I've always loved Hardy as a poet, and so it's odd that I never tried him as a novelist before this. His writing to me is funny and fascinating. He has a great way of putting things, and every paragraph of every page holds my interest. I'm bowled over by how sexist the society is, of course, and it seems Hardy doesn't much like it either. As always, class is a huge thing as well.
One thing that's really interesting to me is that the very character traits that make our hero such a great match (his idealism, self-control, intellectualism) seem to be causing the biggest problems. The same is true for Tess herself, at least the traits I'm guessing Hardy sees as most excellent in her, such as her complete love for and submission to her husband. If only either were a little less idealistic a reconciliation might happen. In any case, I think I've heard that the ending is terribly sad, but I hope I'm wrong about that at this point. And I'm certainly going to read "Far from the Madding Crowd" etc. and mine out Hardy as soon as I'm done. I really love his writing and his viewpoint.
It seems he is modern free-thinker type as was widespread during the last part of the 19th century. He strikes me as rather a moralist, but seemingly objects to some of the doctrines of the Church of England such as infant baptism. He seems to realize that an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God is incompatible with the existence of evil in the world. One of the Mormon missionaries in England at the time should have spoken with him about those things. =) It makes me glad to be a member of an enlightened religion. The whole religious angle of the book is extremely interesting to me.
I'm completely incensed at how Alec D'Urberville is allowed to continue to bother Tess after she's told him many times that she never wants to see him again. He's as much a creep as ever after his "conversion". And of course it's her fault because of how she looks. Phillip Garrido told one of his rape victims that it was her fault because she was attractive. Can this be a real belief of society at that time? If so, society was as sane and benevolent as Phillip Garrido.
Tess smacked Alec with her farm worker's glove, something I think was long overdue, and made his mouth bleed. That's now made him angry so that he's likely going to try to get back at her somehow. Dude, if you don't like being rejected then leave her alone!
Why is society not backing up this girl's decision to keep this man away from her? She needs a restraining order, if there's any such thing. It really shakes me that in all the "civilization" of the time, there's nobody and nothing to protect a young girl from stalkers and rapists. Where is her husband who should be protecting her? Where is the law? Where is even any decent sense of societal disapproval for how he's acting? It makes me so angry that I have to put the book down. Instead of a glove Tess needs a shotgun to teach him to stop bothering her. She speaks to him and I'm thinking, "Don't say a word to him. Don't answer the door when he knocks." But she does anyway. Emptying a few shotgun shells at his feet might discourage him, and if it didn't then one or two into his chest probably would.
Quite some few cads there are who disrespect an angry girl, but hardly any who will disrespect an angry girl with a loaded shotgun.
Well, in the end, of course, she got him with a carving knife. I'm rather glad, though I feel horrible that she felt she had to go with him in order to keep her siblings fed and housed. It's horrible that she accepted him when she clearly despised him. It's horrible that as a woman she expected and accepted that she had to be someone's possession to get by in the world. In how many ways were women forced to prostitute themselves in order to survive. And still are. I guess that's the tragedy.