OF THE BABY NAME TESS
Angel Clare is Tess’s husband and true love in the 1891 Thomas Hardy novel “Tess of the D’Urbervilles.” A freethinking rebellion, he rejects the conformist route of Cambridge University like his brothers and sticks to farming. He strives toward personal goodness and the nobility of man. Part of that includes him falling in love with Tess, a mere milkmaid and his social inferior. However, his notions of morality turn out to be conventional: he rejects Tess on their wedding night when she confesses that she isn't a virgin, even though he isn’t either. Eventually he is brought down to earth where his moral system is readjusted and realizes he’s been unfair to Tess. 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.
Alec is a character in Thomas Hardy’s 1891 novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, adapted many times over in various media. Alec is the son of the d’Urbervilles who have merely purchased the title, and he has base designs upon poor Tess, who wrongly thinks she must stay in his employ to help her impoverished family. The not-very-nice Alec rapes her against her will, impregnating her and leaving her to give birth to a child who dies and must be buried in unconsecrated ground. After two years, Tess is eager to make a new start outside the village, obtains work as a milkmaid and becomes reacquainted with an earlier beau, Angel Clare, son of the parson. Not until their wedding night does Tess own up to her sullied past, and Angel is appalled. Off he goes to Brazil (but of course), off she goes to her next milkmaid assignment, where she one day encounters the bad boy, Alec, who has now been converted to a Christian preacher by none other than Angel’s father. Alec begs Tess not to tempt him ever again (!) but shortly thereafter denounces his Christianity and begs her to marry him. Tess is still guiltily and lovingly tied to the absent Angel, however, but when he remains away, she finally agrees to become his mistress. Bad timing – here comes Angel to make things up. Tess, in her rage and despair, kills Alec and finally is executed. And Angel walks away hand in hand with her sister. Lesson: it looks to us as if poor Alec really did get the worst of draw in this contest, no matter how much he may have deserved it.
Tess is the title character of Thomas Hardy’s classic, Tess of the d’Urbervilles (A Pure Woman), published in 1891. Considered extremely scandalous due to its treatment of rape and infidelity in Victorian settings, “Tess” stands as an indictment against the demoralizing forces of hypocritical religious and social mores. Tess herself is a lovely young woman of a family in reduced circumstances, but attached by blood to the ancient name of d’Urbervilles. This distinction brings her nothing but grief, however, as she is seduced and impregnated by the immoral son of the current day d’Urbervilles, who have purchased the name rather than inheriting it. Caught between the classes and condemned for a crime of which she is an innocent victim, Tess is forced over and over to compromise herself, to struggle to survive and to suffer the cruelty of being blamed for a sin against herself. Ultimately she dies for the consequences of that same sin, and in our more enlightened times, has come to represent a tragic figure of the indiscriminate cruelties of fate. A large chore for so light a name – Tess carries it well.