'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' - regional writers 1 - context

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 06-06-18 12:34
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  • 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' - regional writers 1 - context
    • Capital punishment in Victorian Britain
      • In the 1870s, when the novel is set, there were five capital crimes:
        • Murder
        • Treason
        • Arson in a royal dockyard
        • Espionage
        • Piracy with violence
      • At end of the novel, Tess is convicted of murder of Alec D'Urberville and hanged at Wintoncester (Winchester) prison
      • Public hanging was abolished in Britain in 1868
      • When he was eighteen, Thomas Hardy witnessed the public hanging of Elizabeth Martha Brown, a working class woman who had murdered her violent husband, in 1856
    • The mechanisation of agriculture
      • For millennia, humans used hand tools to farm, such as the flail or the scythe
      • In Britain, the mechanisation of farming started  in the 1790s, with the invention of the threshing machine
      • By the late 1800s, threshing machines were powered by steam, like the one in Chapter 47 of 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'
      • Hardy often describes the machines using diabolical imagery,  suggesting that use of machinery is having a negative impact on the nature of agricultural work
    • Victorian morality
      • Queen Victoria ruled Britain and the Empire from 1837 to 1901, offering a 'perfect' role model for women and motherhood
      • The 'sexual norm' for a Victorian woman was to be a virgin until marriage
        • Angel is appalled by Tess's revelation, despite not being chaste himself
      • Victorian society was underpinned by Christian values
        • The established Church was widely followed; as the novel shows, there were also newer evangelical churches
      • Hardy's subtitle for the novel, 'A Pure Woman', was a challenge to conventional (and, as he saw it, hypocritical) conceptions of a Victorian woman
    • The influence of Darwinism
      • Charles Darwin published 'The Origin of Species' in 1859
        • It challenged widely accepted ideas about creation and man's place in the universe
      • Thomas Hardy, a keen amateur scientist, read Darwin's work, and his novels  reflect the fin de siecle trend towards pessimism and religious scepticism
      • 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' could be said to illustrate a ruthless, post-Darwinian society, in which characters who cannot adapt to social change do not survive
      • Hardy's descriptions of hardship of Flintcomb-Ash, where labourers choose to work when better jobs are unavailable, depict a life of struggle
    • Emigration to Brazil, 1870-1900
      • In latter part of  C19th, Britain underwent a demographic crisis as population increased rapidly
      • Brazil, which had been an independent nation since 1825, abolished slavery in 1850
        • This created  an economic crisis and a demand for agricultural workers
      • Immigration gradually intensified: about 71,000 Europeans emigrated to Brazil each year between 1877 and 1903
      • Angel Clare goes to Brazil to seek his fortune as part of this migration pattern after his separation from Tess - his venture fails


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