Study Guide

Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase VI: "The Convert," Chapter Forty-Seven

By Thomas Hardy

Phase VI: "The Convert," Chapter Forty-Seven

  • Izz and Tess are out working in the fields at sun-up on a day in early March—the farmer wants them to finish the field by the end of that day, if possible.
  • The farmer has rented a steam-powered threshing machine, and the field workers have to try to keep up with the machine, untying sheaves of grain to feed into the machine, which then separates the grains from the stalks.
  • They take brief breaks at breakfast, and then again at lunchtime.
  • They don't take any other breaks, and Tess is never allowed to pause in her labor—the machine never stops, and always needs to be fed, so Tess is never able to stop untying the grain to feed into it.
  • Marian is working at a different spot, and is better able to look around her. She notices that Alec is at the edge of the field, and that he's no longer dressed like a preacher.
  • They finally stop again at dinnertime, and Tess is so tired she can hardly stand.
  • She starts to climb down off of the pile of stalks to eat her dinner, but when she sees Alec approaching, she decides to stay where she is.
  • The pile of stalks doesn't deter him, he hops on up and sits down with her.
  • She asks why he keeps harassing her, but he asks her the same thing—her eyes haunt him, he says.
  • But he admits it's not her fault that she's pretty, but he did give up preaching all on her account.
  • He was all too easily persuaded by what she repeated against dogma and organized religion, so he gave it all up.
  • She tries to persuade him that it's not ethics or good morals that her husband disagrees with, it's the fact that so many people only practice good morals because they're afraid of going to hell if they don't.
  • But Alec doesn't buy it, and he's happy to throw out good morals with the preaching and go back to his old ways.
  • He tells her that he brought a carriage with him to carry her away, because he doesn't like to see her working so hard. And she might be married, but her husband is gone, and he's here.
  • Tess takes one of her work gloves and slaps him across the mouth with it.
  • He starts to jump up, but controls himself and just mops the blood up with his handkerchief.
  • Alec leaves, and tells her harshly that she's his wife by natural law, and that he'll be back later on to get a final answer from her.
  • The other workers have almost finished their dinner, and soon after Tess is back to work with everyone else.