Hardy creates Tess Durbeyfield, an individual, eye-catching, complex, pure, fallen woman in ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’, someone who David Snodin (producer of the 2008 BBC TV series) believes to be ‘one of the great beauties of literature’. It could be argued that Tess’s life in Victorian society is not chosen by herself, but powered by many influences around her such as men and her family, and that who she was determined many of the events to occur in her life, events which she did not have any control over as she was who she was.
Firstly, her family have shaped her life in many ways, including her naivety, purity and her relationships with men. The pure selfishness of her parents, with interests in their money, status and themselves leads Tess to be sent to the D’Urbervilles’ to get money from their ancestors and hopefully to marry a rich gentleman, a trip in which her upbringing faults her tremendously, and it could be seen that all the events that lead could not have been helped by her as her life has been damned from the start – from her family. ‘Why didn’t you tell me there was danger?’ Tess blamed her mother for not teaching her about the world and her naivety towards men after her rape by Alec.
In Victorian society, a girl was to learn about the world and its ‘dangers’ through their mothers and older sisters, as Tess did not have the latter, she relied on her mother, a job which Mrs.Durbeyfield did not complete. Surely leaving Tess with no other option than to fall into the traps of inconsiderate men, such as Alec, thus agreeing with the statement that her life was damned from the start. Furthermore, another way in which her family has faulted her life is through the influence of her father and the lack of relationship they had, which could be argued that it lead to her having bad relationships with men in general, he was seen ‘making himself foolish in their eyes’ in the second scene at the dance to the other girls. Tess being embarrassed of her alcoholic father and that she didn’t talk to him about life as his priorities lay otherwise, such as in drink and in making money- this led Tess to being unprepared when leaving for Trantridge for the D’Urbervilles, therefore being damned from the start of her life.
Secondly, Tess’ class has defiantly shaped parts of her life out of her control. During Victorian times, the amount of social movement was very small and therefore the class you were born into, you would die to, where certain classes had different expectations, attitudes, roles and jobs. As Tess was born into a working class family, this meant that many things in society were out of reach for her, no matter what she did, therefore being damned from the start of her life.
Such as, Tess would never have had to go to Trantridge and seek their relatives as their financial situation would have been stable, this could be argued that she would have never been in contact with Alec and not have been raped. Also, she would not have to work with manual labour as she would have educated and therefore may have had the knowledge to overcome her naivety about the world. Tess was helpless with her situation as her mother had ‘lent her a deputy-maternal attitude’ and this has prevented her to go out into society, socialise and develop into a bright, sophisticated young lady – which could have helped her to become resistant to oncoming men and more aware of . Although women at the time were seen beneath men and that they could be seen as being oppressed by men, Tess could have had more strength in her relationships with men, especially with Alec as she was made a fallen victim in his harsh actions. But being a strong woman in society at the time was still not equal to a strong man, and therefore Tess being born a female in Victorian society can be to blame for the tragedies that were to follow
Last but not least are aspects of Tess’ life which could not have been changed, factors which defiantly have shaped her life, arguably for the worse, which are her looks and her sex. Throughout Tess’ life created by Hardy, her looks have been used to unconsciously attract men and to be extremely provocative, such as in the May Dance, ‘she wore a red ribbon in her hair’, with the colour red being used as a passionate, enticing and suggestive tool in which Hardly creates her to have a naivety which phases any knowledge of it. This has made her to be treated differently by people in society, especially the men, Alec and Angel, where Tess has always stood out from the other women around her as an eye-catching, interesting beauty of nature, with her ‘large innocent eyes’ seen by men as a feature which can be.
Arguably, her looks are what Alec and Angel made them first notice her in the first place and therefore, it could be argued that as they are out of her own control that she was out of control of the attention she received by people, attention which spurred evil and destroyed Tess as a person and eventually killed her. Being a very attractive female in any era has its consequences, but by Victorian standards, a female was seen as an object, therefore being attractive is more of an incentive for having a lot of attention. The attention from the males in her life was for the worse not better, and with women having very little control over their lives in the time period, this left her in situations she felt uncomfortable in, such as the assault and rape from Alec. The roles within society at the time between being male and female were dramatically different, where the female played a passive, motherly role where she was seen and not heard, and the males were strong breadwinners who had power over their wives; so her good looks deepened this divide in society’s roles, making her life harder, but yet out of her control – being damned from the start of her life.
All aspects of Tess’ live has affected the future of her life to some extent, a lot of which can be argued that they cannot have been changed by her, some which can have. The main example of this is that although she is ill educated, inexperienced and also has been treated badly by the men in her life, she still had no excuse for murdering Alec. It could be argued that she had no other choice and that he led her to do it as her naivety and lack of experience did not make her realise the difference between right and wrong. But as a religious female who has a strong sense of intelligence running in her, there surely cannot be any excuse for murder? However, although in some circumstances, she has some blame for her life, there is an over-riding majority of aspects where she is not at fault and nothing could have been done to save her such as when she was raped my Alec- leaving her damned from the start of her life.