Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
After Tess gives birth to a baby boy, she decides that it is time to end her self-imposed seclusion. She decides to help in the fields during the August harvest. Her family brings the infant out to her so she can nurse him. One day when Tess returns home, she finds her son very ill and worries he may die. Since the baby has not been baptized, she wants to call the minister, but her father refuses her request. Worried that her son will not have salvation without a baptism, Tess herself christens him in front of her brothers and sisters and appropriately names the child Sorrow. The next morning, the child dies. Tess is relieved to know from the parson that her baptism is acceptable for the child's salvation. She is, however, denied a Christian burial for the baby; therefore, Tess buries Sorrow in the churchyard at a place where all unbaptized and suicides are laid to rest. Then she decorates the grave.
The mornings are lazy and the nights are gloomy for Tess, and there is no relief in between. Her grief and remorse are insurmountable obstacles for her, and life holds little meaning. When her child is born, she gains courage and goes to the field to work. Then her baby grows ill, and Tess must perform a baptismal service for him, since her father will not allow the parson to come. She appropriately names the child Sorrow, which reflects the grief that Tess feels for her own sinfulness, for the baby's life, and for its early death. When the infant dies, Tess is forced to bury Sorrow in a neglected corner of the cemetery.
This chapter reveals new images of Tess. She has been made to feel so ashamed of her pregnancy that she has gone into seclusion, giving her way too much time to punish herself. When the baby is finally born, she bravely goes to the fields to work and even nurses the child there with dignity. It is obvious that she cares about the infant and worries about its salvation. She knows, however, that the illegitimate child will never be accepted, which is one reason she calls the baby Sorrow. After Sorrow's christening and subsequent death, she questions the parson as to whether her baptismal service is adequate for the child's salvation. The parson gives her encouraging words, but will not give Sorrow a Christian burial. Tess must, therefore, lay Sorrow in a neglected corner of the churchyard, but she takes great care to decorate the grave.
It is important to notice Hardy's descriptive powers in this chapter. He brings the harvest to life with vivid details, and his description of Sorrow's baptism is one of the most touching in the entire novel. It is also important to notice the part that fate has played in the novel by the end of this chapter. It has certainly been unkind to this sweet, innocent country girl. Tess left home in order to help earn money for her impoverished family, she falls into the hands of the sinister Alec who takes advantage of her naiveté, she punishes herself severely for her sinfulness, she finds she is pregnant and ostracized from village life, and she finally loses the baby who has caused her so much sorrow. It is no wonder that Tess feels that there is little to live for in Marlott.
Tess remains with her parents during the winter months. The loss of her baby in August has made her even more pensive and melancholy. She longs to leave Marlott and work some place where she can hide from her past. After waiting for over a year, she finally gets a job as a milkmaid at the Talbothay's farm. In springtime, she departs without hesitation, for she knows that she can never find peace in Marlott, where they judge her by her past.
Tess slips into an almost trance-like existence without emotion or sentiment. Her indelible memories, however, continue to remind her that her future holds nothing in store for her except sorrow and grief. She accepts her fate without complaining, for unhappiness by now, has simply become a way of life for this poor country girl.
Hardy seems to challenge the idea that a fallen woman cannot have a future. He sounds pragmatic when he indicates that she could recover from the sin of her lost chastity if she is successful in veiling her past. At the end of the chapter, Tess is leaving Marlott and her accusers behind. It is important to notice that it is spring when Tess departs to find a new life for herself. It is significant because spring is the time of new beginnings and hope, foreshadowing that Tess may finally be moving towards happiness.