Publication Date

Winter 12-2008


School of Communication


English--Teacher Certification

Primary Subject Area

Literature, English


Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Archetypal Criticism


Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Literature in English, British Isles


Tess Durbeyfield is one of the most memorable characters in English literature. She is at once a working-class woman and a mythic figure. Abused by her superior and caught between classes, she represents the individual struggling for identity.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles appeals universally to the nature of the woman in literature. Her status as the natural or archetypal woman is clear throughout the novel. Hardy created Tess who cannot be defined by just one categorization. Tess certainly fulfills the limited idea of the fallen woman. However, Hardy is appealing beyond this narrow view of humanity to the more ancient and lasting vision of the archetypal woman. This particular telling of a timeless, archetypal story brings to light ideas that were relevant in the ancient world, in Hardy’s era, and in contemporary literature.