CliffsNotes Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles

CliffsNotes Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles

CliffsNotes Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles

CliffsNotes Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles


The original CliffsNotes study guides offer expert commentary on major themes, plots, characters, literary devices, and historical background. The latest generation of titles in this series also feature glossaries and visual elements that complement the classic, familiar format.

In CliffsNotes on Tess of the d'Urbervilles, you explore Thomas Hardy's literary classic as the author challenges many of the Victorian sensibilities of the 19th century by writing about such topics as immoral sex, murder, illegitimate children, and the unmarried living together. In the novel, you follow the journey of Tess as early events in her life lead her down the road to tragic ruin.

Chapter summaries and commentaries take you through Tess's journey, and critical essays give you insight into Hardy's view on religion, as well as his use of setting and comparisons. Other features that help you study include

  • Character analyses of the main characters
  • A character map that graphically illustrates the relationships among the characters
  • A section on the life and background of Thomas Hardy
  • A review section that tests your knowledge
  • A ResourceCenter full of books, articles, films, and Internet sites

Classic literature or modern modern-day treasure - you'll understand it all with expert information and insight from CliffsNotes study guides.


Joan Durbeyfield hatches the plan to send Tess off to wealthy relations to “claim kin.” Tess wants no part of the plan, and John Durbeyfield also expresses his doubts about the plan. Feeling a sense of guilt about the death of the family horse, Prince, Tess agrees to visit the Stoke-d’Urbervilles.

Tess takes a van, or common carrier of the time, to visit. She notices that the home called The Slopes is not old and established as she had expected. Instead, the house is recently built. Tess meets Alec d’Urberville, the young son of Mrs. d’Urberville. Alec is immediately taken by the young, beautiful maid, and he agrees to find a place for her at The Slopes.

A few days later, a new horse is sent to the Durbeyfields along with an invitation for Tess to assume a post as caretaker for a flock of Mrs. d’Urbervilles chickens. Tess’ departure is a great sorrow for her family, but she agrees to go to Trantridge to help boost her family’s fortunes. Upon her return to The Slopes, Alec takes Tess on a wild carriage ride in order to scare her and prove himself master over her. She does not give into his demands and walks the greater portion of the distance to her new home.


Joan Durbeyfield is the instigator of the plan to send her eldest daughter to another family. Joan takes advantage of Tess, because she is Tess’ mother, and of her husband, John, because he is easily manipulated, a drunk and a fool. Joan, like a hopeless romantic, intends for Tess to be married into the d’Urberville clan. She shows her blissful ignorance when she hatches the plan to send Tess away: “[W]e must take the ups wi’ the downs, Tess, and never could your high blood have been found out at a more called-for moment.” Tess, however, wants no part of Joan Durbeyfield’s plan saying, “I’d rather try to get work.” However, she is convinced by Joan and by her guilt for the death of the family horse, Prince. After being talked into the proposition, Tess remarks . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.