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Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Tess of the D'Urbervilles


by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase II: "Maiden No More," Chapter Fourteen Summary

  • It's now August, and the sun is just coming up, casting a red glow on everything in the country.
  • The sun makes the reaping machine (a cross-shaped machine used to gather grain) appear even redder than it is.
  • The reaper moves around the edge of the field, slowly moving inward as it cuts the grain.
  • All the animals that live in the field are forced into an ever-shrinking area, until the last square yards are cut down by the reaper, and the animals are beaten to death by the workers.
  • The female workers follow the machine, tying up the wheat into bundles as it falls from the machine.
  • One of the women in the group of workers draws the particular attention of onlookers, because, unlike the others, she seems completely intent on what she's doing.
  • When she stands up between tying bundles, one can see her face—she's a good-looking young woman.
  • It's Tess, of course—the same, but not the same, as she was before.
  • The whole group takes a break for breakfast, and then continues to work as before.
  • After a while, Tess sees a group of children approaching the field. One of them is carrying a baby, and another is carrying some lunch.
  • The other workers pause in their labor to go sit under the tree and eat. Tess is one of the last to stop.
  • Tess's sister hands her the baby and runs off to play with the other children.
  • Tess looks around with some embarrassment, and then begins to nurse the child.
  • After the baby has had enough, Tess plays with it absent-mindedly, and then starts kissing it.
  • Her fellow workers discuss her actions among themselves—some say that she loves the baby, though she pretends not to, and others remark that she'll get used to being an unwed mother in time.
  • After the birth of the baby, Tess realized that, by secluding herself, she was only making herself miserable—the opinions of the rest of the world didn't matter much.
  • So she got herself this job with the harvesters, because she wanted to do something that would make her relatively independent.
  • Her friends are happy to see her out of doors again, and their friendliness and cheerfulness are contagious.
  • But then when she gets home, she learns that her baby, which was already kind of weak and sickly, has gotten sick and might not make it.
  • Tess is horrified—of course she wants her baby to live.
  • But what makes her even more horrified is the thought that her baby hasn't been baptized.
  • She takes what she'd been taught about baptism and salvation very literally and very seriously, so this is a matter of great concern to her. From what she's been taught, she believes that, if her baby dies without being baptized, it will go to hell.
  • She asks her father to send for the parson, but he's drunk, and tells her that she's shamed their family honor enough, and that he doesn't want a parson snooping around their house.
  • So Jack Durbeyfield locks the house and goes to bed.
  • Tess goes to bed, too, but she's terribly upset.
  • She prays to God to have pity on the baby.
  • Suddenly she has a thought: what if she baptizes it herself? Perhaps that would be just the same.
  • So she wakes the other children to witness the ceremony.
  • She names the infant "Sorrow," and recites the part of the baptismal service that goes, "Sorrow, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (14.48).
  • The children pipe up with "Amen!" when called upon to do so, as Tess goes on with the rest of the service that she has memorized.
  • The baby, Sorrow, dies in the early hours of the morning.
  • Tess starts to worry about its soul again—will her service count? Will she be allowed to bury the child in the holy ground at the church, or will she have to bury it in the woods somewhere?
  • She goes to the parson to ask.
  • She first asks if her baptismal service will "count" with God—if it will keep the baby from burning in hell.
  • He assures her that her service will get the job done.
  • So then she asks if he'll give the baby a Christian burial at the church, and he feels trapped. He says that he can't for reasons of Church politics.
  • She then asks, with some passion, whether it will be the same (from God's point of view) if she buries the baby herself in the churchyard.
  • He reassures her that it would be the same.
  • So Tess gathers some flowers and makes a wooden cross, tips the sexton (the guy who holds the key to the churchyard), and buries her baby in the dead of night.

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