Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy Essay

1070 Words5 Pages
The term culture comes from "cultura animi,” or “cultivation of the soul.” One’s culture is a manifestation of where they come from, a huge part of who one is. However, when one must fight against one’s own culture, it’s like fighting against oneself. This is what Tess Durbeyfield had to do in Tess of the D'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Tess’s strength develops as she contends with two cultural issues; the cultural expectation for women to be pure, and the cultural system of a social hierarchy. In Tess of the D'urbervilles, there is a double standard for women, for Tess. Women are expected to be pure because without their pureness, they are soiled and unsuitable for marriage. Therefore, when Tess was taken advantage of by Alec…show more content…
. . . How can forgiveness meet such a prestidigitation as that?” (223). This reveals the injustice for women, that women must actively guard their purity with their lives while men have the luxury of making mistakes. Furthermore, for women, it matters not if she is a victim of a crime, as long as a woman is bereft of her purity, she is unworthy to be wed. In fact, the title of the fifth phase is “The Woman Pays,” suggesting that there is a debt for which Tess must be atoned. However, this debt is not inflicted upon Angel who was corrupt, nor for Alec who defiled Tess. This shows that punishment is reserved solely for women, which reflects on the cultural expectation of a woman’s purity. Despite all that Tess went through, she was able to become stronger because of it. As she told Angel of her woes, “Tess’s voice throughout had hardly risen higher than its opening tone; there had been no exculpatory phrase of any kind, and she had not wept” (222). The composure that Tess keeps as she recounts her tragic tale is an attestment to to how strong her experiences have made her. Another way in which Tess’s strength is revealed is through the aloof distance which she keeps while working in the fields with her child, even though her peers judge her because of her illegitimate child and impurity. Her maturity of strength is also revealed in the murder of Alec D’Urberville. For the first time, Tess stands up for the women in her culture and actively defies
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