In Chapter XIV we move ahead to August, shortly after Tess has the son of Alec. Sorrow passes away in the chapter, about a week after he was born. I was initially depressed reading the chapter, but after my second read through and writing the post about it I develop hatred for Thomas Hardy and Sir John. At least Thomas Hardy was a real person…
Chapter 15 starts with Tess still depressed, going through the motions, and thinking about milestones – such as her debasement, her birthday, her babies birth and death. Then she starts thinking about the date she doesn’t know, her death.
Shockingly, things start to get better. She realizes over the months that she needs to move on. Whether true or just in her head, she doesn’t see herself as having a life in Marlott, with everyone knowing her past.
She also contemplates if her chastity was truly lost, or if she could regain it. An interesting thought by her and extremely progressive for the time. Obviously she’ll never physically be a virgin again, but if she was raped would you say she’s lost her chastity? Even in 2013 we would say that a person who was raped was not a virgin. We would differentiate them from someone who willingly had sex, but in well over 100 years since Tess was written we haven’t come that far.
It’s also mentioned that Tess has been making clothes for her siblings from cloth sent by d’Urberville. It’s implied she never uses it for herself and she has never reached out to him. But I think it does speak to Alec’s guilt.
In May Joan receives a letter from a friend saying that a milkmaid was needed for the summer months in her town many miles to the south. Joan has finally accepted and respected Tess’ position and had sought out this job. She also finally stopped dreaming and talking of their ancestors.
The dairy is in Talbothays, not too far from the former estates of the d’Urbervilles, near the family vaults. The chapters ends of a high note:
“She would be able to look at them, and to think not only that d’Urberville, like Babylon, had fallen, but that the individual innocence of a humble descendant could lapse as silently. All the while she wondered if any strange good thing might come to her being in her ancestral land; and some spirit within her rose automatically as the sap in the twigs. It was unexpanded youth, surging up anew after its temporary check, and bringing with it hope, and the invincible instinct towards self-delight.”
And this concludes Phase the Second. Phase the Third is titled, “The Rally” and that title alone gives me more hope.