Study Guide

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

By Thomas Hardy

Phase V: "The Woman Pays," Chapter Thirty-Six

  • Angel wakes up early, and sees their supper still sitting on the table, untouched.
  • The woman from the cottage next door arrives to fix their breakfast, and Angel tells her from the window to leave the milk on the doorstep.
  • He gets the rest of their breakfast together from the supplies in the pantry, and calls Tess down to eat.
  • She comes down looking hopeful—maybe he's decided to forgive her.
  • But he looks cold, and they barely speak.
  • She looks so pure that he can hardly believe that her story was true. But she repeats that it was all true.
  • Angel then asks if he's still alive.
  • Tess thinks he means the baby, and replies that the baby died.
  • But Angel meant the man—yes, the man is still alive, and still lives in England.
  • Tess says that he can still get rid of her, if he wants to, by divorcing her. She had assumed that her confession would give him legal grounds to do so, if he wanted to.
  • But he says he can't do that—it would be impossible, because it had happened before their marriage. (Divorces could only be gotten in cases of adultery or abuse during marriage.)
  • Tess feels terribly guilty, and says that if she hadn't thought he'd be able to divorce her if he wanted, she would never have married her, and would have killed herself the night before, as she had planned.
  • He asks what she means—apparently she had considered hanging herself from the bedstead, but had lost her courage.
  • He tells her never to think of such a thing again, and she promises.
  • Then Angel goes out and walks to the mill, since he does, after all, need to learn how mills work if he wants to be a farmer.
  • Tess, meanwhile, stays at home to get lunch ready for when he comes home that afternoon.
  • She's so eager to please him that she has the meal on the table exactly as he walks in the door.
  • They discuss the mill as they eat, and he tells her to stop working so hard: she's his wife, not his servant.
  • Tess is so glad to hear him call her his wife that she cries, and says she would never have married him, only he urged her to.
  • Another couple of days pass in the same way.
  • At one point, she puckers up for a kiss, but he turns away, and says that they must part soon, and that he's only stayed with her this long so that people won't gossip.
  • He says that he can't live with her without hating himself, and growing to hate her. He can't live with her while Alec is still alive.
  • Tess had hoped that spending time together, even though they're not talking, would slowly soften him and make him forgive her.
  • But he points out that if they ever had children, their children would be disgraced as much as she would be if anyone ever found out.
  • The next day, Tess says that he's right—they can't be together, and she'll go home to her parents.
  • Angel agrees that that's the only option, and they both begin to pack.