Monday, February 15, 2016

Passages from Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Here are the bits of Tess of the d'Urbervilles that I thought worth noting.

"All these young souls were passengers in the Durbeyfield ship--entirely dependent on the judgement of the two Durbeyfield adults for their pleasures, their necessities, their health, even their existence. If the heads of the Durbeyfield household chose to sail into difficulty, disaster, starvation, disease, degradation, death, thither were these half-dozen little captives under hatches compelled to sail with them--six helpless creatures, who had never been asked if they wished for life on any terms, much less if they wished for it on such hard conditions as were involved in being of the shiftless house of Durbeyfield." [Loc. 392 of 6418]

"...the stress of threadbare modishness makes too little of enough." [Loc. 2116 of 6418]

"He observed to his father that he was then six-and-twenty, and that when he should start in the farming business he would require eyes in the back of his head to see to all matters--some one would be necessary to superintend the domestic labours of his establishment whilst he was afield. Would it not be well, therefore, for him to marry?" [Loc. 2634 of 6418]

"Sheer experience had already taught her that in some circumstances there was one thing better than to lead a good life, and that was to be saved from leading any life whatever." [Loc. 3917 of 6418]

"No prophet had told him, and he was not prophet enough to tell himself, that essentially this young wife of his was as deserving of the praise of King Lemuel as any other woman endowed with the same dislike of evil, her moral value having to be reckoned not by achievement but by tendency." [Loc. 4258 of 6418]

"...the tolerable nature of her own, if she could once rise high enough to despise opinion." [Loc. 4482 of 6418]

"Beauty to her, as to all who have felt, lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized." [Loc. 4761 of 6418]

From a modern perspective, this was definitely a weird book. Tess of such an anti-feminist, but it allows the overall book to be an incredibly feminist text. Tess is almost caricaturing the misogyny of her times. It's like Thomas Hardy is punking us from the grave; we think, "I can't believe women had it THIS terrible!" and his face is in convulsions trying to hide the joke.

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