Tess of the D'Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the D'Urbervilles Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The night came in, and took up its place there, unconcerned and indifferent; the night which had already swallowed up his happiness, and was now digesting it listlessly; and was ready to swallow up the happiness of a thousand other people with as little disturbance or change of mien. (35.80)
Thanks, Hardy – what a depressing thought. Misery is spread equally over "a thousand other people," and the world itself doesn't care or notice. The idea here is that we're all alone in an unfeeling and unsympathetic universe. That's certainly how Angel is feeling the morning after Tess's confession to him.
Thus Tess walks on; a figure which is part of the landscape; a field-woman pure and simple, in winter guise. (42.6)
Remember when Tess was working at the harvest way back in Phase II? The narrator describes all the female field workers as being part of the field (14.10). This is a similar moment, but it doesn't seem as positive here. Here, Tess is anonymous – she's a "figure," and a "field-woman." She melts into the landscape because of the monotony of the work. She's not unique anymore.
Inside this exterior, over which the eye might have roved as over a thing scarcely percipient, almost inorganic, there was the record of a pulsing life which had learnt too well, for its years, of the dust and ashes of things, of the cruelty of lust and the fragility of love. (42.8)
Tess's body seems almost to dissolve into the landscape as she works in the turnip field. Remember that earlier scene in which the narrator suggests that the female field workers become one with the field in a way that the men cannot? This is similar – but here, she's not just in sympathy with the ground, she herself is "almost inorganic," or without life. Almost, but not quite – there's still a "record" of life, but it's the "record" of a sad life.