An aspect of society that was extremely

March 13, 2019 Religion

An aspect of society that was extremely unbalanced and patriarchal in the Victorian era was gender. Women were often seen as inferior and were expected to respect and honour men as their superiors. This social ‘norm’ (as well as the ‘norm’ of social class) was rarely challenged or criticised openly and many citizens believed that it was part of ‘God’s plan’; and due to a massively religious Victorian England anyone who questions these ‘norms’ would have been viewed as challenging God, as well as challenging the monarch or government. However, there was a growing number if Victorian authors who were becoming brave enough to passively criticise the society in which they lived. They did this through writing fictional novels and basing them around social themes in which they believed there were problems; the most common being gender imbalance, social class and religion. Thomas Hardy explores the theme of gender imbalance throughout his novel ‘Tess of the Durburvilles’, mainly through the characters of Tess and Alec Durburville.
The character of Tess Durbeyfield is presented as being a young, innocent and kind girl at the beginning of the novel. Through Hardy’s description of “simple” Tess and after reading about Tess’s selfless journey to market for her father and her willingness to travel to the Durburvilles farm, the audience (Victorian and modern) are attracted to Tess and believe her to be a likable character. However, through Hardy’s introduction and description of Alec, in which he is presented as “swarthy” and threatening, the audience already begin to develop a dislike for his character. Therefore right from the beginning of the novel there is evidence that Hardy is representing the cruel and dangerous men of Victorian society through Alec and the innocent and pure women of Victorian society through Tess.
In the extract in which Tess meets Alec for the first time Hardy criticises the patriarchal elitist Victorian society that allows upper class men to exploit young, country women. He does this by presenting the character of Alec as threatening to Tess. When Tess arrives at the farm she is hesitant and nervous like a small animal, and Alec comes towards her from a “dark triangular door of a tent” smoking. The imagery of him emerging from darkness instantly makes Alec seem threatening and evil, and the darkness causes the reader to associate Alec with danger.


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