Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Women and Femininity Quotes
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)
We look at this passage for the "Sex" theme, because it's pretty darn sexual, but it's also important to consider it in light of what it's doing with the theme of "Femininity." After all, the narrator is making a generalization about all women here – he's suggesting that a woman is less spiritual, and more bodily, when she's just woken up than at any other time. The implication is that women normally have some kind of balance between the physical and the spiritual. But that balance isn't constant. We've seen this with Tess in other passages: sometimes her beauty seems almost unreal, and sometimes she seems totally human. This is one of the totally human moments.