Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Sex Quotes Page 3
How we cite our quotes:
She was yawning, and he saw the red interior of her mouth as if it had been a snake's. She had stretched one arm so high above her coiled-up cable of hair that he could see its satin delicacy above the sunburn; her face was flushed with sleep, and her eyelids hung heavy over their pupils. The brimfulness of her nature breathed from her. It was a moment when a woman's soul is more incarnate than at any other time; when the most spiritual beauty bespeaks itself flesh; and sex takes the outside place in the presentation. (27.4)
See, this is the kind of description that Hardy's contemporary critics described as overly "succulent." Tess is snake-like: it's not just that her mouth is wide open, but her hair is "coiled" like a snake. Her beauty is more human, and less ethereal or other-worldly, than ever: she's all "flesh" and "sex."
He then told her of that time of his life to which allusion has been made when, tossed about by doubts and difficulties like a cork on the waves, he went to London and plunged into eight-and-forty hours' dissipation with a stranger. (34.83)
Angel confesses his sexual "crimes" to Tess on their wedding night, just before she tells him about what had happened with Alec. Angel's reaction is obviously unjust, given what he's just confessed, but the sexual double-standard was pretty well engrained in the society at this point. It takes Angel more than a year, and a brush with death to overcome that convention, and realize just how wrong he was.
He was pale, even tremulous; but, as before, she was appalled by the determination revealed in the depths of this gentle being she had married – the will to subdue the grosser to the subtler emotion, the substance to the conception, the flesh to the spirit. Propensities, tendencies, habits, were as dead leaves upon the tyrannous wind of his imaginative ascendancy. (35.25)
The whole problem with Angel, Tess is now realizing, is that he is too intellectual. He wants things to be ideal, and not real. He values the spiritual over the material, instead of looking for a balance or harmony between the two. And when he realizes that Tess has a material, physical history, and isn't just an ethereal, other-worldly being, he freaks.