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The Epic Plot In Hardy's Tess Of The D'urbervilles

2206 words - 9 pages

Sufi Ikrima Sa’adah

Abstract: This paper undertakes a discussion on Hardy’s most controversial novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Living in Victorian Era, Hardy uses his novel to present the life of lower social class family that was considered taboo in that era. Beside many critical views that the novel reapt, it does employ an interesting kind of plot to analize. Being said to have an epic plot in its narrative, this paper attempts to explore the distinctive characteristics of the plot, i.e. episodic and chronological.
Key words: epic plot, episodic, chronology.

Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the ...view middle of the document...

Talking about its plot, Tess is devided into seven phases. Each phase consists of a determining event or incident, which lead to another fateful event in the next phase, and in turn changes Tess’ life. This kind of plot carries its most important function, that is “…to employ the image of Tess walking various roads, to suggest the way in which we are witnessing the spiritual and physical journey with everyone makes along ‘the road to dusty death’. ”3

Epic Plot
Plot is what Scholes and Kellogg call for the dynamic and sequential element lies in narrative literature.4 While Perrine defines it as “…the sequence of incidents or events of which a story is composed”.5 In conclusion, Plot is dynamic and sequential incidents or events and serve to compose a story.
Tess is said to have an epic plot in its narrative.6 The distinct characteristic of an epic plot is episodic. It presents “…the deeds of a hero in some chronological sequence, possibly beginning with his birth, probably ending with his death”.7 The phrase ‘possibly beginning with his birth’ is exemplified by the learning that the Durbeyfields – the family name Tess bears – are “the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family of the d’Urbervilles” (ch. 1: 4). The phrase, in this case, does not mean lexically since Tess is sixteen or seventeen when the story begins. It can be traced from the expression: “…her [Tess’] sister Eliza-Louisa of twelve and a half … there was an interval of four years and more between Tess and the next of the family” (ch. 3: 24). Thus, the phrase ‘possibly beginning with his birth’ is more likely meant that it is the first time Tess bears the name of d’Urberville; that it is her ‘birth’ of being d’Urberville.
Meanwhile, the phrase ‘probably ending with his death’ is exemplified by Tess’ hanging for the murder she undertakes. Though there is no sentence that directly states about her death, it is implied by the following sentence: “something moved slowly up the staff, … it was a black flag” (ch. 59: 508). The black flag serves as such announcement that the hanging of Tess is done. The colour of black is also expressing mourning for someone’s death, and this time is for Tess’ death. Tess is dead, and thus the story ends.
‘Epic plot is episodic’ and so is with Tess. The episodes in Tess are represented by the seven phases of Tess’ life. Each phase provides an event or incident that contributes to the occurrence of event that follows. Each phase also reveals a key action that determines the phase in which Tess enters for the next. The following are brief descriptions of each phase with its significant event.
Phase One: The Maiden. This phase tells about Tess in her sixteen or seventeen when her family is said to be the descendant of the d’Urbervilles. In this phase there are two significant incidents; the death of Tess’ family’s horse and her seduction. The...

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