Summary of Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess – Daughter of a Poor Man

John Durbeyfield is a poor man and is the father of Tess. He is stunned to find that he belonged to an ancient noble family. Tess, her daughter exchange glanced with a man in the May Day Dance in the village.

Tess’s father sends her to D’Urbervilles palace to make fortune. But she is shocked to find that she and her family had no relation with D’Urbervilles because the owner of the palace Simon Stokes simply changed his name after retirement to D’Urbervilles.

Tess is Raped

Alec, who is the son of Simon somehow gets her a job in the palace. Tess disagrees first but later agrees. Tess has resisted seduction from Alec but one night he takes advantage of her in the woods.

Tess returns home and gives birth to a boy named Sorrow. Sorrow dies soon after he is born. Tess later finds a job as a milkmaid.

Marriage with Angel

One day she meets Angel Clare. Angel was the same man with whom she had exchanged glances during May Day Dance. Their love slowly started growing. And they both married.

Tess wanted to tell about her past but she could not tell. One day, she writes a letter and slides it under his door but it slides under the carpet and Angel could not read it.

After the wedding, they both confess careless acts they did in the past, Angel tells about his affair with a woman in London. Tess tells about Alec and her dead son.

Tess is Left Alone

Tess forgives Angel but Angel cannot forgive her and he leaves her alone and goes to Brazil. He said to Tess not to follow him and he himself will come for her. Tess had a difficult time.

One day, she hears a preacher and is shocked to find that he was Alec. When Tess meets Alec, he begs her not to tempt him again. But a few days later Alec begs Tess to marry him as he has turned his back on religious ways.

Tess learns from her sister Liza-Lu that her mother is unwell. Tess returns home. Her mother recovers but her father dies.

Angel & Alec Appear

Angel finally returns and starts searching for Tess. Angel was told that Tess has gone to a village called Sandbourne. When Angel reached there, he finds Tess in a boarding house.

He tells her that he has forgiven her and begs her to come back. Tess says that it is too late now and she cannot return to him. In that Boarding house, Alec also comes. Tess is heart-broken. She goes upstairs and stabs Alec to death.

When the owner of the boarding house finds the dead body of Alec, she raises an alarm. She seeks help from Angel and they both hide the body in a place for a few days.

Tess is Hanged

Tess is arrested by a search party at Stonehenge and is sent to jail. Angel and Liza-Lu are present outside the prison when a black flag is raised. That black flag means that “Tess is executed or Hanged”.


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