Tess’s Metamorphosis
By Ning Kun
A Thesis Presented to the School of Foreign Languages China West Normal University
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts
Under the Supervision of Mrs. Deng Yunfei
May 2009
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Thesis statement: In the struggle against the social evils of poverty and injustice, Tess’s virtues gradually fade away. Her metamorphosis constituted a cause of her life tragedy, but also became a significant reflection of her failure to social diseases.
Ⅰ Introduction.
Ⅱ Tess’s metamorphosis A Tess’s metamorphosis in character B Tess’s metamorphosis in volition
Ⅲ conclusion
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Tess’s Metamorphosis
Abstract: In the struggle against social evils of poverty and injustice, Tess’s virtues gradually faded away. Under fierce attack from social ills, she could not prevent her character and volition from deterioration. Her metamorphosis constituted a cause of her life tragedy. In this combat with social diseases, Tess failed. Keywords: Metamorphosis, Character, Volition
ⅠIntroduction Tess of the D’Urbervilles was published at the beginning of the last decade of the 19th century which was a time of considerable intellectual and social ferment. Soon after its publication some critics had already recognized that Mr. Hardy’s latest novel is his greatest. Tess is a beautiful, innocent peasant girl. One day his father John Durbeyfield was told that he was the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family of the D’Urbervilles. After the death of their horse, the poor family lost the only source of income. So the family forced Tess to claim kinship with the sham but rich d’Urbervilles. Alec, the young master of the d’Urbervilles, a dandy, seduced Tess and impregnated her. Tess returned home and later gave birth to a baby, who died soon. Peoples’ opinion forced her to leave home to work on a dairy farm. There she met Angel Clare, son of a clergyman. She tried to persuade both Angel and herself that she was not suitable to be his wife and she retreated from his affections until he
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declared his love for her. The two fell in love with each other. Before their wedding, Tess tried to tell Angel about her past with Alec D’Urberville, but failed. On their wedding night, Angel made a confession about his past dissipation and was readily forgiven by Tess, but when Tess revealed her own past, Angel just wouldn’t forgive her and deserted her that very night. Helpless and hopeless, Tess had to wander from place to place, doing the hardest work and bearing the harshest insult. One day she met Alec again, and then Alec attempted to dominate her by exerting financial superiority. When Tess's father’s death transferred the whole burden of the family on her, she was forced to go back to Alec. Before long, the repentant Angel returned from abroad. Tess, putting all the blames of her unhappiness on Alec who told a lie to her that Angel would not return. Tess killed Alec and flees with Angel. After a short happy life with Angel, Tess was arrested at dawn. In recent years, many researches are about this novel. “Thomas Hardy’s Tess of D’Urbervilles is a novel in which the protagonist and other characters are confronted by an almost endless array of emotional and moral choices that the reader must ultimately defines as good or evil.”(Northrup 2
  25) “He uses themes that require the readers to take a critical look at the character’s situation, the character’s thought process and its impact of the character’s decision making.”(Northrup 2
  25) When Clare and Alec’s choice were judged good or evil by readers, it could not be denied that both of them were also confronted emotional and moral harassment as Tess before they made decision, because they must be in consideration of their own
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situation. This situation was Victorian society. The fittest can survive. Andrew Mangravite ever said: “When Thomas Hardy closes to title his tragic novel Tess of D’Urbervilles, he was clearly out to wave a red flag in the face of Victorian complacency.”1 Three are still some researches related to Tess’s changes. Rapid economic growth and industry development, when the rulers were satisfied with their success, Hardy issued the challenge by the way of disclosing social evils, injustice law, minds fenced round with dogma. Tess of D’Urbervilles is typical. In Victorian society, rapid expansion produced many problems and pressure. Tess was quite unlucky to come across the seamy side, such as bawdry, poverty and discrimination. She declared war on the seamy side of society. Unfortunately, she constantly retreated in defeat. Those social evils conquered Tess step by step and carried off Tess’s original virtues. Drawn to despair, Worry, fear, self-distrust bowed the Tess’s heart and turned her spirit back to dust. Her metamorphosis was not immediately obvious, but had a civilizing influence, which led to her tragedy. That she killed Alec was the solidest evidence for her metamorphosis. Some people had a view that Tess killed Alec should be praised as a righteous act or struggle for woman power, but that was unsuitable. Throughout history,the struggles for equal treatment were of common occurrence. On January 11th in 1914, feminists rushed into Buckingham Palace, searching for George V king of England to petition. What’s more, Martin Luther King made an appeal to people for anti-racism and equal treatment. On August 28th in 19
  63,he made a famous speech I have a
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dream in front of Lincoln Memorial. Those movements were non-violent and peaceful. If some people use violence to express their anger about injustice treatment, their deeds probably could not be regarded as righteous actions but revenge. For example, nowadays, because some HIV sufferers come under discrimination and exclusion, they put HIV pin in the public cushion in order to infect more people. They let loose their indignation by revenging. Comparing with that, Tess’s homicide could also be called revenge. She nourished feelings of hatred towards Alec. Hardy ever said:” Tragedy, simply speaking, shows the condition of life. One’s instinct or desire unavoidably caused a terrible fate. (Zhang 1
  01) Tess wanted to get rid of Alec very much; she wished to be with Angel. The moment she clenched a knife thrusting into Alec’s breast, wine lifeblood effused from the seam between body and knife. At that moment, Tess was being another one. The one who accepted Pandora's Box was being reined by temerity, selfish, wrath, animosity. All those were abnormal. That was to say all these were disobey to her born nature such as femininity, goodness, consideration, naivety and so on. Be in despair and rage, she killed Alec, abreacting deposited hatred. In a way, it represented Tess’s ultimate metamorphosis. Even if this homicide was out of impulse, Tess’s deterioration was still based on serious stuff. Tess’s metamorphosis became a cause of Tess’s tragedy。 Coordination of the predecessor’s analyses, I would like to make a research on this topic. My dissertation is divided into three chapters. Chapter one is an introduction of my thesis. Chapter two is the body of my thesis with detailed discussion about the
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theme, Tess’s metamorphosis. Chapter three is the summary of my paper including my future study. Here, the following chapter is the body of my thesis.
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Ⅱ Tess’s Metamorphosis. Ended with tragedy, Tess was reduced to Victorian social disease’s victim. While many of her virtues were being destroyed by social evils of injustice, poverty and degradation of social atmosphere, her metamorphosis thereupon began. . A.Tess’s Metamorphosis in Character Tess’s much metamorphosis was in her character. Before she set out from home, she was a self-confident girl in the May-day dance; when she got back, she turned to be self-contemptuous. At the beginning, self-confidence made Tess disaffected about Angel’s choice. “As he fell out of the dance his eyes lighted on Tess Durbeyfield, whose own large orbs wore, to tell the truth, the faintest aspect of reproach that he had not chosen her.”(Hardy
  16) She thought, probably, that she deserved him. However, the experience of virginity-lost changed her. Facing Angel’s love, she said: “I’m not worthy of you.” She felt self-contemptuous. In Tess’s opinion, she didn’t deserve him, because she was not a virgin girl. She lived in Victorian Era and was sure to be influenced by that time’s view.2 In a great way, the environment she lived in shaded this notion of Tess.
In Victorian Era, several pennies were tantamount to a thirteen-year girl. Men of this period considered women were low class and trained women to accept this notion. Many women were seduced and then discarded. As a result, some of them became mistress or whores. Greatest contemporary politicians animadverted that women’s vote would damage its sanctity. Woman who lost her virginity was quite discriminated and spurned. (British literature: Victorian Era)
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According to Mona Caird, the ideal of virginity was worshipped in order to reinforce the idea that women’s virginity belonged to their husbands instead of themselves (186-2
  01). It was reasonable that Tess became self-contemptuous with such a social background. Auguste Comte’s central principle is the ides that the claws governing human thought and action are a subclass of the laws of the nature. (Mitchell 6
  20) Therefore, governed by virginity view of the time, Tess’s thought and action put up her diffidence, she considered herself as guilty and Impurity. Tess is portrayed as a for brave girl, hard sweet-natured and innocent, and yet she is not free from the influence of social conventions and moral standards of the day (Chen Jia 4
  36). As a result, her mood was in the self-contemptuous for most of her life. Further more, with self-confidence, Tess was a bold girl before she lost virginity; with self-contempt ion, Tess turned timid and isolated later on. During the May-day Dance, Tess’s father humiliating condition drew people’s mock. Tess expressed her discontentment assuredly and boldly with justice to those who was at laughing at her father. She cried, “I don’t walk another inch with you, if you say any jokes about him!”(Hardy
  13) More evidence was the feud with black Queen. In that situation, she was so bold to oppose people of much more numbers. But after she lost virginity, she was usually afraid of people, even if it was not her fault. For dread, she isolated herself in the deep heart, which was a departure from the previous bold girl. “Mr. Hardy doesn’t demonstrate how women should be but rather how society forms such images of women and pressures them to conform to the proper image.”(Morgan
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She feared any sorts of pressure from public, so she chose to escape.
The people who had turned their heads turned them again as the service proceed; and at last observing her they whispered to each other. She knew what their whispers were about, grew sick at heart, and felt that she would come to church no more. (Hardy
  86) The bedroom which she shared with some the children formed her retreat more continually than ever…So close kept she that at length almost everybody thought she had gone away.(Hardy
Then she tried to isolate herself from the society. “Humans hale an innate drive to form social relationships and develop mutual caring commitments with other humans that, in fact, is fulfilled only when attachment is mutual.”(Lawrence&Nohria
  76) Since Tess could not get caring from others, she wouldn’t like to develop social relationship.
All the while she was making a distinction when there was no difference. Feeling herself in antagonism she was quite in accord. She had been made to break an accepted social low, but no law keno to the environment in which she fancied herself such an omaly. (Hardy
Compared with fear caused by people’s prejudice, Taught by the lesson from Alec and Angel, Tess was far more afraid of potential harm from wooers.
She had nothing to fear from her employer’s gallantry; it wads rather the tyranny
Ning 9 induced by his mortification at Clare’s treatment of him. Upon the whole she preferred that sentiment in man and felt brave enough to endure it. (Hardy 2
Tess’s painful past experiences were on the whole caused by Alec and Angel, but she paid most. Prejudice and injustice force her turn timid. Hatred often springs from fear. Tess’s another metamorphosis in character was that she became sentimental and pessimistic. On the whole, she was lively and full of hope at first. When Tess was an innocent girl in Marlott, she led a simple life. “It was not till the rays of the sun had absorbed the young stranger’s retreating figure on the hill that she shook off her temporary sadness and answered her would-be partner in the affirmative.”(Hardy
  16) Though Angel Clare brought her temporary sadness, yet she crowded it away right soon. As a being heart-whole girl, prospect for love and happy life was full of her heart. But everything began to change with the first experience about the affair between men and women. She became sensitive and sentimental, especially after her baby died.4
Her views of life had been totally changed for her by the lesson. Verily, another girl tan the s



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