This week, I’m going to talk about a book I consider irredeemable. There is nothing good about this story. Nothing. It sucks total ass from beginning to end.
*Here’s where I tell you this post contains heavy spoilers about Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented, by Thomas Hardy, published in 1891. You know, in case you haven’t gotten around to reading this hot new release…*
We’ve all had to read something for a class at some point that we hated. The struggle to machete your way through something that you had zero interest in.
This isn’t that book.
I read this (terrible) book as a junior in high school, in my AP English Lit class. I was the girl that loved (still love, really) pulling apart old, antiquated language, pausing in my reading to go research something I’d read so I could understand it.
I love that shit.
No, I got into this story, and every time something terrible happened to Tess, I would keep on, thinking there had to be *some* twist ahead. Something to break this relentless, wrenching heartbreak of a life.
Nope. Nothing. All sucky ass bullshit.
Tess of D’Urbervilles is a story about an innocent girl who is taken advantage of and then repeatedly shit on by the Universe. And then when she finally fights back against the injustice heaped upon her – she’s f*cking executed.
My gothy high school girl self wrote the paper, dutifully dissecting the (terrible) novel and the messages it imparts:
- Paganism as purer than Christianity
- Class structure as oppressive, dangerous
- Structure of individual lives mostly beyond our control; fate and chance
And then went on with my life, vowing to never read that POS novel again.
Time passes, I get old, I have a child and the associated Mom-Brain. And I forget about how much I loathed reading this (terrible) novel and had vowed to never, ever (ever!) read it again.
And I suppose I really still haven’t.
I didn’t read it.
I watched it.
Shortly after my Jane Eyre affair *link to Jane Eyre post here*, I found myself at loose ends. I’d already swam deeply through Austen and all the Bronte sisters. I was looking for another classic dive. Flipping though choices on Amazon Prime Video, I found a four part series from the BBC: Tess of D’Urbervilles. And I thought, oh, hey! I read this, but I don’t quite remember the story.
So let’s watch a four hour long screen adaptation, amiright???
Just watch the trailer, it’s horrifying.
Let’s recap the life of Tess, here:
She is born poor to ignorant and abusive parents, who send her blindly to richer relatives as soon as they find they have even a thread of a connection.
Then she is aggressively pursued by her sort of cousin who is essentially her boss’ son. She doesn’t like him, so he tricks her.
He takes her into the woods and rapes her.
And then guess what??
She’s pregnant, and it’s of course her fault. So she’s sent back to her parents. Her baby (who is the only being she’s been able to experience love from) dies of an illness almost immediately. Because the baby was born out of wedlock, Tess cannot bury her child in a graveyard. She baptizes her dying child herself, to save her child from the dreaded fires of hell. Really, the life of the living in this book is the hell, but who am I to say?
Then, a brief moment of sunshine, sort of. Tess meets Angel, a pastor’s son and a farm boy. They love, they marry. Angel finds out about his *impure* wife, blames her and bolts.
So, to support herself, Tess agrees to be her rapist’s mistress.
That goes just about as well as you’d think it does. By this point, Tess is so psychologically damaged, being abused is just part of the deal.
Useless husband Angel comes back. And Tess kills her rapist. But her rapist has more money than she does, so the authorities give a sh*t.
Tess and Angel sort of attempt to flee.
But, of course, Tess is captured and executed for murder.
After watching four hours of awfulness, having forgotten how fucking terrible this story was, noble themes aside, I wanted pull my brain out of my skull and scrub it clean.
This is the worst story.
If I ever forget that and read or watch it again, I don’t know how I’ll forgive myself.
What’s the story you’d rather burn your eyebrows off rather than read again?