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Cover image of Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Her father compels her to visit the biggest mansion in the village to “claim kin” with the aristocratic d'Urberville family. She falls prey to the debauched son of the house and returns home to give birth in secret to an illegitimate baby who lives only for a few days. Determined to put her past behind her, she goes to work as a milkmaid in a faraway country farmhouse where she falls in love with a good and kind young man. Her conscience troubles her and she confesses the truth about herself in a letter which her beloved never receives.Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy is the quintessential cliff hanger. Incidentally, Hardy is the author with whom this term actually originated. In one of his books, A Pair of Blue Eyes, he had his hero literally hanging from a cliff face, giving rise to the term in Victorian literature. Many great works of literature in this period were serialized in magazines of the day and depended on such devices to keep the reader interested and engaged enough to read the next installment!Nevertheless, Hardy's compassion, love of nature, his romantic idealism and wonderful style make Tess of the d'Urbervilles a great read for all ages. The story of a woman doomed by circumstances to humiliation, poverty and despair, but attempts to emerge from these by sheer dint of will does indeed make compelling reading. The concept of universal justice which does not take individual situations into account is another major theme in this book. For Tess, the heroine, who is constantly judged and condemned by society, though she is completely innocent, justice is a blind and cruel fate. Tess of the d'Urbervilles presents a very interesting picture of Victorian England at the time of great social and economic change. Tess's father's ill-conceived and foolish delusion that his family is descended from nobility leads him to push his daughter into disaster. Hardy also presents several moral dilemmas in the book—the conventional ideas of love, marriage, family and security are explored and found wanting as more modern ideas begin to emerge in the new age of industrialism. The contrast between the “pure” and unspoiled countryside and the “wicked” and tainted cities is constantly presented.Heavily censored and censured when it was first published in 1891, modern day readers of today will find much that is relevant, apart from its being a good, satisfying read in the best traditions of story telling.

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