So, May is here. May always reminds me of Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman and the May Day reference. Hardy begins his novel with the May Day celebrations. The day that celebrates Spring and purity. Tess also participates in the yearly ritual of dancing procession. One who is acquainted with Hardy’s works would know tragedy is his forte. And such a reader would have already predicted that Tess would soon lose the tag of virtuous woman. Why else would Hardy include such a pristine white festival in his novel? And so introduced, the fair lady of the May Day celebrations is killed in the end for having been malleable, naive and inarticulative about her discomfort with Alec, a curious mix of overt sexuality and violence, and for having killed the man who rapes her, not once but twice. Physically first, then emotionally. Alec, on his part, accuses Tess of being frigid and untrusting and uses every dangerous situation for sexual advantage.
I see Tess as strong. Despite everything, she has the courage to have Alec’s baby, bury the same baby that dies soon after, fall in love with Angel, confess everything to him. But the Victorian obsession with goodness and virtue raises its head and justice comes in the form of Tess being hanged for killing Alec, a person who doesn’t leave any stone unturned to get Tess because she represents a challenge and is completely unaware of her ‘womanliness’.
It is not a happy novel. I wish I hadn’t read it so young. I was 15 I think when I first read it. But you see, people like Alec and Angel are everywhere. Alec represents the wild, overtly sexual and violent man who is the archetype of (hegemonic) masculinity because of his aggression. Angel, like his name, represents a sort of a man who is good natured, but incapable of forgiving people for the kind of mistakes he commits himself. I would rather not comment on Tess. Most Indian girls might identify with her to a certain extent. Indians love demure girls. But why would you want to settle for a man like Alec the second time around? Why Tess, why? Anybody would have been better than Alec. Anyfreakingbody.