Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy – Book Report/Review Example

The paper "Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy" is a marvellous example of a literature book review.
Tess of the d'Urbervilles is about a young, working-class woman who tries to make a virtuous and enjoyable life for herself in spite of the many tragedies that plague her way. Hardy wrote this book as a treatise against exclusionary, intolerant Christianity, and as an argument for women's rights.
The novel begins with Tess' father learning that their family, the Durbeyfields, is distantly descended from the aristocratic d'Urbervilles. Tess is sent as an envoy to a local branch of the d'Urberville family in hopes of raising the Durbeyfields' fortune, although the wealthier family are not actually relatives. Tess' supposed cousin rapes her, and although Tess remains defiantly unashamed of her status as a 'fallen woman' both during and following her pregnancy, she leaves home to start life afresh after the baby dies. In her new home, a close friend proposes to her, and after much angst regarding social mores - namely the damaging concept that Tess' 'true' husband is the man who forced himself upon her - she happily accepts. However, after discovering her secret, Tess' new husband hypocritically abandons her. They have only reunited after Tess murders the man who raped her; the novel closes on Tess' sister and widower mourning as the protagonist is hanged for her crime of revenge.
Hardy's penultimate novel is clearly worthy of a read: it is very well-written and even captivating, although it is not always easy to follow due to its typically loquacious nineteenth-century style. It also provides an unusual perspective on social politics in the late Victorian era, making the book useful of study for both literary and historical scholars. In showing one of the steps between medieval and modern beliefs, Hardy gently politicizes the rural ideal. However, some superficial details in the plot lessened my enjoyment of the story, the most shallow of which is probably my reaction to Tess' husband's name. 'Angel St Clare' is a too-heavy-handed clue to the character's personality, and Hardy's lack of subtlety is annoying. Other than that, the novel appears to be mostly realistic (taking into account Hardy's obvious idealization of the labouring class) and there were very few aspects which dampened my reaction to the story.
I would recommend this book to friends, with the caveat that its major event is a rape, and that how characters react to that could be upsetting as Alec (the rapist) is not seen as particularly evil or even as having done much wrong.