Study Guide

Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase VI: "The Convert," Chapter Fifty-One

By Thomas Hardy

Phase VI: "The Convert," Chapter Fifty-One

  • It's April 6—Old Lady Day—the day that lots of farm workers change positions and move from farm to farm looking for new work.
  • When Joan Durbeyfield was a girl, everyone stayed their whole lives on one farm, but nowadays everyone likes to be on the move all the time. All the big farm owners liked to have as many cottages and houses available as possible to rent out to the migrant workers.
  • Now that Jack Durbeyfield is dead, the local farm owners are legally able to evict the rest of the Durbeyfields.
  • They might not have been evicted, except that Tess has a reputation as an "improper" woman.
  • Tess, Mrs. Durbeyfield, 'Liza-Lu, Abraham, and the younger children all have to move someplace else.
  • Mrs. Durbeyfield and the children are all out running errands in preparation for their departure, so Tess is home alone.
  • Tess is bitter, and angry at the universe. She's even angry with Angel, and in the heat of her despair she scribbles him an angry note and mails it before she can think better of it.
  • Alec comes up, and asks through the open window why they're moving.
  • Tess tells him that it's because her father is dead, and because she's not considered a "proper" woman.
  • They're going to Kingsbere, where the D'Urbervilles originally lived.
  • Alec asks that they come and live in the garden cottage at Trantridge, which used to be used as the poultry house. He says that they can fix it up quickly, and her mother can take care of the poultry, and the younger children can go to school.
  • She refuses, but is clearly tempted by the offer to look after her siblings.
  • He's determined, and asks her to let her mother decide.
  • He gets a little bit too flirty in saying goodbye, so she slams the window on his fingers.
  • That night, Tess gets her younger siblings to sing to her, and they choose a sad song, but it goes with her mood.
  • Mrs. Durbeyfield sees the tracks of Alec's horse, and asks if he had come, and what he had said.
  • Tess promises to tell her after they've settled at Kingsbere.