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Quotes

Quote #4

In the ill-judged execution of the well-judged plan of the things the call seldom produces the comer, the man to love rarely coincides with the hour for loving. Nature does not often say 'See!' to her poor creature at a time when seeing can lead to happy doing; or reply 'Here!' to a body's cry of 'Where?' till the hide-and-seek has become an irksome outworn game. We may wonder whether at the acme and summit of the human progress these anachronisms will become corrected by a finer intuition, a closer interaction of the social machinery than that which now jolts us round and along; but such completeness is not to be prophesied, or even conceived as possible. (5.73)

The narrator laments that Tess should fall into Alec's path rather than connect with Angel, and blames the tragedy on Fate with a capital F. Life is full of missed connections, and reality is always just out of sync with the ideal. The narrator does hint at a possible future in which humans progress or evolve into a state in which we're able to make reality closer to the ideal, but then he backs away from that possibility. Kind of a bummer.

Quote #5

She philosophically noted dates as they came past in the revolution of the year; the disastrous night of her life at Trantridge with its dark background of The Chase; also the dates of the baby's birth and death; also her own birthday; and every other day individualized by incidents in which she had taken some share. She suddenly thought one afternoon, when looking in the glass at her fairness, that there was yet another date, of greater importance to her than those; that of her own death, when all these charms would have disappeared; a day which lay sly and unseen among all the other days of the year, giving no sign or sound when she annually passed over it; but not the less surely there. (15.4)

After Tess's baby dies, she becomes obsessed with marking the passage of time. But if you stop to think about it, we all do this – we count off birthdays, and presidents' birthdays, and random holidays like Labor Day and Administrative Assistants' Day, and Mother's Day, besides all of the religious holidays. Every second of every day is accounted for and named, according to our system of time-keeping. But in Tess's world, they keep time somewhat less precisely – not a lot of stop watches or second hands to mark time down to the smallest increments. And in the midst of counting off the days of the year that are particularly important to her, she begins to wonder about what day she will eventually die. Kind of a morbid thought for a young person to have, but it's an interesting question – we're all going to die one day, and the question that bothers Tess isn't the "how" or even the "how soon?" but "on what day?"

Quote #6

On a thyme-scented, bird-singing morning in May, between two and three years after the return from Trantridge – two silent reconstructive years for Tess Durbeyfield – she left her home for second time. (16.1)

There's a possible pun here – did you spot it? For a novel that's so obsessed with the passage of time, and being in sync, or out of sync with the passage of time, the homonym "thyme" at the opening of this chapter didn't occur by accident. Hardy could have used lavender, or rosemary, or any number of other summer herbs.

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