The novel is divided into seven sections, titled as phases. While it may seem usual to many readers, critics have discussed the significance of this term in relation to the progress of the plot and its moral implications. Various phases of the novel have been named according to various life phases of Hardy's heroine: "The Maiden," "Maiden No More," and so on to the final phase, "Fulfillment."
Tess of the d'Urberville is essentially a third-person narrative, but most of the events (all significant events, in fact) are seen through the eyes of Tess. The order of these events follows a simple chronological sequence, a quality that augments the ambiance of a simple rural life. Where we see Hardy's real mastery is the difference in the language of people from the social classes (e.g. the Clares in contrast with the farm workers). Hardy also sometimes speaks directly to the readers to accentuating the effect of select events.
The Victorians: Tess of the d'Urberville
In Tess of the d'Urberville, Thomas Hardy targets the Victorian values of nobility right from the title of his novel. In contrast to the safe and innocent Tess Durbeyfield, Tess d'Urbervilles is never at peace, even though she has been sent to become a d'Urbervilles in the hopes of finding a fortune.
The seeds of tragedy are sown when Tess's father, Jack, is told by a parson that he is the descendant of a family of knights. Hardy comments upon the hypocritical standards in masculine concepts of purity. Angel Clare's forsakes his wife, Tess, in a classic instance of the rift between belief and practice. Given Angel's religious background and his allegedly humanistic views, his indifference to Tess produces a striking contrast of character with Tess who persists in her love--against all odds.
In the fifth chapter of the same phase, Hardy ironically comments on the Nature's role in guiding humans. Nature does not often say "See!" to her poor creature at a time when seeing could lead to happy doing; or reply "Here" to a body's cry of "Where?" till the hide-and-seek has become an irksome, outworn game.
Themes & Issues: Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Tess of the d'Urbervilles is rich in its involvement with several themes and issues. Like most other Hardy novels, rural life is a prominent issue in the story. The hardships and drudgery of rustic lifestyle are explored fully through the travel and work expereinces of Tess. Religious orthodoxy and social values are questioned in the novel. The issue of fate vs. freedom of action is another important aspect of Tess of the d'Urbervilles. While the main storyline may sound fatalistic, Hardy does not miss the opportunity to point out that the darkest of tragedies could be prevented by human action and consideration. Humanity.