English Literature » Notes » Injustice in “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”

Injustice in “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”

The injustice of existence between man and woman in Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. In the novel, the most critical thing out of many things, found throughout the novel, is injustice. And the victim of this unfairness is none other than Tess. She is punished for killing a prince, despite of the fact that she does not mean to kill him. Alec raped her but punishment was given to Tess, which is a clear manifestation of injustice and unfairness. Actually, the focus of Hardy is Victorian society, in which there is a marked difference between the social status of men and women.

Women are not treated equal to men. Men were considered mighty and superior to women. Men express their maleness by exerting power over women and dominating them. They used to think themselves as Supreme Being destined to control women who are naturally weak and feeble. As a result, this attitude led to the exploitation of women. As it happened in the case of Tess. Alec taking advantage of his maleness abused Tess which shows how women were maltreated by men. As far as Tess and Angel are concerned, there is no parity in their relationship. Angel’s love is the love of domination and obsession.

In Tess, he sees a picture of Tess’s country purity for the real life woman. It seems that he lives in the world of imagination and dreams. This is evident from the fact that he refuses to get to know her and does not try to explore her true self. Whenever, she tries to reveal her identity, he does not allow her. Angel suppresses her identity showing an absolute male dominated attitude. When Tess confesses to Angel all that happened to her in the past, Angel got changed. His image of Tess got shattered and whatever he was thinking about Tess earlier now needed to be re-evaluated.

Tess is not that person he was looking for. She does not fit into the definition of an ideal country woman. “All material objects around announced their irresponsibility with terrible iteration. And yet nothing had changed since the moments when he had been kissing her; or rather, nothing in the substance of things. But the essence of things had changed” (Hardy 248). When Tess confesses, she becomes a fallen woman and Angel realizes that he has made a mistake in marrying her. He was not even willing to divorce her because of familial reasons.

Kok explains it: Hardy’s strong emphasis concerning the authority of Victorianism and Victorian traditions on the lives of individuals is laid bare with the patriarchal behavior of Angel, and with the submissiveness of Tess. For Hardy, it is these traditions that frustrate the lives of the couple. Although they have had the chance of becoming happy together, because of the Victorian minded reaction of Angel, and because of the limited worldview of Tess they miss this opportunity (133). Tess is an innocent girl. All her life she has to suffer for uncommitted wrongs.

And in that situation she gets help from neither her parents nor from benevolent god. “Darkness and silence ruled everywhere around. Above them rose the primaeval yews and oaks of The Chase, in which were poised gentle roosting birds in their last nap; and around them the hopping rabbits and hares. But, might some say, where was Tess’s guardian angel? Where was the providence of her simple faith? ” (Hardy 87) So Tess is in a miserable situation. She is hapless finding no protective cover. She has become prey to Alec and there is no savior, even her lover Angel cannot save her.

But in all that happened to her, she has done nothing wrong. As it is explained in the following lines: Never in her life – she could swear it from the bottom of her soul – had she ever intended to do wrong; yet these hard judgments had come. Whatever her sins, they were not sins of intention, but of inadvertence, and why should she have been punished so persistently? ” (Hardy 381) Tess is feeling herself quite helpless and hapless. She is protesting against the injustice of the nature. She is in a state of confusion about atrocities falling over her.

She has never done anything wrong in her life. Even she never has bad intentions, she asks then why she is facing such turmoil? It is surely the unfairness that innocent people like Tess are punished while the criminals like Alec are set free to enjoy the luxuries of life. After experiencing all this, she speaks against the injustices done to her. She writes a letter to her husband in which she tries to highlight the unfairness of her husband. She says: “O why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do not deserve it. I have thought it all over carefully, and I can never, never forgive you!

You know that I did not intend to wrong you why have you so wronged me? You are cruel, cruel indeed! I will try to forget you. It is all injustice I have received at your hands. ” (p 313). In this letter, she explained the cruelty which he practiced on herself. This cruelty is the sum of all the sufferings and miseries she encountered in her life. While complaining about her husband’s unjust behavior she is actually complaining about all the cruelties and injustices of life. It seems as if she has become tired of troubles which she faced in her life.