Alec is the nemesis and downfall of Tess’s life. His first name, Alexander, suggests the conqueror—as in Alexander the Great—who seizes what he wants regardless of moral propriety. Yet he is more slippery than a grand conqueror. His full last name, Stoke-d’Urberville, symbolizes the split character of his family, whose origins are simpler than their pretensions to grandeur. After all, Stokes is a blunt and inelegant name. Indeed, the divided and duplicitous character of Alec is evident to the very end of the novel, when he quickly abandons his newfound Christian faith upon remeeting Tess.
This duplicity of character is so intense in Alec, and its consequences for Tess so severe, that he becomes diabolical. The first part of his surname conjures associations with fiery energies, as in the stoking of a furnace or the flames of hell. His devilish associations are evident when he wields a pitchfork while addressing Tess early in the novel, and when he seduces her as the serpent in Genesis seduced Eve. Additionally, like the famous depiction of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Alec does not try to hide his bad qualities. In fact, like Satan, he revels in them. In Chapter XII, he bluntly tells Tess, “I suppose I am a bad fellow—a damn bad fellow. I was born bad, and I have lived bad, and I shall die bad, in all probability.” There is frank acceptance in this admission and no shame. Some readers feel Alec is too wicked to be believable, but, like Tess herself, he represents a larger moral principle rather than a real individual man. Like Satan, Alec symbolizes the base forces of life that drive a person away from moral perfection and greatness.
Angel represents a rebellious striving toward a personal vision of goodness. He is a secularist who yearns to work for the “honor and glory of man,” as he tells his father in Chapter XVIII, rather than for the honor and glory of God in a more distant world. A typical young nineteenth-century progressive, Angel sees human society as a thing to be remolded and improved, and he fervently believes in the nobility of man. He rejects the values handed to him, and sets off in search of his own. His love for Tess, a mere milkmaid and his social inferior, is one expression of his disdain for tradition. This independent spirit contributes to his aura of charisma and general attractiveness that makes him the love object of all the milkmaids with whom he works at Talbothays.
As his name—in French, close to “Bright Angel”—suggests, Angel is not quite of this world, but floats above it in a transcendent sphere of his own. The narrator says that Angel shines rather than burns and that he is closer to the intellectually aloof poet Shelley than to the fleshly and passionate poet Byron. His love for Tess may be abstract, as we guess when he calls her “Daughter of Nature” or “Demeter.” Tess may be more an archetype or ideal to him than a flesh and blood woman with a complicated life. Angel’s ideals of human purity are too elevated to be applied to actual people: Mrs. Durbeyfield’s easygoing moral beliefs are much more easily accommodated to real lives such as Tess’s. Angel awakens to the actual complexities of real-world morality after his failure in Brazil, and only then he realizes he has been unfair to Tess. His moral system is readjusted as he is brought down to Earth. Ironically, it is not the angel who guides the human in this novel, but the human who instructs the angel, although at the cost of her own life.
1.The injustice of existence
Unfairness dominates the lives of Tess and her family to such an extent that it begins to seem like a general aspect of human existence in Tess of the d’Urbervilles.Tess does not mean to kill Prince, but she is punished anyway, just as she is unfairly punished for her own rape by Alec. Nor is there justice waiting in heaven. Christianity teaches that there is compensation in the afterlife for unhappiness suffered in this life, but the only devout Christian encountered in the novel may be the reverend, Mr. Clare, who seems more or less content in his life anyway. For others in their misery, Christianity offers little solace of heavenly justice. Mrs. Durbeyfield never mentions otherworldly rewards. The converted Alec preaches heavenly justice for earthly sinners, but his faith seems shallow and insincere. Generally, the moral atmosphere of the novel is not Christian justice at all, but pagan injustice. The forces that rule human life are absolutely unpredictable and not necessarily well-disposed to us. The pre-Christian rituals practiced by the farm workers at the opening of the novel, and Tess’s final rest at Stonehenge at the end, remind us of a world where the gods are not just and fair, but whimsical and uncaring. When the narrator concludes the novel with the statement that “‘Justice’ was done, and the President of the Immortals (in the Aeschylean phrase) had ended his sport with Tess,” we are reminded that justice must be put in ironic quotation marks, since it is not really just at all. What passes for “Justice” is in fact one of the pagan gods enjoying a bit of “sport,” or a frivolous game.
2.Changing ideas of social class in Victorian England
Tess of the d’Urbervilles presents complex pictures of both the importance of social class in nineteenth-century England and the difficulty of defining class in any simple way. Certainly the Durbeyfields are a powerful emblem of the way in which class is no longer evaluated in Victorian times as it would have been in the Middle Ages—that is, by blood alone, with no attention paid to fortune or worldly success. Indubitably the Durbeyfields have purity of blood, yet for the parson and nearly everyone else in the novel, this fact amounts to nothing more than a piece of genealogical trivia. In the Victorian context, cash matters more than lineage, which explains how Simon Stokes, Alec’s father, was smoothly able to use his large fortune to purchase a lustrous family name and transform his clan into the Stoke-d’Urbervilles. The d’Urbervilles pass for what the Durbeyfields truly are—authentic nobility—simply because definitions of class have changed. The issue of class confusion even affects the Clare clan, whose most promising son, Angel, is intent on becoming a farmer and marrying a milkmaid, thus bypassing the traditional privileges of a Cambridge education and a parsonage. His willingness to work side by side with the farm laborers helps endear him to Tess, and their acquaintance would not have been possible if he were a more traditional and elitist aristocrat. Thus, the three main characters in the Angel-Tess-Alec triangle are all strongly marked by confusion regarding their respective social classes, an issue that is one of the main concerns of the novel.
3.Men dominating women
One of the recurrent themes of the novel is the way in which men can dominate women, exerting a power over them linked primarily to their maleness. Sometimes this command is purposeful, in the man’s full knowledge of his exploitation, as when Alec acknowledges how bad he is for seducing Tess for his own momentary pleasure. Alec’s act of abuse, the most life-altering event that Tess experiences in the novel, is clearly the most serious instance of male domination over a female. But there are other, less blatant examples of women’s passivity toward dominant men.
Even Angel’s love for Tess, as pure and gentle as it seems, dominates her in an unhealthy way. Angel substitutes an idealized picture of Tess’s country purity for the real-life woman that he continually refuses to get to know. When Angel calls Tess names like “Daughter of Nature” and “Artemis,” we feel that he may be denying her true self in favor of a mental image that he prefers. Thus, her identity and experiences are suppressed, albeit unknowingly. This pattern of male domination is finally reversed with Tess’s murder of Alec, in which, for the first time in the novel, a woman takes active steps against a man. Of course, this act only leads to even greater suppression of a woman by men, when the crowd of male police officers arrest Tess at Stonehenge. Nevertheless, for just a moment, the accepted pattern of submissive women bowing to dominant men is interrupted, and Tess’s act seems heroic.
Images of birds recur throughout the novel, evoking or contradicting their traditional spiritual association with a higher realm of transcendence. Tess occasionally hears birdcalls on her frequent hikes across the countryside; their free expressiveness stands in stark contrast to Tess’s silent and constrained existence as a wronged and disgraced girl. These birds offer images of hope and liberation. Yet there is irony attached to birds as well, making us doubt whether these images of hope and freedom are illusory.
It may be that freedom for one creature entails hardship for another, just as Alec’s free enjoyment of Tess’s body leads her to a lifetime of suffering. In the end, when Tess encounters the pheasants maimed by hunters and lying in agony, birds no longer seem free, but rather oppressed and submissive. These pheasants are no Romantic songbirds hovering far above the Earth—they are victims of earthly violence, condemned to suffer down below and never fly again.
2.The book of genesis
The Genesis story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is evoked repeatedly throughout Tess of the d’Urbervilles, giving the novel a broader metaphysical and philosophical dimension. The roles of Eve and the serpent in paradise are clearly delineated: Angel is the noble Adam newly born, while Tess is the indecisive and troubled Eve. When Tess gazes upon Angel in Chapter XXVII, “she regarded him as Eve at her second waking might have regarded Adam.” Alec, with his open avowal that he is bad to the bone, is the conniving Satan. He seduces Tess under a tree, giving her sexual knowledge in return for her lost innocence. The very name of the forest where this seduction occurs, the Chase, suggests how Eve will be chased from Eden for her sins. This guilt, which will never be erased, is known in Christian theology as the original sin that all humans have inherited. Just as John Durbeyfield is told in Chapter I that “you don’t live anywhere,” and his family is evicted after his death at the end of the novel, their homelessness evokes the human exile from Eden. Original sin suggests that humans have fallen from their once great status to a lower station in life, just as the d’Urbervilles have devolved into the modern Durbeyfields. This Story of the Fall—or of the “Pure Drop,” to recall the name of a pub in Tess’s home village—is much more than a social fall. It is an explanation of how all of us humans—not only Tess—never quite seem to live up to our expectations, and are never able to inhabit the places of grandeur we feel we deserve.
Names matter in this novel. Tess knows and accepts that she is a lowly Durbeyfield, but part of her still believes, as her parents also believe, that her aristocratic original name should be restored. Another character who renames himself is Simon Stokes, Alec’s father, who purchased a family tree and made himself Simon Stoke-d’Urberville. The question raised by all these cases of name changing, whether successful or merely imagined, is the extent to which an altered name brings with it an altered identity. Alec acts notoriously ungentlemanly throughout the novel, but by the end, when he appears at the d’Urberville family vault, his lordly and commanding bearing make him seem almost deserving of the name his father has bought, like a spoiled medieval nobleman. Hardy’s interest in name changes makes reality itself seem changeable according to whims of human perspective.
Like the horse, Tess herself bears a high-class name, but is doomed to a lowly life of physical labor. Interestingly, Prince’s death occurs right after Tess dreams of ancient knights, having just heard the news that her family is aristocratic. In an odd way, Tess’s dream of medieval glory comes true, and her horse dies a heroic death. The death of the horse symbolizes the sacrifice of real-world goods, such as a useful animal or even her own honor, through excessive fantasizing about a better world.
2.The D’Urberville family vault
A double-edged symbol of both the majestic grandeur and the lifeless hollowness of the aristocratic family name that the Durbeyfields learn they possess, the d’Urberville family vault represents both the glory of life and the end of life.
Brazil is thus more than a geographical entity on the map in this novel: it symbolizes a fantasyland, a place where dreams come true. As Angel’s name suggests, he is a lofty visionary who lacks some experience with the real world, despite all his mechanical know-how in farm management. His fiasco teaches him that ideals do not exist in life, and this lesson helps him reevaluate his disappointment with Tess’s imperfections, her failure to incarnate the ideal he expected her to be. For Angel, Brazil symbolizes the impossibility of ideals, but also forgiveness and acceptance of life in spite of those disappointed ideals.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS – EMILY BRONTE
Emily Brontë lived an eccentric, closely guarded life. She was born in 1818, two years after Charlotte and a year and a half before her sister Anne, who also became an author. Her father worked as a church rector, and her aunt, who raised the Brontë children after their mother died, was deeply religious.
Today, Wuthering Heights has a secure position in the canon of world literature, and Emily Brontë is revered as one of the finest writers—male or female—of the nineteenth century. Like Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights is based partly on the Gothic tradition of the late eighteenth century, a style of literature that featured supernatural encounters, crumbling ruins, moonless nights, and grotesque imagery, seeking to create effects of mystery and fear. But Wuthering Heights transcends its genre in its sophisticated observation and artistic subtlety. The novel has been studied, analyzed, dissected, and discussed from every imaginable critical perspective, yet it remains unexhausted. And while the novel’s symbolism, themes, structure, and language may all spark fertile exploration, the bulk of its popularity may rest on its unforgettable characters. As a shattering presentation of the doomed love affair between the fiercely passionate Catherine and Heathcliff, it remains one of the most haunting love stories in all of literature.
Analysis of major characters
He resembles a hero in a romance novel. Traditionally, romance novel heroes appear dangerous, brooding, and cold at first, only later to emerge as fiercely devoted and loving. Considering this historical context, Heathcliff seems to embody the anxieties that the book’s upper- and middle-class audience had about the working classes. The reader may easily sympathize with him when he is powerless, as a child tyrannized by Hindley Earnshaw, but he becomes a villain when he acquires power and returns to Wuthering Heights with money and the trappings of a gentleman. This corresponds with the ambivalence the upper classes felt toward the lower classes—the upper classes had charitable impulses toward lower-class citizens when they were miserable, but feared the prospect of the lower classes trying to escape their miserable circumstances by acquiring political, social, cultural, or economic power.
The location of Catherine’s coffin symbolizes the conflict that tears apart her short life. Catherine is buried “in a corner of the kirkyard, where the wall is so low that heath and bilberry plants have climbed over it from the moor.” Moreover, she is buried with Edgar on one side and Heathcliff on the other, suggesting her conflicted loyalties. Her actions are driven in part by her social ambitions, which initially are awakened during her first stay at the Lintons’, and which eventually compel her to marry Edgar. However, she is also motivated by impulses that prompt her to violate social conventions—to love Heathcliff, throw temper tantrums, and run around on the moor. Isabella Linton—Catherine’s sister-in-law and Heathcliff’s wife, who was born in the same year that Catherine was—serves as Catherine’s foil. The two women’s parallel positions allow us to see their differences with greater clarity. Catherine represents wild nature, in both her high, lively spirits and her occasional cruelty, whereas Isabella represents culture and civilization, both in her refinement and in her weakness.
1.The destructiveness of a love that never changes
Catherine and Heathcliff’s passion for one another seems to be the center ofWuthering Heights, given that it is stronger and more lasting than any other emotion displayed in the novel, and that it is the source of most of the major conflicts that structure the novel’s plot. The book is actually structured around two parallel love stories, the first half of the novel centering on the love between Catherine and Heathcliff, while the less dramatic second half features the developing love between young Catherine and Hareton. In contrast to the first, the latter tale ends happily, restoring peace and order to Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The differences between the two love stories contribute to the reader’s understanding of why each ends the way it does. The most important feature of young Catherine and Hareton’s love story is that it involves growth and change. Catherine and Heathcliff’s love, on the other hand, is rooted in their childhood and is marked by the refusal to change. Moreover, Catherine and Heathcliff’s love is based on their shared perception that they are identical. Given that Catherine and Heathcliff’s love is based upon their refusal to change over time or embrace difference in others, it is fitting that the disastrous problems of their generation are overcome not by some climactic reversal, but simply by the inexorable passage of time, and the rise of a new and distinct generation. Ultimately, Wuthering Heights presents a vision of life as a process of change, and celebrates this process over and against the romantic intensity of its principal characters.
2.The precariousness of social class
As members of the gentry, the Earnshaws and the Lintons occupy a somewhat precarious place within the hierarchy of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British society. At the top of British society was the royalty, followed by the aristocracy, then by the gentry, and then by the lower classes, who made up the vast majority of the population. Although the gentry, or upper middle class, possessed servants and often large estates, they held a nonetheless fragile social position. The social status of aristocrats was a formal and settled matter, because aristocrats had official titles. Members of the gentry, however, held no titles, and their status was thus subject to change.
Brontë organizes her novel by arranging its elements—characters, places, and themes—into pairs. Catherine and Heathcliff are closely matched in many ways, and see themselves as identical. Catherine’s character is divided into two warring sides: the side that wants Edgar and the side that wants Heathcliff. Catherine and young Catherine are both remarkably similar and strikingly different. The two houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, represent opposing worlds and values. The novel has not one but two distinctly different narrators, Nelly and Mr. Lockwood. The relation between such paired elements is usually quite complicated, with the members of each pair being neither exactly alike nor diametrically opposed. For instance, the Lintons and the Earnshaws may at first seem to represent opposing sets of values, but, by the end of the novel, so many intermarriages have taken place that one can no longer distinguish between the two families.
Repetition is another tactic Brontë employs in organizing Wuthering Heights. It seems that nothing ever ends in the world of this novel. Instead, time seems to run in cycles, and the horrors of the past repeat themselves in the present. The way that the names of the characters are recycled, so that the names of the characters of the younger generation seem only to be rescramblings of the names of their parents, leads the reader to consider how plot elements also repeat themselves.
3.The conflict between nature and culture
In Wuthering Heights, Brontë constantly plays nature and culture against each other. Nature is represented by the Earnshaw family, and by Catherine and Heathcliff in particular. These characters are governed by their passions, not by reflection or ideals of civility. Correspondingly, the house where they live—Wuthering Heights—comes to symbolize a similar wildness. On the other hand, Thrushcross Grange and the Linton family represent culture, refinement, convention, and cultivation.
The constant emphasis on landscape within the text of Wuthering Heights endows the setting with symbolic importance. This landscape is comprised primarily of moors: wide, wild expanses, high but somewhat soggy, and thus infertile. Moorland cannot be cultivated, and its uniformity makes navigation difficult. It features particularly waterlogged patches in which people could potentially drown. (This possibility is mentioned several times in Wuthering Heights.) Thus, the moors serve very well as symbols of the wild threat posed by nature. As the setting for the beginnings of Catherine and Heathcliff’s bond (the two play on the moors during childhood), the moorland transfers its symbolic associations onto the love affair.
Ghosts appear throughout Wuthering Heights, as they do in most other works of Gothic fiction, yet Brontë always presents them in such a way that whether they really exist remains ambiguous. Thus the world of the novel can always be interpreted as a realistic one. Certain ghosts—such as Catherine’s spirit when it appears to Lockwood in Chapter III—may be explained as nightmares. The villagers’ alleged sightings of Heathcliff’s ghost in Chapter XXXIV could be dismissed as unverified superstition. Whether or not the ghosts are “real,” they symbolize the manifestation of the past within the present, and the way memory stays with people, permeating their day-to-day lives.
THE PRE-POSTCOLONIALIST NOVEL - JOSEPH CONRAD
Even by his profession – Conrad was a ship captain - , he was exposed to a continuous cultural experience. Therefore, the clash of civilization came to be one of his favourite fictional topics. At a subtler level, Conrad’s aesthetic and psychological preoccupation is the individual identity caught inside the collective mechanism.
On the other hand, Conrad, like James, is a representative of the transition of the British novel from Victorianism to Modernism. He has a fundamental interest in the development of the narrative strategies (especially of the status of the narrator) and, also, shows concern for the structure of epic (which becomes extremely complex in Conrad’s novels, announcing the beginning of Modernism).
Conrad is interested in a more general mental confrontation that engages the primitive world and the civilized universe. The protagonists of his cultural conflict are the traditional archaic man and the modernized Euro-American fellow.
Conrad’s major cultural point is that the modern man annihilates the spirituality of the would-be primitive archaic individual and transforms the traditional civilization – otherwise sophisticated, but in ways which are not evident to modern colonizers – into an artificial, elementary society, good only for being exploited. In an anticipatory manner, Conrad deals – in his cultural novels – with Nietzsche’s notion of the death of God.
Some of Conrad’s novels can, therefore, be read as modern allegories about the loss of the self. From a cultural viewpoint, one may divide Conrad’s texts into two categories: novels of depersonalization and novels of destruction.