Tess of the D'Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the D'Urbervilles Contrasting Regions Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The narrow lane of stubble encompassing the field grew wider with each circuit, and the standing corn was reduced to smaller area as the morning wore on. Rabbits, hares, snakes, rats, mice, retreated inwards as into a fastness, unaware of the ephemeral nature of their refuge, and of the doom that awaited them later in the day when, their covert shrinking to a more and more horrible narrowness, they were huddled together, friends and foes, till the last few yards of upright wheat fell also under the teeth of the unerring reaper, and they were every one put to death by the sticks and stones of the harvesters. (14.8)
The mechanical reaper seems to progress around the outside of the field of its own volition – the workers follow it to tie up the bundles of wheat that it leaves in its wake, but the folks driving it aren't described. The effect of this is to make the machine seem like it has its own personality – it's slowing hemming in the animals in the field until they have nowhere to hide, and they're killed. It's like a metaphor for what industrialization does to people – in the nineteenth century, various inventions (like the steam engine, for example), made more and more poor folks move to cities where they could make money working in factories. But the machines they worked with slowly but surely hemmed them in, and made them prisoners in the factory.
They crept along towards a point in the expanse of shade before them at which a feeble light was beginning to assert its presence, a spot where, by day, a fitful white streak of steam at intervals upon the dark green background denoted intermittent moments of contact between their secluded world and modern life. Modern life stretched out its steam feeler to this point three or four times a day, touched the native existences, and quickly withdrew its feeler again, as if what it touched had been uncongenial. (30.18)
The world of Talbothays dairy is somehow out of sync with modernity – its only contact with modern life is through the railway, and the train is described as a "feeler" that starts to explore their "secluded world" at various intervals, and then withdraws itself again. It's like the two worlds – the antiquated world of tradition and superstition at the dairy and the modern world of London, represented by the train – are somehow incongruous: they can't mix.
"Londoners will drink it at their breakfasts to-morrow, won't they? […] Noble men and noble women, ambassadors and centurions, ladies and tradeswomen, and babies who have never seen a cow. […] Who don't know anything of us, and where it comes from; or think how we two drove miles across the moor to-night in the rain that it might reach 'em in time?" (30.22-25)
As Tess and Angel unload the milk to send on the train to the London market, Tess muses on the journey the milk is about to take. Critics call the huge gap between those that consume the milk and those that produce it "alienation." It's one of the by-products of industrialization and urbanization. People move to cities to work in factories and have no idea where their milk (or any other food) comes from. And the things they produce in the factories (fancy clothing, for example), gets sold to wealthy men and women who have no idea where the clothing came from, or under what conditions it was made: alienation. Congratulations, you just learned one of the basic tenets of Marxist thought. And it's something that Tess seems to understand instinctively.