The Durbeyfields are poor and of low social status. Their lives illustrate a normal struggling family’s routines. However, everything changes when the revelation of the family’s aristocratic lineage is discovered. Mr. Durbeyfield is immediately lost in a dream like reverie where he moves from his poor social status to aristocracy. He assumes the role of a rich man despite the fact that, in reality, he remains a poor one (Hardy 2008). His family perceives the news of their family’s noble lineage as an opportunity to improve their social status. However, Tess, the eldest daughter in the family, does not share the family’s enthusiasm on the discovery.
The revelation of the Durbeyfield’s noble descent induces Mr. Durbeyfield into a drunken stupor. His assumption of the newly found status results in his failure to execute his daily duties. Tess maintains awareness of her family’s predicament (Watts 2007). She realizes that her father is oblivious of reality. She takes responsibility for the family by taking her father’s place. This can be clearly seen, when Tess started to take the beehives to the market herself (Hardy 2008). The revelation of her family’s connection to the noble d’Urbervilles does not bring Tess any happiness, nor does it make her fortunate. She is rather followed my misfortune and calamity.
The journey to the market leads to the death of the family’s only horse, their sole means of transport and labor. Mr. Durbeyfield, however, with a newly acquired pride refuses to sell the carcass for meager compensation (Watts 2007). He rather chooses to bury his dead horse in an effort to preserve and uphold his newly found nobility. The loss of the horse proves burdensome to Tess. She perceives it as her fault and is compelled to pay off her family. This results in her giving in to her mother’s persistent request to visit the d’Urbervilles.
The visit to the d’Urbervilles significantly affects Tess’s life adversely. She does not meet Mrs. D’ Urberville but rather meets Alec. He is a shady and opportunistic individual whose intentions towards Tess are selfish and self serving (Watts 2007). His inappropriate and awkward reference towards her illustrates his ill manners and dark character. His request of Tess to accept job offered by Mrs. d’Urbervilles is an attempt by Alec to have his way with her. Though Tess’ mother has reservation for letting her go she has no way of calling her back. Mrs. d’Urbervilles’s reaction is indifferent contrary to Tess’s expectations.
Tess rejects Alec’s sexual advances, however he takes advantage of her. This action by Alec proves to be catastrophic to Tess. She feels condemned and rebuked by society’s moral standing (McEathron 2005). She leaves for her home where she gives birth to a child. However, the child soon dies leaving Tess depressed. She feels the villagers’ whispering judging her and thus resorts to isolate herself (Hardy 2008). Tess’ hatred for Alec and her shame tears her apart. She blames her mother for not giving her forewarning on such issues. She slowly recovers and assumes normality in her life, however it is short lived.
The genesis of tribulations Tess encounters can be attributed to the revelation of her family’s descent. Tess' parents’ blind assumption of nobility while disregarding their duties to provide for and protect their children contributes to the misfortunes she faces. Their desire to become wealthy culminates in putting Tess in dangerous ways. Tess recovers from her encounter with Alec and the loss of her son, rapidly changing her perception of life. She chooses to experience life’s lessons rather than read about them (Watts 2007). This decision leads her to liberate herself from her family and seek her own way in life. She aspires to provide for herself and remain a single woman.
Tess takes a job at a dairy farm where she meets Angel. Her previous encounter with him at a dance reminds her of her naivety at the time. Angel, on the other hand, has escaped from his family’s grip and control. He seeks to find his own niche in life just like Tess. Their meeting leads to unexpected feelings in Tess. After her ordeal, she did not think of herself as capable of love (Watts 2007). She is proven wrong by her attraction towards Angel and their eventual love connection. Angel’s intention to marry her is constantly being rejected. Tess perceives herself as an unsuitable one to be married to Angel given her past. She believes his involvement with her will bring him only pain and ridicule.
Mrs. Durbeyfield urges Tess to never disclose her past to Angel as he may reject her forthwith. Tess feelings overcome her, and she gives in to Angel’s proposal to marry him. However, Tess is conflicted in her desire to be loved, and her moral obligation to disclose her past to him. She attempts to disclose him everything by writing a note to Angel, but he is oblivious of the conflict within her (Hardy 2008). Misfortune and ill omen persistently torment her. The cock’s crowing in the afternoon signifies of Tess’ future tribulations that await her rather than the omen of her immediate dilemma (McEathron 2005).
The marriage between Angel and Tess does not result to the expected bliss characterized by newlyweds. Tess confesses her past to Angel leading to his disappointed reaction. He feels deceived and is unable to withstand her. This leads to their separation and his leaving for Brazil where he hopes to start a new life. Tess is faced by the dilemma as to her future. Her stay at her parents is unbearable, and she opts to seek employment elsewhere without telling her parents of her real predicament. Her diminishing finances leads to her encounter with Angel’s parents and Alec.
Alec’s subscription to religion is astonishing to her. She refuses to believe that he has changed. Angel’s absence and silence do not help the matters. Tess’ desperation and lack of financial support make her accept Alec’s help (Watts 2007). Angel, on the other hand, realizes the mistake he has done by leaving Tess and returns to seek forgiveness from his wife only to find her absent. He traces her to Alec’s house where he finds her living with Alec. Tess’ fury at Alec’s success in manipulating her into his subjection is enormous. She kills Alec ending his hold on her and his effect on her life (Hardy 2008).
The murder of Alec is the only way for Angel and Tess to be together peacefully. However, this murder makes Tess a hunted criminal. A few moments spent with her husband rekindles their love. They both understand that sooner or later the law would catch up with her. Her parting words wishing her husband happiness is the only gift she can bestow to him before her death. Her execution is a climax of the tribulations resulting from her affiliation with the d’Urbervilles nobility.