Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy is a novel that represented abusive societal, and religious morals, how they can destruct an individual in society and the prevalence of this globally today. It was always What would society say and how would they react. This ideology about caring about what others would say still exists today in many countries where women and men are being oppressed and stuck in marriages and situations that cause them unhappiness but yet they do nothing, and take no action simply because of what society says is right and wrong. At times I felt that I was confused with Tess’s emotions and her actions and at other moments such as when she felt guilt and shame I felt as if I related really well with her and could see where she was coming from. Reading this novel I reflected upon how faith affects what happiness means. Why is it that when Tess was raped and harassed she was the impure woman who was no longer a “real woman” in society? How come these so-called religious people use religion as a way to oppress and abuse others when in reality religion is from God and is meant to bring peace and sovereignty to people’s lives? Why is that that people feel it is their place to assume God’s understanding of a situation rather than making assumptions and destroying life, and someone’s happiness? Reading this novel made me relief about society and how negatively religion is portrayed because of how Victorian society sees her.
Within the novel, Angel is the character Tess seems to like the most and he is referenced a lot, and she feels as if she could open up about her past. “He looked upon her as a species of impostor; a guilty woman in the guise of an innocent one. Terror was upon her white face as she saw it; her cheek was flaccid, and her mouth had almost the aspect of a round little hole.”
This was the reaction of Angel, the man she loved and married who represented the oppressive close-minded society that views Tess as “impure”. We see through this passage even her appearance begins to change through his perspective and he is very stern about his decision to leave the girl he married based on a traumatic event that happened to her.
Through Hardy’s use of scriptural symbolism, Tess’s shame at being a woman is made more obvious throughout the novel. Like Tess, I am a woman of high morals and I cannot imagine being in a society where my every move was watched and judged so I can understand where her misery stems from. I know I had done something against my own religion, and I felt that connection with her in that sense. makes me feel when I do something against my religion and I felt like I could connect with her in that way. There are numerous references within the novel where Tess attempts to set up her friends with Angel, the man whom she loves dearly simply because she does not believe she deserves to be happy. Even though we know that Tess did love Angel dearly we see how quick she is to give up any happiness she has in her life and be miserable.
In terms of Tess’s situation, she was always the person at fault for her rape. Society caused her sufferance and made me think globally about this problem still existing in many countries where women get raped, labelled as impure, and in some cases, must marry their rapist without choice. From the perspective of any religion whether Islam or Christianity rape is wrong, yet society and people dismiss this in many situations and label women as impure or immodest. I believe this is not a representation of religion in the correct manner and if we truly believe in all aspects of the region it should be understood that God is aware of all situations and we are not to judge if we do not know about a particular citation claiming someone else’s “impurity” based on personal judgment. Yet I find it VERY interesting how religious people focus on only certain aspects of religion targeting and hurting others while forgetting about the rest of the important morals and teaching within the Bible in this case.
Being pure and being a virgin in my own religion is required however in these types of situations the girl is not to blame and I noticed how Hardy showed the effects of religious morals and beliefs through the Sufferance of Tess dealing with this situation and traumatic event and how it affects every aspect and decision in her life because of constant shame and guilt. Constant guilt that she is not a good person. Constant guilt that she is not enough. Constant guilt about her loved ones around her, and believing that she really does not deserve to have any happiness the world has. Through the inclusion of the Victoria society and Christianity being the dominant religion present we see how these factors actually hurt and oppress Tess in a negative way making her feel worthless and hopeless in life.