Tess of the D’Ubervilles

I stand to be corrected on the truth of this tale that when a Jewish man wakes up in the morning he lifts his eyes towards the heavens and prays, ‘LORD, I thank you that first you did not create me a gentile and secondly a woman.” Turning the last page of Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of D’Urbervilles, I could not help feeling sorry for this fine creature that was Tess, and as the Jewish man would put it-unfortunate to be born a woman.

Society often judges too harshly, many a times without regarding the full evidence of a crime. A maiden who became a maiden no more because of the incessant pursuits of a lustful man, is made to stand on the pedestal of public ignominy. She bears a baby while she is still one. Fate gives her a blow by taking away the very child whom she had shown great affection. Society norms would not hear of a bastard receiving a proper burial. However, bastard or not, a mother’s love knows no bounds and Tess gets her way. From then on, Tess’s life takes a turn for the worse while the one who stole her innocence, Alec, continues defiling innocent souls. It is at this point that Tess exhibits admirable courage and determination to move on. And move on she did, fell in love and got married to a fine gentleman Angel Clare. However, this bliss was cut short when under the burden of past guilt Tess confesses her ‘sin’. Though she had desperately tried to do so before the wedding, Angel would hear none of it and made her promise that they would both confess of their past on their first night of marriage. There, her woes began afresh. Angel reacted like any man would. She despised Tess for her past totally disregarding the person she was at present; what should have been a night of passion between husband and wife turned out to be one of anguish and untold suffering.

Angel and Tess part ways, yet each carry a part of the other. This living in two separate worlds yet joined together in one by their love for one another takes a toll on both lovers. Angel falls sick in Brazil where he had gone to look for greener pastures and get away from his newlywed and Tess’ heart and family breaks apart. The latter paves way for Alec to twist Tess’s hand into marrying him. Hence, an unlucky woman is married to two men, one who took away her innocence and the other who despised her for losing it albeit unwillingly. In the end, a husband is murdered…

I am mighty glad that God extends a hand of kindness to women mistreated by the society. This hand shall never be withdrawn. All who clasp it find unspeakable joy knowing that their ‘sins’, are remembered no more. I am mighty glad that when I stand in front of the pearly gate, I shall behold the Samaritan woman and all Tess’s of the World who clasped His nail pierced hand.

 

NB: Reading through the story I could not help remember Oliver Mtukudzi’s Song Neria.  In the song that is full of pathos Tuku captures the perils of an ill-treated woman in society.