Books Magazine

Tess of the D'urbeville - a Pure Woman, a Devil and an Angel

By Mariagrazia @SMaryG

TESS OF THE D'URBEVILLE - A PURE WOMAN, A DEVIL AND AN ANGEL

A scene from Tess of The D'Urbevilles (2008)

I've just finished rewatching BBC "Tess of the D'Urbevilles" (2008) to prepare the last  lesson of a series on this novel. I've been choosing the bits to show in my wrap up class to elicit discussion from my students after reading with them some pages and reflecting on the theme that has been our focus lately: the woman question in the Victorian Age.  This is the reason why I played and have been rewatching this DVD tonight.
I started with the intention of looking for the right scenes to show and analyze and finished being absorbed again, touched and deeply emotional,
moved to tears. As well as shocked, stunned, sorrowful. Still foolishly hoping the tragic epilogue must be spared to the readers or watchers this time. You know,  I am not that academic when dealing with literary classics, though I am supposed to be as teacher of English literature. But it happens to me all the time, not only with Tess which is such a beautifully tragic story. I love the tales and the characters I tell about in my lessons. I can't see them just as fictional events and figures to be dissected. Hence, I've got a rather passionate approach to the literary classics I love. Formal text analysis has never been my style, not as a student, even less as a teacher. Thank God, I'm free to choose.
TESS OF THE D'URBEVILLE - A PURE WOMAN, A DEVIL AND AN ANGEL
But let's go back to Tess. She is so delicate and so strong at the same time, so determined and so ready to self-sacrifice, naive and generous. Her story shocked me the first time I read it,  so much that I avoided to re-read it for a long time afterwards.  Anyhow, it is a beautiful novel, beautifully written.
I like it more than Far from the Madding Crowd, and I like proposing it to my students,  though I need all my strength to read the pages I choose aloud,  forcing my voice to remain steady.  To convey the emotions without letting them prevail is not always easy. I have no acting talent, though in those moments I wish I had some.

TESS OF THE D'URBEVILLE - A PURE WOMAN, A DEVIL AND AN ANGEL

 Eddie Redmayne and Gemma Arterton as Angel and Tess

The pages we've read with this group of students are the ones following Tess's confession to Angel Clare on their wedding night. His indecision, his hellish laugh, his passive reaction, his sudden change... I feel as if he were stubbing Tess's at her heart. Figuring out her disappointment and sorrow becomes a poignant experience. Her accepting his inaction and his sarcasm with such helplessness and deep affection, her being ready to forgive him or  just lie and die for him are excruciating. She doesn't shout, she doesn't scream, she lets him go. She is not the woman he married but an impostor to despise, he said . She had forgiven him his past (an affair with an older woman) ,  he cannot accept hers  (being seduced and raped by a cynical rogue,  Alec D'Urbevilles) .
My students, especially the girls, were touched by those words. I felt the tension,  especially in the silence of my pauses.

TESS OF THE D'URBEVILLE - A PURE WOMAN, A DEVIL AND AN ANGEL

Hans Matheson as Alec D'Urbevilles

On one hand, though I tried, I can't like Angel Clare. I have no sympathy for this childish man - living on another planet and loving an improbable ideal of pure woman which couldn't exist in reality. Despite his coming back changed in the end, he is no angel at all. He actually  is one of  those who burnt a real angel's wings, Tess's wings, provoking her downfall.
On the other hand, if one can have controversial feelings for Angel, one can just hate Alec D'Urbevilles, who is a devilish figure.
In chapter XII, he bluntly tells Tess, “I suppose I am a bad fellow—a damn bad fellow. I was born bad, and I have lived bad, and I shall die bad, in all probability.” 
Both Alec and Angel have to be blamed for Tess's tragedy. The two young men,  who are self-centred and egoists,  as well as her wretched father. Three men destroyed her life.
Tomorrow we are watching the scenes we read from the book in  this TV adaptation. It is a good one with a great cast directed by David Blair, including Gemma Arterton (Elisabeth in Lost in Austen) Hans Matheson (Canone Inverso, Zivago, The Tudors) and Eddie Redmayne (The Pillars of the Earth, Birdsong, Les Miserables). I hope my students will like it.
Tess of The D'Urbevilles (the book) Tess of The D'Urbevilles (DVD 2008 region 2)


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Fighting Aging With Clarisonic

    Fighting Aging With Clarisonic

    This post is sponsored by Clarisonic and Her Campus Media. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Caits Cozy Corner possible! Read more

    10 hours, 48 minutes ago by   Cait
    LIFESTYLE
  • Classic Yet Modern Wedding in Athens | Amanda & Andreas

    Classic Modern Wedding Athens Amanda Andreas

    Amanda and Andreas wanted to create a wedding that will combine classic and modern elements together. They chose to decorate their wedding with white flowers,... Read more

    11 hours, 5 minutes ago by   Eleni Balkouli
    LIFESTYLE, TRAVEL, WEDDING
  • Varina by Charles Frazier

    Varina Charles Frazier

    What a writer this guy is! He can craft a sentence or paragraph like nobody's business. Charles Frazier's latest novel is a richly imagined account of the life... Read more

    11 hours, 48 minutes ago by   Vickilane
    CREATIVITY, PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Vintage Wedding Styled Shoot in a Villa

    Vintage Wedding Styled Shoot Villa

    Today we’re sharing with you a unique photoshoot that will transport you back in time! The aim of this shoot was to enhance the beauty of a 1500’s Villa in the... Read more

    12 hours, 25 minutes ago by   Eleni Balkouli
    LIFESTYLE, TRAVEL, WEDDING
  • This Weekend in Antwerp: 22nd, 23rd & 24th June

    This Weekend Antwerp: 22nd, 23rd 24th June

    Here’s the map! Good times! It’s Bier Passie Weekend over the whole weekend on Groenplaats. Bier Passie opens on Friday at 5. The opening hours for Saturday... Read more

    14 hours, 27 minutes ago by   Nessascityblog
    DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL
  • The Sticky Date Pudding to Die for and Amazingly Egg-less Too! - HIGHLY...

    Sticky Date Pudding Amazingly Egg-less Too! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

    version;Why will I die for these plain and simple looking sticky date puddings?Simply because it is so insanely irresistibly yummy!!! Perhaps you might do the... Read more

    17 hours, 46 minutes ago by   Zoebakeforhappykids
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • Matcha Nama Chocolate

    Matcha Nama Chocolate

    (recipe adapted from Justonecookbook)Ingredients:400g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I used Ghirardelli chocolate)125ml heavy whipping cream25g... Read more

    17 hours, 48 minutes ago by   Cathysjoy
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES

Magazines