From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

  

by Thomas Hardy

Joan Durbeyfield

Character Analysis

Joan Durbeyfield might not appear too often, but she's an important character, nonetheless. In terms of the plot, she's the main reason Tess goes to the D'Urbervilles' house at Trantridge in the first place, and we all know how that worked out.

Mrs. Durbeyfield is also important to the novel's theme of time and memory. She is relatively uneducated, collects folk ballads, and still believes in old superstitions. The narrator compares Tess to her mother in an early chapter:

Between the mother, with her fast-perishing lumber of superstitions, folk-lore, dialect, and orally transmitted ballads, and the daughter, with her trained National teachings and Standard knowledge under an infinitely Revised Code, there was a gap of two hundred years as ordinarily understood. When they were together the Jacobean and the Victorian ages were juxtaposed. (3.37)

Mrs. Durbeyfield represents pre-industrial England and all the traditions, "superstitions," and "folk-lore" that go along with that earlier time.

Advertisement