Study Guide

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

By Thomas Hardy

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

  • Several days later, Tess is working in the field at her turnip chopping when Alec shows up.
  • She's irritated that he's there at all—she told him before that she never wanted to see him again.
  • He says that he's there to ask how she's doing, money-wise. She was dressed nicely when he met her on the road, so he didn't think to ask her. But now that he sees that she's working in the field, he's afraid she's strapped for cash, and that it might be his fault.
  • Tess doesn't want to get drawn into this conversation emotionally, so she keeps working.
  • Then Alec tells her what he really came for: he offers to marry her, because he thinks that would make things right.
  • She refuses—she says she loves somebody else.
  • He doesn't think that's a good enough reason, until Tess admits that she married that other man, and that he's far away—because he found out about Alec.
  • Alec feels bad, and tries to take Tess's hand.
  • She pulls back, and tells him to go away.
  • Just then the farmer approaches, and gives her a hard time for slacking off.
  • Alec tries to defend her, but Tess would rather get scolded by the farmer than defended by Alec.
  • So the farmer continues to yell at her as Alec walks off.
  • The farmer has it in for Tess because he's still embarrassed about the time Angel punched him in the face, but at least his dislike for her has nothing to do with sex.
  • She wonders what she would have done if she were free to marry Alec, and then mentally slaps herself for even asking the question. She's always hated him, after all.
  • That night she writes another letter to Angel, assuring him of her affection, but not telling him about her troubles. Anyone with half a brain would be able to read between the lines, though.
  • She mails the letter that night.
  • Candlemas (a holiday in February) rolls around, and most of the laborers go to a fair in the town.
  • Tess remains behind, and Alec shows up again.
  • He asks about her religion—he's curious about why she doesn't believe in instantaneous conversions.
  • She says that she believes what her husband believed, even though he had tried to help her form her own opinions.
  • Whatever he said of his own thoughts, she adopted into her own religion.
  • Angel might be far from perfect, but she is so devoted to him that she practically memorized everything he ever said about his opinions on religion and the supernatural.
  • Alec asks her to repeat some of what Angel had said, and she happily repeats it, word-for-word, even though she doesn't fully understand all of it herself.
  • Alec listens with rapt attention.
  • When she's finished her recital, he tells her that he was supposed to give a sermon in town that afternoon, but that he came to see her, instead.
  • Seeing her again revived his old love for her, even though he thought he'd stamped all that passion stuff out when he converted.
  • Tess becomes alarmed—after all, she didn't seek him out.
  • Alec gets agitated and talks about how her husband deserted her, but Tess cuts him off, defends Angel, and asks Alec to leave.
  • Alec wants a goodbye smooch, but Tess tells him off, and he's humiliated by his weakness.
  • Alec has relapsed back to his old wicked ways. Being around Tess is just too much for him.
  • As he walks away, he thinks about how ironic it is that Angel's teachings, repeated by Tess, should have had a part in bringing Alec back to her.