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Historical Context

Tess of the d'Urbervilles was published in 1891 and is one of Thomas Hardy's most famous novels. It is a staunch criticism of the sexual and social hypocrisy found in English society in Hardy's time, owing to the main character's unjust suffering from a past which she cannot escape. Hardy's critique stems from his deep moral sympathy for the lower classes, especially women. This novel was highly controversial in its time, due to its portrayal of how the rigidity of the English moral code spins Tess into an endless and tragic spiral. The novel's successor, Jude the Obscure, published in 1894, also caused a sensation due to its honest look at how the self-righteousness of the upper classes had unfortunate results.
Above all, the novel criticizes the strict Victorian moral code, with its bias against women and the lower classes. Alec d'Urberville and Angel Clare are both characters, representative of their social classes in their relations with Tess. Angel's family initially shuns his marriage to a country girl, though they might be more favorable to learn that Tess is a d'Urberville. The greatest irony of the novel, however, is that Alec is not even a true d'Urberville, meaning that Tess' attempts to claim kin are fruitless from the very beginning. Hardy unravels this tragic novel as a commentary on how the pursuit of a noble blood line can have disastrous and painful outcomes.

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Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapters 1, 2, and 3
Chapters 4, 5, and 6
Chapters 7, 8, and 9
Chapters 10 and 11
Chapters 12, 13, 14, and 15
Chapters 16, 17, and 18
Chapters 19, 20, and 21
Chapters 22, 23, and 24
Chapters 25, 26, and 27
Chapters 28, 29, and 30
Chapters 31 and 32
Chapters 33 and 34
Chapters 35, 36, and 37
Chapters 38, 39, and 40
Chapters 41, 42, 43, and 44
Chapters 45, 46, 47, and 48
Chapters 49, 50, 51, and 52
Chapters 53, 54, and 55
Chapters 56, 57, 58, and 59


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