Study Guide

Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase V: "The Woman Pays," Chapter Forty-One

By Thomas Hardy

Phase V: "The Woman Pays," Chapter Forty-One

  • Eight months later—it's now October.
  • Tess has spent the summer working at a dairy on the far side of Blackmoor Vale, and since the busy time at the dairy is over, working at the harvest.
  • She prefers to keep busy, rather than to live on the money Angel gave her, because she hates the idea of giving to strangers the money he handed her. And working keeps her mind occupied.
  • But, after the harvest, there's a long run of wet weather, so Tess has trouble finding fieldwork.
  • She starts spending the twenty-five pounds that her husband had left her (she had left the other twenty-five with her parents).
  • That money is almost gone when she gets a letter from her mother asking for twenty pounds to pay for a new roof.
  • Tess has just received the additional thirty pounds from Angel, so she sends the twenty pounds to her mother immediately.
  • Tess is too proud to write to Angel's father for help, and she doesn't let her own parents know that Angel hasn't returned to her.
  • She doesn't even want to go back to her friends at the Talbothays Dairy, because she doesn't want them to talk about her, or to think badly of Angel for deserting her.
  • So she works and lives alone.
  • Things aren't going great for Angel, either—at this moment, he's sick with a bad fever in Brazil.
  • But to return to Tess: Tess is on her way to a farm to the north, where Marian is working.
  • Marian had sent her a letter, saying that it wasn't a bad place to work—if it were really true that Tess was separated from Angel, and was working for a living like she used to.
  • Being a pretty young woman on her own was never a problem while she was wearing the fancier clothes that she'd gotten just before the marriage, but once she starts wearing common field clothes again, her prettiness attracts unwanted attention.
  • One night it's particularly bad. She's on a lonely stretch of road, and a man catches sight of her, recognizing her from Trantridge. In fact, it's the same man who had recognized her in town the week before the wedding, when Angel punched him in the face.
  • Tess panics and runs through the fields. She makes a nest for herself under a hedge, and tries to sleep there.
  • She thinks she's the most miserable being in the world as she lies there shivering.
  • During the night, she's awoken by gasping sounds and the noise of small thumps.
  • When she wakes, she realizes what it was—there must have been a hunting party the day before, and some of the birds that were only wounded hid themselves in the trees overhead. But during the night, they fell one by one from the loss of blood.
  • Some of the birds are still lying on the ground, half-alive.
  • Tess pities them, and puts them out of their misery.
  • She's ashamed of her despair the night before—at least she's better off than those poor birds.