'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' by Thomas Hardy: An essay on the characters representing social class and social change

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The author Thomas Hardy lived and wrote in a time of difficult social change, when England was making its slow and painful transition from an old-fashioned, agricultural nation to a modern, industrial one. Businessmen and entrepreneurs, or "new money," joined the ranks of the social elite, as some families of the ancient aristocracy, or "old money," faded into obscurity. Hardy 's novel Tess of the d 'Urbervilles clearly illustrates his views on the harsh social changes in his time period, which were the exact opposite of many of his conservative and status-conscious readers. In the novel, Hardy mocks the power of high class society and industrialization, as well as to the importance of lineage and heritage in conjunction with social…show more content…
"So much the worse for you. I think that parson who unearthed your pedigree would have done better if he had held his tongue. I cannot help associating your decline as a family with this other fact--of your want of firmness. Decrepit families imply decrepit wills, decrepit conduct. Heaven, why did you give me a handle for despising you more by informing me of your descent! Here was I thinking you a new-sprung child of nature; there were you, the belated seedling of an effete aristocracy!" (Phase the Fifth, Chapter XXXV, pg 235-236) Angel, a character who normally rebels against conventions, cannot accept the fact that Tess is not the pure woman he thought she was, and calls her "an unapprehending peasant woman" implying that her "decrepit" family name is the reason she can 't understand why his forgiveness for Alec 's rape isn 't enough. The hypocrisy Hardy conveys through Angel is shown clearly in this passage; though Angel himself doesn 't want to follow the standards of society, he holds Tess to them, if not to higher standards of purity and perfection. His distaste for her family name and his belief that it led to her misfortune shows that he is also similar to modern society on the brink of the 20th century in England, which finds lineage and old money distasteful and useless (Grimsditch, 119). Through Angel and his many hypocritical actions in the novel,
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