In Chapter XI Thomas Hardy messes with my head. He makes Alec likable (at times) and then he rapes Tess. Fucker!
We’re now entering the second phase of Tess: Maiden No More and I’m sad. The title is “Maiden No More” the sad bit is my own mood entering this phase. In Chapter XII I find myself having an inner struggle, damn you Thomas Hardy!
It’s now late October and Tess has made an early morning run for home on a Sunday morning, effectively sneaking out of the d’Uberville’s. But, she’s busted by Alec.
Her mood since the rape is changed, depressed and shamed for what she thinks she allowed to happen. When Alec finds her he’s a bit mad at her and tells her he would have let her leave, and that he would have assisted her in going home. That is at least part of the reason he went after her, to help get her home. She does allow him to do this, no longer afraid of what he could do to her.
On the ride they discuss how Tess came to end up in Tantridge (where the poultry farm is) and while she never says why, it’s obvious that he had always thought it was because she was interested in him. Which it seems he only now realizes wasn’t the case. But I think her comment is interesting,
“Tis quite true. If I had gone for love o’ you, if I had ever sincerely loved you, if I loved you still, I should not so loathe and hate myself for my weakness as I do now! … My eyes were dazed by you for a little, and that was all.”
This confirms my early suspicion that she had been a little smitten by him at first and also shows the rape was not a violent rape. It was more of taking advantage of a young inexperienced girl in a time of need. And since she stayed around for a few weeks, I’m thinking this isn’t just about one night, but the level of consent that Tess might have given.
And for what it’s worth Alec is contrite. Yes, he has some excuses for his behavior. But he also knows he did wrong and did ruin whatever was between them. He seems to want to do the right thing. He never offers marriage, but he certainly does want to take care of her. I wonder if he doesn’t offer marriage because of the class difference or because he knows she will say no?
He does offer that if she needs anything to contact him, that he would be in London, but would be getting his mail. So if she ends up pregnant she should send a letter and he’ll send money? It’s a depressing goodbye, even under these circumstances. Tess seems dead inside and Alec feels the weight of that, knowing that it is not her fault and having no words to change that. Even though I probably shouldn’t, I feel bad for Alec. He fucked up a woman he cared for and is powerless to change what he did or fix things going forward. It seems he might be running away too.
As Tess finishes the walk home she runs across an artisan who is painting scripture on signs.
“THY, DAMNATION, SLUMBERETH, NOT.”
“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”
“THOU, SHALT, NOT COMMIT-”
“This invocation starts the seventh of the The Commandments; Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Tess doesn’t take this well and it only adds to her guilt and shame. Tess tries to engage a conversation, only to be told to seek out the preacher Mr. Clare in town.
When she arrives home her mother is shocked and surprised. Once Tess explains the circumstances, Joan is, shall we say, unsupportive. This is now about what Tess should have done for the family – obviously marrying Alec. Never mind that Tess had already given up 4 months of her life because she killed the horse that her father was supposed to be driving, but was too drunk to. Yes, good parenting skills Joan!
As she’s processing this we get more insight into the relationship between Tess and Alec:
She had dreaded him, winced before him, succumbed to adroit advantages he took of her helplessness; then, temporarily blinded by his ardent manners, had been stirred to confused surrender awhile: had suddenly despised and disliked him, and had run away.
And Mom tells her, “You ought to have been more careful if you didn’t mean to get him to make you his wife!” Thanks Mom!
But Tess is a strong woman and delivers the line you’ve been waiting for:
How could I be expected to know? I was a child when I left this house four months ago. Why didn’t you tell me there was danger in men-folk? Why didn’t you warn me? Ladies know what to fend against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks; but I never had the chance o’ learning in that way, and you did not help me!
Joan gets this and admits she did not warn Tess because she did not want Tess to be too careful. In other words, she didn’t want to scare her off from Alec because she was hoping they would marry, heartwarming…