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Essay/Term paper: Angel and tess

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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Angel and Tess: A Romance Fit For the Books?

Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Napolean and Josephine. Throughout society's entire existence, we have known almost innately that these couples belong together, and yet fate intervened to deal their relationship a tragic blow. Yet readers persist on viewing these couples as the most passionate of all times. What makes them so unique? What makes them so compatible? What makes everyone see them as half of a whole instead of two? These couples proved to society that they belonged together, no matter what circumstances they faced . They possessed True Love, the rare gift that makes a relationship last, amidst outer turmoil. In the novel, Tess of the D'Ubervilles, by Thomas Hardy, another literary couple is portrayed. Tess Durbeyfield and Angel Clare appear to be in such an invincible love. The audience believes that they could have a happy life together as a unified couple, but, here too, fate intervenes and Tess is killed. However, the question remains in readers' minds: Would Tess and Angel"s relationship reached the level of perfection in these examples had Tess remained alive? Would their relationship have been successful? There are several factors that can define a successful relationship. In order for a relationship to be worthwhile, the relationship must possess mutual love, respect, and trust, characterized by similar backgrounds, harmonious personalities , and compatibility. Tess and Angel"s love could not have survived for long, because they did not possess these things. Their differences made it too difficult for them to be compatible for long. They had different pasts, different personalities, and different goals and aspirations that prevented true love.

Tess Durbeyfield has a difficult past, and it impacts who she grows up to be; her

past is always a part of her, a perpetual learning experience. Though she spends some years away from home, Tess's personality is still influenced by her humble beginnings, making it impossible for Angel to fully understand her, because his own childhood was relatively easy compared to Tess's. Tess bears most of the burden in her family. The responsibility of the family's welfare is solely on Tess's shoulders. Her parents, immature and impractical, unwittingly force her to care single-handedly for the family. Her mother even says, "The lady must be our relation, and my projick is to send Tess to claim kin." (21) Joan Durbeyfield wants to take the easy way out and inherit the D'Uberville fortune. Tess is the only one in the family that realizes the unlikelihood of this. Her younger brother comments on his excitement of becoming one of the upper-class, and asks, "'Baint you glad that we've become gentlefolk?'" (25) Because of constant situations like this, Tess is required to grow up much too quickly. Hardy writes that these situations "...might cause her to be estimated as a woman when she was not much more than a child." (43) Conditions like this cause the differences between Tess and Angel to be too great for their attraction to blossom into true love.

Another aspect in which Tess's childhood years were greatly different than Angel's

was the financial situation. She had to work hard all her life just to make sure that the family could survive. Her jobs often included hard, physical labor" Hardy describes how Tess and the other girls worked as he writes, "...the daily section by each damsel of the eight or ten cows to which she had grown accustomed to rendering." (119) Tess's family is close to destitute, whereas Angel's family is wealthy. She has to bargain for even the smallest amounts of money, and even then, she is not always successful. "...tanner would only give them a few shillings for Prince's carcass." (28) The family is so poor that even selling the corpse of their horse is considered. Anything that went wrong in the family is under Tess's care, and thus, she often had a heavy feeling of guilt blanketing her soul. The weights of these burdens begin to effect Tess both mentally and physically. Hardy writes, "Her face was dry and pale as if she regarded herself in the light of a murderess." (29) Tess was the only one who realized what the absence of a horse would mean to the family's welfare, and therefore, felt guilty. However, Angel Clare finds problems like these somewhat unfathomable. His wealth and social class has not allowed him to experience such situations as Tess. Once again, differences such as these break the ties of the unification of true love.

Tess, unlike Angel, was taken advantage of. In different stages of her life, she is used in more ways than one. Angel never was, and could not understand to what extent Tess's trauma has been stretched to. Tess is taken advantage of both knowingly, and

unwittingly. Her mother did not realize that she was using her daughter. Joan Durbeyfield is just an extravagant impractical woman who meant no harm. She, too, wants the best for her family, but she goes about the wrong way of doing it. She even triumphantly points out, "And if he don't marry her afore, he will after." (47) Joan, heedlessly, plans on Alec and Tess marrying, barely realizing that that is the last thing Tess wants. Joan just wants Tess to marry into money. Tess is also taken advantage of in a much more serious way. "Why it was upon this beautiful feminine tissue, sensitive, as gossamer, and practically blank as snow as yet, there should have been traced such a coarse pattern as it was doomed to receive." (71) While Tess was sleeping, Alec rapes her. This experience never completely left Tess and she is affected by it constantly and unconsciously. Since nothing of that caliber ever happens to Angel, he is unable to identify with Tess's pain and suffering. Thus, they can never achieve true love.

Not only are Tess and Angel's pasts completely opposite, but their personalities are conflicting as well. Tess has a charming sense of innocence in her throughout the entire novel. Hardy describes his heroine and writes that, "Phases of her childhood lurked in her aspect still. As she walked along to-day, for all her bouncing handsome womanliness, you could sometimes see her twelfth year in her cheeks, or her ninth sparkle from her eyes; and even her fifth would flit over the curves of her mouth now and then." (9) Her prior years will always have a hand in defining who exactly Tess Durbeyfield is. She expresses an innocence that Angel does not have. Tess is also very idealistic. She is full of hopes and dreams for herself and the world in the future. "They [stars] sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard apple tree. Most of them splendid and sound-a few blighted." (25) Tess believes the stars are other worlds. The stars symbolize her desire to live a better life, but she knows that could never happen unless she lived in another world. Angel, corrupted by the contradiction between his sheltered life and the harshness of reality, could never appease her idealism. Tess was stubborn in her beliefs and independent. "'Never!' said Tess independently, holding on as well as she could without touching him." (49) Though Alec pleaded for her to hold on to him, she refused, staying on the buggy with her own strength, not someone else's. Angel has no means of being this independent. He was not brought up to look after himself. Tess also proves herself to be proud of who she is, no matter what her social class. "'I wish for no better, sir.' she said with something of dignity." (37) Angel is too indecisive to be proud. First he wants to be a scholar; then a farmer. He says he has no boundaries for social classes, but his family changes his opinion on that idea. Angel is too easily swayed in his view points.

Tess Durbeyfield and Angel Clare are far too different to have anything in common. Their views, goals, and personalities would constantly conflict with each other and produce unwanted friction. Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, and Napolean and Josephine all had their respective problems, but the fact remains that they had enough in common within their pasts, personalities, and future goals that society can recognize them as couples in true love. According to the above definition, Angel and Tess had no hopes for True Love. Having Thomas Hardy kill Tess's character was metaphorical for the death of the relationship between Angel and Tess. If Tess had not died, the relationship would not have prospered.


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