In Chapter XIII, Tess is so depressed that I’m depressed too.
In Chapter XIV, that condition is made worse and I wonder if I can continue on…
It’s now August in Marlott village and time for harvest. The men are running the reaping machines through the corn fields and the woman are behind them binding the corn. There are pages and pages describing this, containing many metaphors about woman being part of the earth and it’s impact on sexuality. Is this what happens when you can’t write about sex outright, you imply it in every sentence instead?
Tess is apparently seducing attention by not seeking it out. I’m guessing like a woman playing hard to get, except she’s probably actually hard to get, due to her circumstances. And on to her circumstances, she is in the fields today, and often glancing up at the hill. What you wonder is up the hill these many months later? Her son. Yup, Tess is now 17 and a mother. And yes, she is breastfeeding. Sorry, had to throw that one in there since Hardy did first.
Tess has this pull where she hates the child for what it represents, but loves it more then that. And this emotion is not lost on her neighbors, who seem to know a bit of what had happened to her in Tantridge and seem to pity her more then shame her. I was starting to feel some hope at this point. Even though this child left Tess conflicted and would likely grow up tarnished, I felt hope in it. Even Tess is having a good time by the end of the day.
Later that night the child is sick. Really? Hardy, you could only give me a page of happiness before drawing me back to misery?
It seems the baby had always been small and frail. As I read this part I’m wondering if the self induced stress of Tess during the pregnancy was part of the reason for the child being so sickly. Then I realize that they didn’t have this research in Hardy’s time and TESS AND THE BABY AREN’T REAL and Hardy is just a bastard (poor choice of words?)
But, he’s not the only pissing me off now. Yes, Sir John has made another appearance, returned from Rolliver’s Inn. He refuses to let the local parson into the house when he comes to check on the sick child. Why you ask? He’s self righteous and doesn’t want to add to the families shame. But if you ask me the prick only adds to it.
The child is still quite young and Tess had not had him baptized yet, and Sir John has turned away the last proper chance to let that happen. Fucker!
As Tess tries to sleep all she can imagine is her child going to hell – both illegitimate and not baptized. In desperation, she wakes her siblings in the middle of the night to perform a baptism of the child.
“SORROW, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
In the morning after Sorrow had passed, Tess feels a bit more at peace, having baptized her son. She knows that he will either be accepted in heaven or she does not value the world that would not accept him into heaven.
Tess seeks out the parson, asking if her child could have a christian burial. He doesn’t want to, the baptism wasn’t right by his standard.
Let me just say that I attended CCD until I was Confirmed, I didn’t learn much. Mostly because I didn’t try, but I distinctly remember learning about baptism and anyone can do it anywhere! Take that Parson Stick Up Your Ass!
In the end he agrees to let the child be buried in the cemetery, in the corner where the other undesirables are buried (unbaptized infants, drunkards, suicides, etc).
The chapter ends this way, “Tess bravely made a little cross of two laths and a piece of string, and having bound it with flowers, she stuck it up at the head of the grave one evening when she could enter the churchyard without being seen, putting at the foot also a bunch of the same flowers in a little jar of water to keep them alive. What matter was it that on the outside of the jar the eye of mere observation noted the words ‘Keelwell’s Marmalade’? The eye of maternal affection did not see them in its vision of higher things.”
I’m left with two thoughts, what is Hardy getting at with the Keelwell’s Marmalade? I did a little research and it’s a popular topic with lots of different theories. So many that I can’t wrap my brain around it. I may have to revisit this point later.
My other thought is, how much worse can this get? Because, if it gets worse, I might have to stop reading this book and that would be rude to you readers. Fine, I’ll continue reading!