In Chapter XVII Tess milks some cows and finds Angel Clare under a cow, milking it, of course.
In Chapter XVIII we learn about Angel, as I kinda predicted we might.
Before I continue I want to say that I’m not really liking Angel that much, even though I know that I’m supposed to. I’ve heard a little too much about the book, and the book is too tragic for this to go well and so I’m assuming the worst. Subsequently, I’m suspicious of Angel and even though he’s written as a good man, I’m skeptical.
Angel’s father is a parson, as are his two older brothers, and his father expected he would also become a parson. However, Angel was not interested in taking this route, I’ll talk about the reasons why later. Anyway, when Angel told his father he would not be going into this field his father refused to send him to Cambridge. Now Angel is working on building up other useful skills that he can take to the colonies or America.
So, why doesn’t Angel want to go the religious route? Well it seems he doesn’t believe in the text enough and would rather see a more liberal, forgiving interpretation.
Here is what he tells his father, “I should like to say, once for all, that I should prefer not to take Orders. I fear I could not conscientiously do so. I love the church as one loves a parent. I shall always have the warmest affection for her. There is no institution for whose history I have a deeper admiration; but I cannot honestly be ordained her minister, as my brothers are, while she refuses to liberate her mind from an untenable redemptive theolatry.”
He later tells his father, “My whole instinct in matters of religion is towards reconstruction: to quote your favorite Epistle to the Hebrews, ‘the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.”
It sounds as though this caused a rift between Angel and his father, more then the refusal to send Angel to Cambridge. Angel seems to end up floating around for a while educating himself, living in different places and now at 26 was learning farming. He thought it would provide a living and allow him the opportunity to continue educating himself. He sounds like a bit of a book worm and not over ambitious.
But he does seem to be a good person, the kind of guy I should be falling in love with. Angel lives in a loft of the dairy house, he’s arranged it to have a bedroom area and a sitting area. A nice place for him to hide while reading or studying music. After a while he eventually decides to hang out with Mr. and Mrs. Crick and the dairymen and woman who eat with the family.
One day at breakfast, a few days after Tess arrived, Angel is sitting at his special table by himself in the corner when he, for the first time, hears Tess’ fluty voice.
He hears her saying that she knows souls can go outside of your body while you’re alive. This comment goes over like a lead balloon. Mr. Crick gives her the look of death and she explains that you can lie outside on a stary night and soon find you are miles away above your body. After realizing that everyone is a bit freaked out by her statement, she backtracks and says it was just a thought.
Angel thinks to himself, “What a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature that milkmaid is.” I guess it’s safe to say that for all his experience in life he’s a bit naive. And then it hits him, he’s seen her before, he not entirely sure when or where. But, he likes this woman.
And I think in this moment, he finally redeems himself to me. I’m still waiting for the the next bit of tragedy, but for now, I think I’ll like the next few chapters.