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Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy and Rebecca by Daphne Dumaurier

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Hardy’s novels are generally pessimistic and Tess of the D’Urbervilles is no exception. The novel is about a girl named Tess Durbeyfield, as the title of the book suggests. The book is set out in seven stages, which reflect her life. Basically the story is that Tess father finds out about the family name; that it is not Durbeyfield but D’Urberville and they are direct descendants of this name.

This new realization leads to Tess being seduced by her ‘supposed’ cousin and later she has a child which dies due to ill health. This wrecks her later marriage and eventually leads to murder. Rebecca, by Daphne Dumaurier is a novel again about a young girl, who remains nameless throughout the whole of the book except the title given to her when she is married, ‘the second Mrs. D’Winter’. The novel shows how she meets an older man and they fall in love, however, she is never sure of his true love for her, until she finds out the secret about his past, one of the facts that links the two novels together; a murder.

I aim to show that the shadow of the past, that is, the difficulties and experiences that Tess has to face and which ultimately she is unable to overcome are equal to those of the second Mrs. D’Winter. The shadow for Tess contains a collection of experiences that Tess’s personality encounters, which leads ultimately to her death. Tess has to go through all the difficulties her drunken father, naive mother, rape, and death of her child create. The shadow that is cast for the second Mrs. D’Winter is the relationship that was formed between Rebecca and Maxim and the effect Rebecca had left on other people.

The second Mrs. D’Winter has to deal with the great impression that Rebecca left on people and later on, the fact that Rebecca wasn’t who she was made out to be and the fact that Maxim killed her. The shadow that hangs over Tess’s past is a complicated one and many people would have different opinions about it. The problem is that even before Tess was alive the shadow was there and that was her family name. This affected the whole of Tess’s life. I believe that a man at the beginning of the book, Parson Tringham, inadvertently creates the shadow of the past in Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Parson Tringham tells Tess’s father that he is a descendant of an ancient French family named the D’Urbervilles. ‘What might be your meaning in be in calling me “Sir John” these different times, when I be plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler? ‘ The parson rode a step or two nearer. ‘It was only my whim’ he said; and, after a moments hesitation: ‘it was on account of a discovery I made some little time ago, whilst I was hunting up pedigrees for the new county history. I am Parson Tringham the antiquary, of Stagfoot lane.

Don’t your really know, Durbeyfield that you are the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family of the D’Urbervilles, who derive their descent from Sir Pagan D’Urberville, that renowned knight who came from Normandy with William the conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey Roll? ‘ This doesn’t seem significant at the time, but it is the start of a major chain of horrendous events that unfold due to this happening. A piece of evidence that we have from this affecting the story is that the parson hesitates for a moment before telling Jack Durbeyfield the information.

It shows that the Parson may have been thinking about what Jack’s reaction would be to the news and if it would have a bad effect or not. He goes on to say, ‘sometimes our impulses are too strong for our judgement’ referring to telling Jack the new information. I believe that Parson Tringham is the first Link to the shadow of the past for Tess because if it weren’t for him telling Jack about the family name, the mishaps that befall Tess would not have been as likely to happen. The other problem was that Tess’s father was a drunkard and many things may not have happened if her father had not been drunk a lot of the time.

Tess was one of the victims of her father’s alcoholic problem that caused a great deal of unhappiness in the family. One evening, when Tess’s father came back from the pub, he was too tired to do his work the next morning. He had been celebrating on the discovery of the name of his old descendants. This resulted with Tess delivering some hives to the market, which she was not fit to do either. The result was that the horse died on the way to the market and the family did not have enough money to replace it. If Tess father had not been celebrating, he would have been able to deliver the hives and the horse wouldn’t have died.

Tess however, feeling that all of this was her fault, was sent to claim kinship from a neighbour bearing the name of D’Urberville. Tess’s mother and father are also a shadow on Tess’s past because it was mostly because of them that Tess was later seduced by Alec D’Urberville, Tess’s supposed cousin. When Joan Durbeyfield, Tess’s mother, was at Rolliver’s with Jack, she remembered that there was a rich woman living in Trantridge called D’Urberville. She assumed that this lady was a relative and thought about sending Tess over ‘to claim kin’.

Going ‘to claim kin’ turned out to be a major part of the story and what some people would consider the shadow of the past for Tess. Alec D’Urberville admired Tess very much and showed his admiration towards Tess in a large number of ways. He put flowers in her hair, gave her gifts and made many attempts to kiss her. Tess however, didn’t like Alec and showed this by backing away from him every time he attempted to make a move. Hardy makes Tess seem beautiful and innocent to Alec, and this shows her inexperience to men.

She blames her mother for this inexperience. ‘Why didn’t you warn me of the danger in men folk? Tess appears to blame Alec’s seduction on her mother and if her mother had warned her that men could be cruel, Tess wouldn’t have had the child. This is another example of Tess’s mother being part of the shadow of Tess’s past. Tess soon has the child and it dies. This creates many problems for her and the baby is one of the factors, which seems to take the most direct effect on the past and future of Tess’s life. The baby, Sorrow, changes the way that people treat and consider Tess. The child was illegitimate and people had a different view on unmarried mothers in those days.

Tess was unable to give Sorrow a proper christening and funeral and the people in Marlott scorned on Tess as if it was her fault. These entire events had a great effect on Tess’s later life, when she met and fell in love with a man called Angel Clare. Angel asked for Tess hand in marriage and Tess, feeling the shadow of her past, refused him. Angel persisted with Tess, eager to find out what was wrong. Their time together was happy until Tess told Clare of her past. Tess didn’t want to Tell angel because she loved him and didn’t want to loose him however, felt that she was not good enough for him because she was not pure.

Tess even tells angel that the other women Angel knows are better for him than her and tries to talk him into leaving her, to avoid telling him about the baby. It was a frowned upon in the eighteenth century, for a woman to have an illegitimate child, more so than it would have been today. It was frowned upon by society because it didn’t comply with the rules of their life and religion. Christianity describes having a child as an act of love between a married couple, so that the child can grow up in a safe and loving environment.

People were concerned for the child because it had no father, however, they could see that Tess loved the child as much as she thought it was a burden. This is ironic, as it can be perceived as Tess loved Sorrow, but sorrow was a shadow of Tess’s past therefore is that not saying that Tess loved a part of her past? ‘Observing her they whispered to each other. She knew what the whispers were about, grew sick at heart, and felt that she could come to church no more. ‘ ‘She looked upon herself as a figure of guilt’ Finally Tess accepts but the story showed that their wedding was doomed from the start with a bad omen, a cock crowing as they left.

Angel left Tess on their wedding night because she told him of her secret. Angel had a secret to tell Tess also, which was not different from Tess story. Angel was not a virgin either and Tess forgave him for this, however, Angel saw Tess’s impurity as a worse situation than how he perceived his and left Tess to live in Brazil on his own. Tess’s life went in a downward spiral from then on. She had a terrible time, coping on her own without Angel. The shadow of the past had been cast upon the marriage and destroyed it for the time being but Angel refused to divorce her.

When Angel came back from Brazil, Tess was living with Alec. Tess murders Alec with passion, because it was Alec that had prevented her from being with her true love. ‘ He is upstairs. I hate him now because he told me a lie — that you would not come again; and you have come! ‘ ‘ I feared long ago, when I struck him with my glove that I might do it someday for the trap he set for me in my simple youth’ Tess and Clare got back together and ran away together to escape the consequences that the murder would bring. The law finally caught up with Tess and she was hanged, leaving Angel with Liza-Lu, Tess’s younger sister.

This shows the consequence of the shadow that hung over Tess, that she could no overcome its fate and ended up dead. So this shows that the shadow of the past that hung over Tess was a group of events that in turn, lead to murder and death. The name of the family was the main shadow that hung over Tess, even before she was born but the name was brought into the acknowledgement of the family by parson Tringham at the beginning of the book. The shadow of the family name led to the rape of Tess and the baby and this is what destroyed her life and marriage.

The shadow of the past did hang over Tess and affected her life greatly, it controlled it to a certain extent and because she was unable to overcome the shadow, the penalty was death. In Rebecca by Daphne Dumaurier, the shadow of the past hangs equally over the second Mrs. D’Winter. She still has to deal with this terrible ghost of the past, like the family name and the baby in Tess. She falls in love with a man called Maxim. In the first half of the book, maxim does not talk about his past relationship with Rebecca, which makes the second Mrs. D’Winter’s perception of Rebecca Inaccurate.

The second Mrs. D’Winter builds up a false image of Rebecca and this image affects her life and the way that she treats people. She still feels a certain presence of Rebecca and it is something that she can’t seem to escape. The thought of Rebecca is constantly on her mind. I don’t think that. Rebecca herself appears at first to be the shadow but I believe that the real shadow that Rebecca created was the shadow of her past relationship with Maxim and the impression she left on other people.

The second Mrs. D’Winter remains nameless at the beginning of the book. This is the point where the girl’s life takes a change and she meets Maxim. Maxim is much older than she is and so creates an element of surprise when Maxim asks the girl to come away with him to live in Manderly, the mansion that he lived in where the shadow of the past hung. The girl marries Maxim and becomes the second Mrs. D’Winter. I feel that this is quite an odd relationship to begin with. Maxim seems to be holding a terrible past over him and the second Mrs. D’Winter can only guess as to what he is thinking.

Maxim never appears to tell her that he loves her and so the second Mrs. D’Winter is always worrying about the relationship and if it is a success or not. She is constantly comparing it to how she thought the relationship with Maxim and Rebecca was. The second Mrs. D’Winter is constantly hearing good things about Rebecca and this brings up an image in her mind of an almost ‘perfect’ person that she must live up to, but is living in the shadow of. This leads her to believe that Maxim is still in love with Rebecca.

The shadow of the past affects the second Mrs. D’Winter’s mind all the time. She is always comparing Rebecca to herself and this lowers he self-esteem. ‘Yet she was the most beautiful creature that I have ever seen’ ‘ Rebecca, always Rebecca. Wherever I walked in Manderly, wherever I sat, even in my thoughts and in my dreams I met Rebecca. I knew her figure now, the long slim legs, the small and narrow feet. Her shoulders, broader than mine, the capable clever hands. Hands that could steer a boat, could hold a horse. Hands that had arranged flowers, made the models of ships, and wrote “Max from Rebecca” on the flyleaf of a book.

I knew her face too, small and oval, the clear white skin, the cloud of dark hair. I knew the scent she wore, I could guess her laughter and her smile. If I heard it, even among a thousand others, I should recognise her voice. Rebecca, always Rebecca. I should never be rid of Rebecca. ‘ Rebecca’s presence is still felt to the second Mrs. D’Winter and this is described throughout the book when she is smelling what she smelt like and imagining the things that Rebecca did in a daily basis, her ‘routine’. She feels that she is a replacement to Rebecca and can feel her influence still there.

People tell her that Rebecca made Manderly what it was and that she changed it to make it beautiful. Despite the things that the second Mrs. D’Winter knows about Rebecca, it is still not the right perception, the perception that changed when maxim told her the truth and talked about his past. The fact that Rebecca was not perfect, that she was not all-good; that Rebecca lived a lie of a life with Maxim as one big practical joke to fool people. ‘They all believed in her down here, they all admired her, they never knew how she laughed at them behind their backs, jeered at them, mimicked them. ‘ (-Maxim)

This shatters the illusion that the second Mrs. D’Winter has of Rebecca and she starts to treat things differently. She feels that she doesn’t have to live as Rebecca anymore and that maxim loves her. This shows how she changes from the false image of the past, the shadow that affected her so deeply, that was in fact created by the second Mrs. D’Winter in some way. Had she known the truth about Rebecca from the start, she may not have felt Rebecca’s looming presence through the duration of the novel. ‘ I did not care about his shame. None of the things that he had told me mattered to me at all.

I clung to one thing only, and repeated it to myself, over and over again. Maxim did not love Rebecca. He had never loved her’ (- the second Mrs. D’Winter) ‘My heart for all its anxiety and doubt, was light and free. I knew then that I was no longer afraid of Rebecca. I did not hate her anymore. ‘ Maxim, at the end of the novel was often telling the second Mrs. D’Winter that Rebecca had won, that she would always have the last laugh. Maxim thought that Rebecca had wanted him to kill her as he describes: ‘I believe’, said Maxim, ‘that Rebecca lied to me on purpose.

The last supreme bluff. She wanted me to kill her. She foresaw the whole thing. That’s why she laughed. That’s why she stood there laughing when she died. ‘ ‘It was her last practical joke,’ said Maxim ‘ the best of them all. And I’m not sure if she hasn’t won, not even now. ‘ This shows that maxim still felt that Rebecca’s plight wasn’t over and that there was still more to come in an instinctive way but he didn’t know what was going to happen. This shows that the shadow of the relationship was still hanging over maxim, and it had done for the duration of the novel. And if you had my memories you would not want to go there either, or talk about it, or even think about it.

‘ The shadow that hung over the second Mrs. D’Winter was also partly the shadow that hung over Maxim. He was her husband and didn’t like to see him troubled. She shows this by describing her thoughts and feelings about Maxim whenever the subject of ‘Rebecca’ was raised. The other problem that the second Mrs. D’Winter had to deal with was the fact that maxim had murdered Rebecca. The murder is part of the shadow that hangs over the second Mrs. D’Winter and causes much worry and anxiety for the couple.

She now had to deal with the facts that her husband was a murderer and that he might have been going to prison for the rest of his life. In some ways Rebecca did take revenge because her servant, Danny, burned down Manderly at the end of the book. Danny was a great admirer of Rebecca and her death hurt her to the extent that she became angry with grief. It was a combination of events leading in a downward spiral that created the shadow in Rebecca. Rebecca lay the foundations of the shadow and the shadow was made larger by the inaccurate perception of the second Mrs.

D’Winter. She was affected by a murder as in Tess of the D’Urbervilles and had to deal with a relationship where one person was hiding a past that the other person knew existed but did not know anything about. The shadow affected them in different ways. The shadow in Tess of the D’Urbervilles ended up killing Tess and the shadow in Rebecca ended up with the second Mrs. D’Winter and Maxim’s home burning down. After comparing each shadow, I would say that they are both equal to each other in the respects of changing lives.

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