Tess of the d’Urbervilles
In 1891, Thomas Hardy published his masterpiece, Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Set in his fictitious Wessex, the book was considered to be controversial at the time because it challenged many accepted Victorian sexual mores. Hardy uses the novel to explore the tension between emerging modernism and traditional English rural life. The main character of Tess is also highly symbolic of the Earth goddess. Despite her good nature, she is shunned by society for losing her virginity before marriage.
The novel is set in the 1870s, when England was gripped by a severe economic depression. Tess is the daughter of a peasant, and goes to seek employment from the wealthy Mrs. d’Urberville. Mrs. d’Urberville’s son Alec rapes Tess, who later gives birth to an infant son, who dies after a few weeks. Tess names the boy Sorrow and buries him in the corner of the churchyard.
Tess moves outside the village, and eventually Angel Clare asks to marry her. Tess is increasingly anxious because she is not a virgin. When she tells Angel about Alec, Angel wants nothing to do with her. Later, Tess meets Alec again, who wants to marry her. They get into an argument, and Tess stabs Alec to death.
When Tess tells Angel what she has done, he forgives her, and they plan to escape England. In the middle of the night they seek refuge in Stonehenge, but in the morning they are surrounded by police. Tess is taken away to prison and executed.