative voice gives an insight into Tess that makes the reader feel sympathy for her, for example with the birds we see her pain and suffering, how she can be compared with the birds-like a hunted animal, this has a deeper impact on the reader and enforces the idea of Tess as a victim. The way Tess is taken advantage of makes the reader worry for Tess as you wonder if she will survive the sexual advances of Alec because she has so little life experience.

    Tess is also presented as a victim of her own family, not just Alec, this makes the reader see Tess as a victim because it seems as if she has nowhere to turn. Lise is presented as a victim of society, male and fate factors. Spark presents Lise as a very in control character yet when she is victimised she finds it hard to remain in that same frame of mind, she finds herself prone to snap back, an example being with the porter, “… You are ignorant… ” this shows Lise losing control. Lise also escapes rape narrowly, the reader feels sorry for Lise as we see her being taken advantage of when she is extremely vulnerable and the way Carlo is presented as a rough, unkind and bad-minded attitude makes the reader side even more with Lise.

    Sparks narrative voice is one that creates a lot of uncertainty around Lise’s emotions; we can only determine Lise’s feelings through the things she does, the things she sees and the people she meets. We are never given information as to how Lise got the way she is; the mystery of what drives her is never solved. This presents Lise as a very isolated character, a victim of the lack of family, lack of past and through Spark’s narrative a lack of a future. This makes the reader feel a concern for Lise, it makes the reader think that she is being forced into death because of her lack of family and prospects of life, the reader sees her as a victim of domestic and social issues and definitely a victim of herself, through her state of mind. So, in these two novels we can see similarities in the way Tess and Lise are presented as victims.

    In both novels we see Tess and Lise presented as victims of men, both experience the bad side of men, Tess through the rape/seduction from Alec and Lise narrowly escaping rape by Carlo; another similarity being the way the men are presented in these scenes, Alec and Carlo employ similar tactics to get Tess and Lise where they want them, although Carlo is more opportunist than Alec, they both have a strong desire for sex and see the women’s vulnerable situation as a perfect opportunity to capitalise on it. Both Alec and Carlo take the women away from their intended destination yet in “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, unlike in “The Driver’s Seat” we see the rape/seduction scene presented in a more natural and calm way.

    Both are presented as victims of fate, Tess constantly being foreshadowed by Hardy and Hardy always hinting at things, yet in “The driver’s Seat” the fate of Lise is spelled out to the reader through Sparks’ ability to tell the future yet be extremely unsure in the present. So to summarise we see both women presented as victim of many aspects of life, some are themes seen in both novels and sometimes it is shown in varying degrees, the ways they are presented as victims is through the narrative voice mainly, as with Hardy we have lots of suggestion and very little revealed through Tess’ words and in Sparks we see her tell Lise’s future, very little is shown through Lise’s words either.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Tess of the D’Urbervilles and The Driver’s Seat Essay. (2017, Oct 09). Retrieved from

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