The Tragedy of a Working-Class Woman as a Sexuality-Trigger in the Fatalist Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles Tess is absolutely one of Thomas Hardy’s most tragic characters. Her fate being a woman labourer and a sexuality-trigger leads to her tragedy. For all her life, she is manipulated by the society and she is hardly given the chance to decide what she wants to be and how she wants to end her story. As Hardy suggests, her fate is determined by the social construction.In Tess’s case, on the one hand, because of her status as a woman labourer, she is expected to get rid of her self-interest and to sacrifice herself. In order to maintain the underprivileged family, Tess undertakes the responsibility of acting as the financial backbone. Under such condition, her chance of being confronted with perils and threats increases. Her rape, for instance, is considered one of the dangers into which she is placed. Owing to the social prejudices for a working-class woman, Tess finds no way out of the misery. She must bear the shame for the rest of her life, which eventually results in her murder.On the other hand, she, as a Victorian woman, is not allowed to demonstrate her ‘temptation’ to men for Victorians believed women were essentially passionless and passive in terms of sexuality. Hardy firmly implies that the inconsistency concerning female sexuality to some extent leads to her tragedy. She is fated because of the fact that the constructed conception toward her sexuality is misled by the society. As I assume, what Hardy manages to signal is that sexual instincts and longings are definitely normal and natural and we must not refrain them.Overall, in this paper, I intend to connect the two products—knowledge of sexuality and social status—in Victorian society with Tess’s tragedy and claim that she is destined to experience mishap mainly due to the false concept of her epoch. Simply put, I consider Tess as just another woeful puppet of the time. Tess’s Fate as a Woman Labourer For the poor girl like Tess in Victorian time as the rural woman labourer, there is barely room for her to choose life. She is supposed to sacrifice herself in order to maintain the huge family. As a result, Tess is denied the possibility of being embraced and protected by parents.On the country, she works as a woman labourer for slight income, helping her parents raise the sisters and brothers. Her situation is even worsened for she is born into a family that her father is incapable of sustaining a family. Under such circumstances, as the only financial backbone for the family, she experiences hardship as early as a little girl. Also, that represents her situation as fated to be constrained by her class. That is, she is not only declined to decide for her future but also exposed to a variety of dangers as a woman labourer when she is supposed to be enjoying the sweetness of a girl’s youth.For example, her rape results from her forced state to claim kin to Stoke- d’Urbervilles. What comes after the incident is that she is pregnant and becomes a young mother at the age of teens. With that in mind, we are aware of the fact that she is doomed to be a tragic woman partly because of her destined hierarchy in the Victorian age. As Thomas Hardy unfolds the story of Tess’s at the scene that she feels guilty for stealing some time enjoying the fun of dancing, we instantly realize that her responsibility outweighs her pleasure.At this point, as a working-class woman who is subject to family duties, Tess is hardly able to live the life of her own but that of others’—her father, her mother and her siblings’: She might have stayed even later, but the incident of her father’s odd appearance and manner returned upon the girl’s mind to make her anxious, and wondering what had become of him she dropped away from the dancers and bent her steps towards the end of the village at which the parental cottage lay…… The interior, in spite of the melody, struck upon the girl’s senses with an unspeakable dreariness.From the holiday gaieties of the field—the white gowns, the nosegays, the willow-wands, the whirling movements on the green, the flash of gentle sentiment towards the stranger—to the yellow melancholy of this one-candled spectacle, what a step! Besides the jar of contrast, there came to her a chill self-reproach that she had not returned sooner, to help her mother in these domesticities, instead of indulging herself out-of-doors. (Tess 11, my emphasis) Hardy, through contrasting between the field-dance and the domestic work, clearly portrays a girl who is so bound to her own duties in domesticities.As the color of the scene changes from “white gowns” to “dreariness,” Tess is also driven away from the blissful fantasy and enters the brutal reality—the state of “melancholy. ” The conversion from brightness to darkness of the environment correspond to Tess’s own self-realization that she is given so little chance to savor the sweetness in life as a young girl. Later, when the scene proceeds, the picture is presented with “a violent social struggle going on in both rhythms, emphasized by Tess’s increasing sense of despair and anger at her mother’s ‘drear[y]’ and ‘seething’ life of domestic oppression” (Law 253).However she is distressed, as a poor girl from a working-class family, that she must accept the fate of being restricted to the field of housekeeping is so unwaveringly illustrated by Hardy that the readers feel the stress for the impoverished girl and her family. When we say Tess realizes her destiny, we are in fact recognizing her as “[understanding] the social connection between the harsh rhythms of domestic labor and the ostensibly pure ‘measure’ of the dance” (253).To be more specific, being suppressed by domesticities is what the society expects from Victorian women labourers, let alone Tess’s mother and Tess herself: Whether earning a wage or not, most working-class women had the primary responsibility of housekeeping, frequently a daunting task in urban settings where, as Robert Roberts recalls in The Classic Slum, a first-hand account of life in turn-of-the-century Salford, housewives fought a constant battle with ‘ever-invading dirt’ and ‘wore their lives away washing clothes in heavy, iron-hooped tubs, scrubbing wood and stone, polishing furniture and fire-irons’ (37). qtd. in Zlotnick 13) For these housewives, keeping a giant family (usually, an urban family will have more children than a suburban one) is rather exhausting that they seldom have the opportunity to explore their own life and to possess self-welfare. As the paragraph suggests, the women are always standing in front of the battlefields of family chores, busing themselves with washing, cleaning, scrubbing, and polishing, not to mention taking care of the children.With their minds and hands tied up simultaneously, how are they capable of thinking of anything else? They are demanded to ‘embrace’ it for it is their fate. The only difference between war soldiers and domestic soldiers is that housewives are rarely honored in domestic wars as those in territory wars even if they complete the missions flawlessly.Unfortunately, scarcely will they be regarded as heroines by anyone—neither will the husbands: Rather, in its need to set off the domestic realm (the site of natural relationships between men and women, parents and children) from the industrial realm (the site of unnatural, alienated relationships between men and masters, workers and machines), dialect literature reconceived housework not only as ‘not work,’ but as one of woman’s duties, or, more precisely, one of her natural functions, like breathing and childbearing. Zlotnick 13, my emphasis) The misconception of taking the ‘housekeeping’ and ‘childbearing’ as female instincts is out of question a debatable issue. We see many writers and critics question the validity of the theory of female instincts. For example, Hetty in George Eliot’s Adam Bede attempts to kill her baby because of the scandal between her and Arthur Donnithorne, an aristocrat who is supposed to marry a decent girl, mostly with equal social hierarchy as his, instead of Hetty. This unmarital relationship is later revealed by Adam who adores Hetty considerably and fantasizes of marrying her.To be sure, the relationship must not continue since it is disclosed to the public eyes. The critical moment lies at the scene when the young mother tries to suffocate her own unwanted child and buries the child alive. Despite the fact that the relationship and the child are both undesirable and illegitimate, we would not assume that Hetty will in effect be so cruel and heartless that she is capable of murdering her own child. The presumption is obviously based on the perception of female instincts as being good wives and mothers.That is, women are expected to play the role of wives and mothers perfectly right after marriages. Their “natural functions” in marriages are to take care of the housework and children without any second thoughts. In that case, domesticities naturally become their responsibilities in marriages. However, the truth is that the assumption is culturally constructed by the society—the patriarchal system. The so-called social standards forge Victorian women to act the ideal female images according to what they are supposed to be.These expectations deteriorate the positions of working-class women especially. They are anticipated not merely to look after the family but also to work outside to earn some pennies. Accordingly, for Tess, the burden is virtually doubled. As the story goes, we know that on account of the revelation of their noble ancestry, John Durbeyfield celebrates the blithe news at Rolliver’s inn and is terribly drunk, being unable to “get up his strength for his journey tomorrow with that load of beehives which must be delivered” (Tess 13).For such a poor family like Tess’s, if there is no work done, there is definitely no money paid to sustain the family’s expense. As the oldest child, she must shoulder the responsibility, replacing her father’s role. Tess’s father, precisely speaking, is nearly unproductive. He is either suffering for ailing health, “[having] coughed and creeped about” (21) or involved in unpractical illusions and reveling in liquor, “[having] got too tipsy” (Tess 21).To be honest, the situation is commonly seen in Victorian urban families. The women are required to work when the men become impotent and disabled to support the family: Paid work was something done for the most part by poor women and most women were poor but they got poorer as they struggled to raise their families, an inevitable feature of the poverty cycle, made worse by the fact that husbands had the unfortunate habit of deserting, falling sick, failing in their business, or being sent to a debtors’ prison. Earle 338) Though in Tess’s case, her father does not qualify for any conditions mentioned by Earle, his foolish obsession with the fantasy of being a knight’s descendent impels Tess to struggle to raise the family. Tess is even compelled by her “witless” (Tess 33) mother to “claim kin” to the Stoke- d’Urbervilles: “You must try your friends. Do ye know that there is a very rich Mrs d’Urberville living on the outskirts o’ The Chase, who must be our relation? You must go to her and claim kin, and ask for some help in our trouble. “I shouldn’t care to do that,” says Tess. “If there is such a lady ’twould be enough for us if she were friendly—not to expect her to give us help. ” “You could win her round to do anything, my dear. Besides, perhaps there’s more in it than you know of. I’ve heard what I’ve heard, good-now. ” The oppressive sense of the harm she had done led Tess to be more deferential than she might otherwise have been to the maternal wish; but she could not understand why her mother should find such satisfaction in contemplating an enterprise of, to her, such doubtful profit. Tess 24, my emphasis) However unwillingly to exercise the “doubtful profit,” Tess’s guilt—“the oppression sense of the harm”—of ‘murdering’ Prince drives her to obey her mother’s command. Beginning with Mrs d’Urberville’s offering, Tess has been trying to secure numerous jobs. First she works as the caretaker of Mrs d’Urberville’s beloved birds. Then after being raped by Alec d’Urberville, Tess denies his assistance and manages to find another job.Pregnant with Sorrow, their tragic son, she ought to work in the field even though the work is tiring and inconvenient for a girl mother who needs to breastfeed the baby in public: After a seclusion she had come to a resolve to undertake outdoor work in her native village, the busiest season of the year in the agricultural world having arrived, and nothing that she could do within the house being so remunerative for the time as harvesting in the fields…… Tess, with a curiously stealthy yet courageous movement, and with a still rising colour, unfastened her frock and began suckling the child. Tess 69-70) Without a sophisticated skill, Tess is merely able to undertake some temporary tasks like helping the field work. Most of all, how embarrassing it is that she must breastfeed the child in front of all her co-workers! But since she is desperately in need of the income, Tess is encouraged to undertake the job, fearlessly. In spite of being highly-educated, her basic literacy in a lower-class family in effect functions little.That leads to her situation as obtaining temporal offerings for the works which she is capable of doing are chiefly seasonal, time-constricted, such as harvesting, or dairying. The masters need more hands when the time is mature so they will hire new people at the season when it is necessary. As soon as the season is passed, the employers have to dismiss the superfluous staff, which in fact means the “unwelcome” helpers are immediately unemployed after the season is over, to save the cost of employment.Yet, these “unwelcome” helpers are primarily women labourers since Victorian urban women normally uneducated, or basically-educated like Tess and the labours are unskilled. The phenomenon is clearly indicated by Earle that “obvious point about women’s occupations is that a high proportion of them were casual, intermittent, or seasonal and that few people… would have expected to be employed the whole year through” (342). In other words, Tess must occupy another new job immediately after the old one is terminated.In that event, these are fated to either be preoccupied with housekeeping or exhausted in hunting new jobs to earn some money. Generally speaking, those urban women workers are quite familiar with the reality that “[domestic] servant, as one would expect, was the commonest and was also normally the first occupation of women working …many varied their lives by taking a different type of job between places. Many also broke their employment with visits of varying length to parents” (Earle 339-40).Moreover, another reason may be claimed to be the fact that indulging in such male-centered society, they can only locate some minor jobs, such as field helper, dairymaid, and caretaker, when the workforce is mainly composed of male labourers: [The] great majority of women were unable to work in ‘male’ trades and, since nearly three-quarter of women wanted to or had to work for a living, they necessarily competed intensely for the work which was left, much of it of a casual nature and none of it organized by gilds or livery companies.The result, naturally, was that they go very poor wages. (Earle 342) While Tess’s story continues, owing to her mother’s friend, Tess is later able to get a job at Talbothays as a milkmaid. Dairy work essentially mushrooms at Victorian time and a great number of women work as dairymaids whether for fun or for money. Often, dairying is so closely associated with housekeeping for the characteristic of milking can be considered similar to breastfeeding.Hence, it is as well viewed as a “domestic enterprise”: As a ubiquitous domestic enterprise, dairying was women’s work in the eighteenth-century rural world. Whether carried on for pretty income by poor labouring women or as a useful pastime for gentlewomen, the production of butter and cheese was regarded as a female activity. In earlier centuries, it was hardly distinguished from other household duties. (Valenze 130) Apparently, Tess labours in Talbothays not for fun but for “pretty income. There in the dairy workhouse, Tess meets three girls—the “auburn haired” Retty, the “jolly-faced” Marian, and Izz “with dark damp hair” and “keenly cut lips” (Tess 107). For them, Hardy provides descriptive knowledge of how fate works for such country girls who are destined to spend their lives in the country areas and are rarely granted with the chance to choose their future. Tess is undoubtedly one of them. The three dairymaids dream marrying Angel Clare. Whereas, after knowing “[they] have no chance against her[Tess]” (114) in winning the gentleman’s heart, they accept it for they ealize well their fate. The narrator points out the fact by commenting that “[they] were generous young souls; they had been reared in the lonely country nooks where fatalism is a strong sentiment; and they did not blame her[Tess]. Such supplanting was to be” (Tess 114, my emphasis). Later the readers discover that one of the girls is supposed to marry a dairyman who proposes to her for twice. Since there is hardly opportunity for the country girls to meet men, they must marry someone they meet at workplace; otherwise, they will stay unmarried and pass the suitable age for marriages.While conversing to Retty, Marian discloses her condition, saying that “I don’t seem to care what I do now. I am going to marry a dairyman at Stickleford who’s asked me twice; but—my soul—I would put an end to myself rather’n be his wife now! ” (115). Miserably, the prophet is later partly accomplished for Marian immerses herself into the addiction to alcohol that she is found “dead drunk by the withy-bed” (175) no sooner than Tess and Angel are wedded.Retty also tries to commit suicide and she is uncovered “in the water” by a “waterman on his way home” who “[notices] something by the Great Pool” and it turns out to be “her bonnet and shawl packed up” (174). They seem to know their fate that once Angel is occupied by another woman, there is barely chance for them to find someone who is as promising as the parson’s son and who can provide the family properly and adequately. It is fatalism that drives them to be born in country families and to work as either dairymaids or fieldworkers.Hardy, throughout the novel, never denies the impact of fatalism, neither in Tess’s story nor in the three girls’ cases. Tess’s Fate as a Sexuality-Trigger Victorian women are known to adopt an ideology concerning female sexuality that “Victorians viewed women as lacking sexual feelings or as passionless” (Seidman 47). To be more accurate, Victorians acquired the theory which “denied that women [possessed] sexual feelings” (47) and which postulated that it was solely for the reason of reproduction that sex was taken into consideration in a marriage relation.It is furthermore identified that “they sought to purge sex of its sensual aspects and restrict its role to a procreative one” and that “Victorian marriage was, finally, described as characteristically cold as the relations between husband and wife were emotionally distant and formal” (47). Basically, sex seemed to be regarded as obscene and foul. You had to sublimate yourself by avoiding obsession with the sensuality that sex brought forth. Namely, sex was rather perceived as barbarian and uncivilized. Since Victorians were more culturally refined, they must not indulge themselves in the sensual pleasure of sex.One of the most notable scientists who believed the theory is remarked to be Dr. William Acton. The scholar is “well known to historians for his role in popularizing the idea that women had no sexual desires” (Valverde 174). Dr. Acton’s “theory of female passivity” or we say “female passionlessness” (174) plainly explains the contemporary conception in regard to female sexuality. One reason which contributes to the circumstance can be named that “men devised the ideology of female passionlessness to serve their own interests—‘to help gentlemen cope with the problem of controlling their own sexuality’” (Cott 235).Simply put, women to some extent were thought of as the property to men that most husbands could barely bear the shame of having virtueless and licentious wives. By means of spreading the theory of passivity, the men were able to dominate the women’s sexuality effortlessly. On the other hand, it is remarkably perceived that Victorian women adopted the concept for the purpose of “[the] serviceability of passionlessness to women in gaining social and familial power” (235).Namely, the reason why nineteenth-century Victorian women were comfortable with being passive and passionless was somewhat thanks to “[the] ideology of passionlessness, conceived as self-preservation and social advancement for women” (236). The theory turned out to be the means of preserving ‘self-advancement’ and ‘self-protection’, which compelled the women to constrain themselves and in turn to achieve self-satisfaction because lustfulness was seen as dirty and filthy.Thereby, a phenomenon is noticed by the observers that “the ideology of female passionlessness [was] promoted by the popular medical advice literature” (Seidman 59). In order to spread the theory all over the nation, they used the strategy of filling the magazines, novels, or some public media as the method to instill the concept into women’s minds. It is quite similar to the purpose of conduct literature in Victorian time that they needed to teach middle-class and even upper-class ladies the knowledge of how to behave educated and decent.From a survey we can as well label the success of the theory in Victorian era: Women interviewed before 1900 overwhelmingly reported that sex is not integral and is less necessary for women than for men. Sex was joined to procreation as its primary function. Sexual intercourse was only weakly or peripherally associated with any spiritual meaning. (Seidman 61) When sex is simply viewed as the method of procreation, it is neither enjoyable nor desirable. For those wives, they were required to act passively in terms of sex for the purpose aforementioned.It is what Victorians normally perceived female sexuality. Nonetheless, as we are conscious, sex should be taken as a necessary portion when concerning human sexuality, both men and women. What Victorians understand about female sexuality is literally constructed by the social system. Biologically speaking, sexuality is quite a norm in human nature. Desires and sexual instincts are both recognized as natural responses. Therefore, Hardy, when portraying a girl like Tess with affluent ‘vitality’, attacks the rigidity in the theory which confines female sexuality to be passive and passionless.Female sexuality is so abundant in Tess’s female body that neither Alect nor Angel has power to resist. Hardy demonstrates Tess’s female sexuality before her suffering is about to be unmasked, which signals that the primary cause for her painful experience is partly blamed to the discrepancy between human nature and constructed sexuality: “Why—you be quite a posy! And such roses in early June! ” Then she became aware of the spectacle she presented to their surprised vision: roses at her breast; roses in her hat; roses and strawberries in her basket to the brim.She blushed, and said confusedly that the flowers had been given to her: when the passengers were not looking, she stealthily removed the more prominent blooms from her hat and placed them in the basket, where she covered them with her handkerchief. (Tess 31) Tess’s female sexuality draws the travelers’ attention so tremendously. According to Humma, Tess is presented as a girl “who never sins against Nature, never loses her innocence” (66) and who “is again and again described through the imagery of plants and flowers appropriate to one who, in Farmer Crick’s words, ‘is a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature’ (155)” (qtd. n Humma 66). Hardy wants us to realize that sexuality is as primitive as Nature. Consequently, we need not repress the most original part of human nature. Hardy is also simultaneously showing the society’s restraint on female sexuality so that Tess, instead of boldly revealing her female sexuality, is obliged to suppress her sexuality by “[removing] the more prominent blooms” and “[covering] them with her handkerchief. ” Beyond questions, Hardy employs the technique of “embedding sexual symbolism within his nature imagery” (Humma 63).We can easily locate clues showing Tess’s strong sexual attraction to Alec. Alec displays his generosity to the girl who comes forward to claim kin while they first meet. He even “presses” her to accompany him for a walk, “holding it[strawberry] by the stem to her mouth” and “[insisting]” on her “[parting] her lips and [taking] it in” (Tess 29). The scene clearly indicates that starting from the beginning, the relation between Tess and Alec is unbalanced as if Alec were a hunter and Tess were a game.Symbolically, Alec is actually teasing the innocent girl and confusing her like a hunter plays on his prey. The most prominent scene which explicitly delivers the message of Tess’s eminent female sexuality and her temptation to Alec is surely her rape by Alec. Though some contend that it is rather a seduction than a rape. Davis defines it based on Victorian law and expressly confirms it to be a rape case: The rape of Tess actually begins with the passage that describes Tess’s sleep and her lack of verbal response—the passage, in short, that establishes her lack of consent to Alec’s advances. .. “to constitute rape, it is not necessary that the connection with the woman should be had against her will; it is sufficient if it is without her consent. (223) He, following the statement, quotes from The Laws of England that “if the woman is asleep when the connection takes place, she is incapable of consent, and although no violence is used, the prisoner may be convicted of rape, if he knew that she was asleep” (224). Moreover, in R. V.Ryan (1846) case study, it is also addressed that “where a girl is in a state of utter unconsciousness, whether occasioned by the act of the prisoner, or otherwise, a person having connection with her during that time is guilty of a rape” (224). All the evidences refer to the fact that Tess is raped instead of being seduced. Notwithstanding, why couldn’t Tess ask for help in law if the law approves her case as a rape? It is further uttered that “Hardy wished to raise this very question in the minds of readers in order to remind them of the status of working-class women and their relation to the law” (227).All in all, it is the problem of her being a woman and also being a woman labourer. She finds no support in charging Alec’s crime. Most importantly, she may be unable to acquire the knowledge of the law. If no one ever tells her the law, she is disabled to be informed of the fact. Likewise, Conly employs the theory of “psychological pressure” (98) to affirm that Tess is under the threat. Psychological pressure is identified “within the range which one person tried to use great psychological pain to get another to have sex when that other person wouldn’t otherwise agree to it” (98).Throughout the novel, we see Alec’s skilled manipulation of Tess by lending his hand to the poor family. Since we are aware of the fact that Tess is willing to sacrifice herself for the benefits of her family, it is no wonder she will submit to Alec’s threats, especially as Alec tries to underscore his mercifulness and kindness to Tess’s family: He took a few steps away from her, but returning said, “By the bye, Tess; your father has a new cob today. Somebody gave it to him. ” “Somebody? You! ” D’Urberville nodded. “O how very good of you that is! she exclaimed with a painful sense of the awkwardness of having to thank him just then. “And the children have some toys. ” “I didn’t know—you ever sent them anything! ” she murmured, much moved. “I almost wish you had not—yes, I almost wish it! ” …… “Tess, don’t you love me ever so little now? ” “I’m grateful,” she reluctantly admitted. “But I fear I do not—” The sudden vision of his passion for herself as a factor in this result so distressed her that, beginning with one slow tear, and then following with another, she wept outright. Tess 56) It is suggested that “he[Alec] flatters her, he impresses her with a show of wealth, he gives help to her family to win her gratitude, and he reacts with irritation and indignation when she nonetheless continues to repulse his advances, causing her to feel shame at her own ingratitude and confusion as to what is right” (Conly 96). After schemingly mentioning his help to the catastrophic family, Alec explores her feedback, saying “Don’t you love me ever so little now? He requires her to love him not because she loves him but because she thanks him. Moreover, the conversation takes place right before Tess has sexual intercourse with Alec. We may presume because Alec keeps emphasizing his help to the family and wants Tess in return loves him, Tess is threatened to certain degree of psychological pressure that she later finds herself unable to reject the requirement. However, the sex is still characterized with the elements of “force on the part of the perpetrator and lack of consent on the part of the victim” (98).No matter it is according to the law or to the theory of psychological pressure, lack of consent is certainly the case here. Both Davis and Conly focus on the factor that Tess does not consent to Alec’s request. As for Rooney, the definition between rape and sex is rather worth pondering that is perfectly corresponds to what Victorians thnk of female sexuality: The presence of equivocation, any acquiescent gesture, marks seduction. The absence of equivocation, unequivocal resistance, marks rape.One consequence of such a reading is that feminine innocence and victimization are preserved at the price of a totalization of feminine passivity: rape becomes male sexual aggression that is met with unequivocal resistance, and seduction becomes male sexual aggression that is met with equivocation. The passive object of seduction repeats the passive object of rape. (1273) If you have sex with the man under the situation that you firmly express your opposition to the request, you are defined as being raped; but if not, you are merely seduced.Thus, in Tess’s case, since she does not show her “unequivocal resistance,” she is rather identified with being seduced than being raped. Due to her passive resistance, seemingly “acquiescent,” the girl would not be justified but is condemned to be the seduced. In my opinion, because Victorian women are taught to be more reserved, we will not expect them to act extremely fiercely when they are facing the danger of being raped. Consequently, the victims are not viewed as the victimized. This is the problem of such reading.Anyway, whichever is more reasonable, Conly, Davis and Rooney all provide us with the different perspectives in interpreting the critical scene despite the fact that Hardy does hardly give the readers the truth—what really happens? When comparing the rape scene to the dance scene at the beginning, we see Tess transforming from a girl to a woman. Significantly, Davis asserts that “Hardy employs symbols and symbolic actions (e. g. , the colors red and white and the virgin’s dance) alone with parallel scenes of penetration and violence (Alec’s feeding Tess strawberries and the stabbing death of Prince) o prepare the reader for the sexual encounter of Alec and Tess” (Davis 222). In that sense, Hardy does not write the story randomly but arranges it in a very sophisticated symbolic way. The crucial moment, undeniably, demonstrates Tess’s femininity and sexuality. Her attraction to Alec is thus used by the rapist as an excuse for his crime. The perpetrator even questions Tess that “why then have you tempted me? ” He accuses her of being a “temptress,” exclaiming that “you dear damned witch of Babylon—I could not resist you as soon as I met you again” (254, my emphasis).Tess’s ‘vitality’ has put her in the position that she is the one to blame. She is not allowed to show her sexuality, her vitality so vividly that it attracts men’s gazing. Thus, it seems that she is the one who exposes herself to the situation of being raped. In addition to Alec, Angel is also so thrilled by Tess’s sexuality. When Tess and Angel are still working in the dairy farm, one day, Angel pays great heed to Tess’s femininity and he observes the girl’s face, especially her ‘red lip’: How very lovable her face was to him. Yet there was nothing ethereal about it: all was real vitality, real warmth, real incarnation.And it was in her mouth that this culminated. Eyes almost as deep and speaking he had seen before, and cheeks perhaps as fair; brows as arched, a chin and throat almost as shapely; her mouth he had seen nothing to equal on the face of the earth. To a young man with the least fire in him that little upward life in the middle of her red top lip was distracting, infatuating, maddening. He had never before seen a woman’s lips and teeth which forced upon his mind. (Tess 118) This invitation to Angel’s observation clearly uncovers Tess’s feminine attraction to men.It seems that the lips are endowed with substantial power to draw Angel’s attention and he is unable to resist the magic of her lips. The lips are equipped with exceedingly powerful magic that even the one wit “the least fire in him” is triggered to feel the fire. Angel is not the only one who is drawn to Tess’s ‘lips’—her sexuality. Law proclaims that “[like] Angel, Mrs. Clare’s construction of Tess fixates on a sexualized image of Tess’s body, centering on the sexuality of her lips” (260). The conversation between the mother and son firmly confirms Law’s detection: “Cannot you describe her?I am sure she is very pretty, Angel. ” “Of that there can be no question! ” he said with a zest which covered its bitterness. “And that she is pure and virtuous goes without question. ” “Pure and virtuous: of course she is. ” “I can see her quite distinctly. You said the other day that she was fine in figure; roundly built; had deep red lips like Cupid’s bow; dark eyelashes and brows, and immense rope of hair like a ship’s cable, and large eyes violety-bluey-blackish. ” “I did, mother. ” “I quite see her… There are worse wives than these simple, rosy-mouthed, robust girls of the farm.Certainly I could have wished—well, since my son is to be an agriculturalist, it is perhaps but proper that his wife should have been accustomed to an outdoor life. ” (206) Mrs. Clare and Angel are both so obsessed with Tess’s “red lip” which certainly reflects her sexuality with “fine figure,” “roundly built” body and “dark eyelashes. ” It is implied that “the social meaning of Tess’s sexuality is destined to bear the burden of the entire family’s class compromise, in a ritual of scapegoating which reduces her not so much to a body” (Law 261).When selecting between class and sexuality, it is apparent that Angel and his mother chooses female sexuality over class. Even if Mrs. Clare detest those worse working-class women, Tess’s “rosy-mouthed” upgrades her to be an acceptable choice for her son’s wife. In other words, she is more attached to Tess’s red lips than to her working-class position. Without a doubt, female sexuality worked powerfully in the Victorian society as Hardy presents in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. The problem is that the contemporaries denied the power of sexuality.Owing to the divergence between human nature and social constructed theory, Hardy manages to break the boundary and forces the people to take human sexuality seriously. Sorrowfully, his work was declined by the audience and is not truly appreciated until nowadays. To some extent, he is more modernized than Victorians concerning the issue of human sexuality. As least being a pioneer, he introduces the idea to the people, exploring new possibilities against the era’s constructed perceptions. As a whole, we can never disregard the tragedy of Tess’s.Her tragedy is a cause of false conception toward female sexuality as Hardy assumed. It is again fatalism for Victorian women to repulse their own sexual instincts and desires. As what Tess tells her brother Abraham, being the “blighted” star is the family’s fate, so is it Tess’s fate. Thought there are so many stars in the sky, they are just “unlucky that [they] [don’t] pitch on a sound one” (21). It is doubtlessly Hardy’s strategy of foreshadowing that reveals the destiny of Tess’s life. For those who are born on the “splendid” ones, they perhaps belong to the middle-class women or working-class men.Both identities as a working-class labourer and Victorian woman drive Tess to the catastrophic ending. The double-identities make her harder to escape what fate directs her to go. In that respect, both class and gender are essential and necessary elements in regarding Tess’s tragedy. Yet, Tess, to be sure, is not the only one who suffer so much. Numberless tragic women like Tess in Victorian time live lives under great soreness and grief. Hardy ushers us in the reality of what these women may be in but it is our duty to explore what really happen and how fatalism functions.