Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urberville is based on the tragedy of Tess’ life. Throughout the novel Tess goes through numerous amounts of suffering .Traditionally, it was believed that tragedy was due to hamartia. Aristotle described hamartia as a flaw that leads to the fall of the protagonist caused by mistake in a person’s behaviour. However, Tess does not have a flaw but she still suffers despite the fact that she did not do anything wrong. Hardy demonstrates that Tess is a woman in a patriarchal society which leads to her downfall.
The D’Urberville name dictates the lives of Tess and her family to such an extent. The transformation from Durbeyfield to D’Urberville is very significant in the novel. Hardy’s use of renaming and the constant shift from Durbeyfield to D’Urberville shows how important these names are in the novel. She is a Durbeyfield and despite not wanting to pursue the D’Urberville legacy, she is a believer in her aristocrat. However, Tess’ father (John Durbeyfield) goes further. “Luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank among the daisies”. He is desperate to adopt the name; despite not having the wealth to go with it. He insists that people call him “Sir John D’Urberville”. John is a prime example of how the D’Urberville name has immediately affected Tess’ family.
Tess’ fate with the D’Urberville name begins when Joan learns of the D’Urbervilles. “My project is to send Tess to claim kin”, she wants Tess to marry Alec for wealth not for love. Hardy’s heroine can instantly sense what she believes to be good and bad. Although her family does not see it she soon realises why she was reluctant to listen to her mother in claiming her kin. From the very beginning of the novel Hardy seems to be aware of Tess’ fate. For example the death of Prince. Hardy is telling the readers that one tragedy will always lead to another. “The pointed shaft of the cart entered the breast of the unhappy prince like a sword.” The death of prince is what precipitates Tess’ decision to go to the D’Urbervilles. Both the name Prince and the D’Urbervilles link as Prince is a symbolism of the dying aristocracy that the Durbeyfield family crave. Tess believes that the death of prince is “all my doing-all mine!” She reinforces her sense of guilt as she believes she has ruined her family economically and due to her negligence she seeks the D’Urbervilles for help. The death of Prince propels Tess’ Tragedy.
Each phase in the novel reflects a period of Tess’ life. The maiden shows Tess life when she finally meets the D’Urbervilles. Alec greets her by calling her “My big beauty”. Hardy’s use of this quote is ironic as Victorian heroines are usually small and inferior. The use of the word “big” suggests that Tess looks like a grown woman despite her age. She works for the D’Urberville family for a few months before her innocence and purity is stripped from her, “Upon this beautiful feminine tissue”. Hardy constantly uses the word ‘pure’ for womanhood and...