Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Pride and Prejudice

In: English and Literature

Submitted By bethhomer
Words 1564
Pages 7
How do Hardy and Austen use their protagonists to critique the position of women in society?

In both novels society is presented as an underlying constraint on both of the protagonists lives. Beth Hanson wrote, “A woman can move only downwards” and that “feminine compliance, through the surrender of self is death of a different sort, for to be selfless is not only to be noble, it is to be dead”. This outlook on societal pressures ultimately leads to Tess’ demise in ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ as she falls from the ideal image of a women in the Victorian era and her “selfless” acts does in fact end in her death. Hardy presents ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ as a bildungsroman where we see Tess’ life unfold from innocence to regret and follow her as she is metaphorically ‘kicked’ down the social ladder. In ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Lizzie, the female protagonist, is represented as a strong and defying character by Austen. However despite her lack of care for societal pressures she and her sisters are chained down and ultimately need a man, the “governing sex” to set them free. Both Hardy and Austen use societal context to shape the female protagonists lives and show the patriarchal influence on women in the Victorian period.

In the first phase of the novel, “The Maiden” and the first phase of Tess’ life she is presented as a “girl” naïve and unaware. Hardy separates the novel into sections to represent Tess’ development and also to foreshadow the later events that will change her life. The term “maiden” in a traditional sense simply means virgin symbolising how Tess is still a young girl and has not been a victim of societies expectations so far. At the mayday dance when Tess if first introduced to the reader, Hardy uses physiognomy to describe Tess. The phrase “she wore a red ribbon in her hair” is used to isolate Tess from the other girls referred to as “white…...

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