picture source: openlibrary.org
The book starts with the encounter of Jack Durbeyfield, the father of Tess Durbeyfield, with an elderly parson namely Parson Tringham on his way back home from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor. Jack, an idle middle-aged man, is shocked to have heard from the parson that he and his family are the lineal representatives of the ancient and knightly family of the D’Urbervilles.
Given his poor life, Jack asks his first daughter, Tess, to seek for their whereabouts and if possible, look for jobs in the D’Urbervilles family. She fulfills his parents demand by going to Trantridge, where which her distant relatives stay. That’s when her ill fate begins. She meets Alec D’Urbervilles, one of the sons of the family, who immediately falls in love with Tess. From their first meeting, Tess learns that her cousin is very ruthless thus she cancels her plan to further ask for any vacancies and opts to return home. But her family condition grows worse and she can’t refuse her parents’ wishes to go back to the D’Urbervilles family again after Alec informs Tess’s family that his mother needs a maiden to take care of her poultry.
The life in the D’Urbervilles mansion seems good for Tess unless Alec. She really despises his constant persuasion despite the fact that she often rejects his feeling. It is an incident that follows a party brawl that eventually changes the course of her life. Alec offers a ride for Tess as she is involved in a commotion after a party with some residents. As she sees no option, she accepts Alec’s invitation for the night journey. Bad weather forces the two to take some rests and Tess’s tiredness can hardly save her from the rape.
Tess leaves the estate after the incident then later she finds out she is pregnant. Although Alec comes and proposes her, she keeps on declining the offer. Later, Hardy depicts her working as a laborer while her child is left in the yard. One night, Sorrow, the name of the bastard child passes away because of fever. On the night of the death, she visits a curch to ask for the priest’s help to baptisize the child. But he refuses it, leaving Tess to baptisize him on her own then buries her child.
Tess leaves her home for the second time to seek for livelihood. She ends up working in a dairy and spends days taking care of cows at Talbothay’s farm. This is the place where Tess enjoys her greatest happiness as she meets Angel Clare, a parson son, who prefers to start his career in a farm than resume his study at a university. Angel repeatedly asks Tess to be his wife but she rejects it as the painful past still lingers. Oftentimes, she intends to tell him the truth of her past but she delays it until they both married. On the day on the marriage, none of their families attend the ceremony. Even Angel’s parents and brothers, who don’t attend the marriage although they don’t mind with Angel’s choice. They only regard it’s too soon for them to get married. Tess’s family is also absent.
After the ceremony, they remove their belongings from the dairy to a mansion that is once occupied by the D’Urbervilles, Tess’s ancestors. It is on their wedding night that Tess reveals all her past, leaving Angel in a great disappointment. He finds it so hard to forgive her that he decides to leave for Brazil. He forbids Tess to seek or come to him unless he does so. He leaves some amount of money for Tess which later she gives most of it for her family.
This phase, Tess feels so depressed that she leaves her house again for the third time as she can’t bear telling the truth to her father. She works with Mariann, her co-worker at the dairy, in Starve-acre farm. She works so hard and keeps her heart pure during the wait. Sometimes she writes about her longing and suffering to her husband but to no reply. She gets so desperate then embarks on a long journey to meet Angel’s family. After a ver long walk, she eventually arrives at the family house but can’t meet them as they attend a sermon. She walks around the house then overhears Angel’s brothers who talks about her. Feeling so sad, she decides to walk back home.
In the middle of the journey, she is shocked to have meet Alec who now turns into a priest. They are into a serious discussion on their past, how Alec regrets on what he has done to her and religious topics. Although Alec convinces her on his good change Tess won’t believe him. Indeed, Alec can’t help loving her as deep as before. As such, he chases her, again. And Tess, again and again, refuses his love coupled with fact that she is now married. Alec even leaves his sermons and opts to rekindle his relationship with Tess.
Tess firmly sticks to her love with Angel. Until she sacrifices her feeling and agrees to finally marry Alec after her father dies then her family has no shelters. Alec provides his house for them. On the other hand, she hears no information on Angel whereabouts.
Angel, meanwhile, returns home after some years of futile career pursuit in Brazil. When he gets home, he looks thinner and older given difficult circumstances in Brazil. He soon searches for Tess but it’s a bit too late. She now lives with her new husband, Alec.
To this, Angel can’t do anymore to fix his mistakes and head home. While he waits for a train, he surprisingly meets Tess, who kills Alec, in order to be with him. Both unite after some years. They stay for some nights in an empty mansion, enjoying their absent romance back then as a groom and a bride. After about a week, they depart the house and last walk together because a group of policemen finally capture Tess in Stonehenge and hangs her to death. Angel marries Tess’s sister, Liza-Lu, to meet the late’s request.