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By what means does Hardy seek to achieve sympathy for Tess

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Throughout Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy seeks to create a lot of sympathy for Tess. Her life is seemingly full of fate and almost everything she does goes wrong. Hardy creates a lot of sympathy for her in particular during the latter part of chapter 4, Phase the First when the Durbeyfield horse, Prince, is killed. The extract starts with Tess and her younger brother, Abraham, talking about the world in which they live being a “blighted star” rather than a “sound one”. Which is suggesting that the star, or world, Tess and her family live on is full of horror and things going wrong.

Abraham asks Tess, “How would it have been if we had pitched on a sound one? ” This suggests to the reader that Abraham knows no other life to the one he leads and would not recognise a “good life”. Sympathy is created from Tess’ response to Abraham where she basically lists all the things that are wrong with their life. She states that her father would have been able to do the journey they were currently on instead of them had he not “got too tipsy” and their mother “wouldn’t have always been washing.

Now that Abraham has his definition of a “sound one”, he mentions another fitting situation in their “blighted” world of Tess having to marry a gentleman to be made rich. This real life situation also creates sympathy for Tess because she says “Oh, Aby, don’t – don’t talk of that anymore! ” This clearly shows how much she dislikes the situation but is being forced into it by her mother. The suggestion of them living in a blighted world full of wrong, does appear to be fatalistic itself when Tess falls asleep at the reins of their horse, and when she is awoken, they have been in a crash with the mail-cart and the horse has been killed.

After the crash, Tess is beside herself and constantly blames herself, “‘Tis all my doing – all mine….. no excuse for me – none” Her immediate thought is not about herself either as she exclaims, “what will father and mother live on now? ” Not only does Tess blame herself for the accident where the horse was killed, but she also blamed and called herself “such a fool” for having fun the previous day when she “danced and laughed”. So because she takes all this blame and self-punishment so far and seriously, this creates a lot of sympathy for her from the reader as they can clearly see she does not deserve it.

The sympathy that has already been created by Hardy for Tess is subtly extended throughout using pathetic fallacy. Hardy describes that “the atmosphere turned pale, the birds shook themselves in the hedges, arose, and twittered. ” Here it suggests that the birds were disturbed by the crash and that the previously calm and almost pleasant atmosphere was drained of all colour when the carts crashed and it all turned pale. This soon leads to a strong contrast of colours.

The colourless atmosphere with the lane showing “all its white features, and Tess showed hers, still whiter” is described by Hardy, immediately followed by the description of “the huge pool of blood in front of her… ” There are many explanations for this, such as the fact that even though Tess has caused a terrible accident and there is a pool of red blood, she is still whiter than white when it comes to her consistent innocence. This point also shows Hardy’s narrative viewpoint towards Tess.

He clearly wants the reader to feel sympathetic towards Tess as he create all the sympathy himself and then he implies that she is not to blame by reminding us after the crash of her innocence which shows that Hardy is almost on Tess’ “side”. Sympathy is created is many other instances in Phase the First. Another main section where sympathy is sought is when she goes to find work at the D’Urberville manor. She does this simply because Tess feels guilty about the death of their horse and feels she owes it to her parents to bring in some money.

This is, of course, where she first meets Alec D’Urberville and he uses flattery as well as other things such as scaring Tess into unwontedly needing Alec’s help to try and “worm his way in” with Tess, before Phase the First comes to a close with Alec taking advantage of Tess and raping her. An example of how he scares Tess is when he is giving her a lift home on his horse and cart and he purposely speeds down a hill to scare Tess and when she asks that he slow down he replied that he only would if he could “put one little kiss on those holmberry lips, or even on that warmed cheek” So Alec bribes her into letting him kiss her.

Tess’ life literally is one bad, unfortunate occurrence after another. This could be seen as a very useful device Hardy uses for making Tess’ character appear weak, vulnerable and passive all the way through the novel until the conclusion where Tess seeks revenge on Alec producing a great contrast between her character at the start and through the middle of the novel with the end result.

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