I plan to do a back-to-back watch of 1998 and 2008 adaptations of one of my favorite Victorian novels, Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles
, whose tragic heroine is destroyed both by the sheer brutality of physical survival and the rigid social mores of Victorian England. I am clearly a glutton for punishment but then I like Hardy, so that is not a surprise...
(Yes, I am on a period fiction kick).
Want to hear an unpopular opinion?
I like Angel Clare. Yup, Angel from Tess of the d'Urbervilles
. I first read Tess in March 2001 and fell madly in love with the novel. It remains my favorite Thomas Hardy work, because it makes me want to tear out my hair in despair less than his other books.
Tess herself is an incredible heroine - tragic, ground down by life, strong and weak at once, naive, lashing out. It's pretty common to like her.
But liking her husband Angel is not, usually, a popular stance. There are two men who loom large in Tess' life. First is Alec who rapes her (though there is an indication that Tess might have not struggled as much as she could and even 'surrendered' - Hardy does not use it to make Alec's act less reprehensible but to make Tess feel culpable under Victorian, opressive standards - those ridiculous standards are one of the driving points in the book and the root of her tragedy). Second is Angel, who marries her, leaves her on their wedding night in shock after discovering her past (Tess is an unworldly idiot who tells him) because of his likewise Victorian principles, and comes back to her because he loves her and recognizes he was wrong, but it is too late.
I think I like Angel in part because the only time we see Tess truly happy is when she was with him. His reaction is not praiseworthy but not surprising - he is not only a Victorian and a product of his time, but he is unworldly and ridiculously young and a purist, all qualities which the reader could see ten miles off, even if Tess couldn't.
And he comes back to her. In fact, ironically, while he left her because of the fact that she's had sex with another man, sex that wasn't willing (though in the telling of it to him, I am not sure how much Tess emphasized that fact and did not dwell on her 'shameful' surrender) but when he comes back to her, he begs her to come back even though she is now a kept woman. He doesn't seem to care she is a higher class of whore now. Not that she becomes a murderess even. And so I, as a reader, can't help but forgive him - he does make up for it.
Anyway. Apparently I am not the only one - yes. People make Tess/Angel mvs (this is from the excellent BBC adaptation).( They stood fixed, their baffled hearts looking out of their eyes with a joylessness pitiful to see. Both seemed to implore something to shelter them from reality. )