"Tess of the d'Urbervilles"' tragedy is constructed by Thomas Hardy through a series of coincidences. Do you agree? In your discussion, consider the context of the novel.

Essay by ougoahJunior High, 9th gradeA+, September 2006

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The story of Tess certainly represents a rare instance of womanhood and female suffering in 19th century England. However, it is fair to state that the tragedy of the novel is not due solely to the use of coincidences throughout the text. More pertinent to any examination of the reasons for Tess's tragic end are the various influences dictated by the context of the novel. These include the power of money, the influence of patriarchy, in addition to the strong religious attributes of the 19th century English society. Further, the social consequences of the Industrial Revolution ought to be considered.

The power of money during Hardy's time was a determining factor in Tess's economic and social plight. From the story's opening chapters, it was obvious that Tess's family lives in penury. With the introduction of Alec d'Urberville into the story, the family's economic plight was even more obvious; the Stoke-d'Urbervilles seemed not only much more wealthy, but also socially superior.

However, it is ironic that the Durbeyfield family should be stranded in such financial hardship, and be at such social inferiority, for they, rather than the Stoke-d'Urbervilles, are the true-blooded representatives of the family. Alec's family had, quite literally, purchased the d'Urberville name, and, as such, increased their social respectability and influence on society. This is evidenced in many later chapters in the novel, where Alec dominates Tess's choices in life; these instances are best exemplified by Tess's succumbing to Alec during her work at Flintcombe-Ash, where her father's death and mother's ill health forced the family, which had only just hung on financially before this tragedy, to collapse into monetary ruin. Here, Alec d'Urberville offers Tess and her family the aid which is needed to relieve them of their troubles, in exchange for a...