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Tess of the D'Urbervilles: Thomas Hardy

Finished Tess of the D'Urbervilles today, in a marathon reading where I snatched a few minutes between classes (or during classes, depending on the teacher). I've read the book before (albeit only superficially--I didn't get it at all) and I knew what was coming, and I still wanted to jump up and down and scream at the end. Slightly spoilery, although I've hidden the worst of the spoilers.

(skip) Tess is raped by Alec D'Urberville in the first part of the book; the repercussions of this (less the emotional ones than the societal castigation--this is, after all, a work by a Victorian author who was quite aware of what his society was like) are all over the book. In the end, she murders Alec (I was quite glad about this one) and is executed for it. (skip)

Lots and lots of victim-blaming by various characters (including her supposedly devoted husband, to whom she is slavishly devoted also), as well as a sense of guilt and indecision on the part of Tess, who doesn't know if she should tell her secret or not. As far as emotional impact, I think this one packs a wallop (I was quite ready to punch Alec D'Urberville through the book, several times), but I still like Far From Madding Crowd's descriptions. I think Hardy became more and more...disillusioned, perhaps?...with humanity in general; his later books are decidedly more fatalistic, and the poor protagonists often suffer a great deal. (I mean, at least Bathsheba and Elizabeth-Jane get happy [ambiguously happy, okay] endings. Tess doesn't get anything of the sort.)

Still, a very engrossing read--as soon as you get used to the sometimes unusual syntax--and now I think I need to find some kind of fanfic AU where Tess is alright in the end. 10/10



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