Wednesday, 4 April 2012

D is for Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy



D'ya geddit? D'Urbervilles!

As luck would have it, today's post ties in with the Insecure Writers Support Group, because Tess of the D'Urbervilles made me insecure when I read it at A Level. I found it difficult to read and to understand, and I really didn't see the point. It made me feel I shouldn't be in the class. Everyone else had really important things to say about it, and I didn't. Because what I really wanted to say, but was too insecure to say, was:

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Mr English Teacher, Sir, this story is based on a small misunderstanding which should have been easily cleared up, if Tess had been the kind of strong heroine that I've come to expect in literature. Lizzie Bennett is a strong heroine. Even Jane Eyre is strong (even, because I don't much like that book either - I'm a rubbish Literature student, Sir).

Maybe Tess is the kind of girl who was abound in 19th century England. But it's a hard task to imagine - as a 20th century girl (as I was) - that level of docility and sappiness. I can't do it, and I won't do it. I would say more, but I'm on a word count limit!

(At this point, you need to imagine me packing up my folder and walking out of the class, leaving my copy of Tess on the desk, only returning when we move onto the next topic - which was probably metaphysical poetry).

Ah, that's better. Twenty years of insecurity unburdened!



61 comments:

  1. I had to read this book in high school, and I remember hating it, as well as Tess as a character. We also had to watch Polanski's version of the film, and I went so far as to go on amazon.com and warn students not to watch the film instead of the book, as it completely differed from the novel.

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    1. After the book, I never want to watch the film!

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  2. I will have to reread it. I liked it at the age of 16. I will have to read it with my mature woman mind. ;)

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    1. I wonder how your perception of it would change?

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  3. Good for you, happy to hear you unburden yourself of insecurities. I once told someone I couldn't make it through The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. I never forgot that. Recently I purchased the novel on my ereader and plan to give it another try.
    http://gail-baugniet.blogspot.com Theme: A World of Crime

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    1. If I give up on a book, that's it - it doesn't get another go! :-)

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  4. Good for you! I geddit! LOL! I know just how you feel.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

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  5. I really can't stand this book. I had to read it at school along with 'Far From The Madding Crowd' and 'The Mayor of Casterbridge', but at least the sheer awfulness of Tess made the others relatively less painful.
    I tried reading again a few years ago for a reading group and found it was much more fun to read with a bit of innuendo and a bad Dorset accident - "Another strawberry, Mr. D'Urberville?" ;-)

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    1. Urgh! I chose Far From the Madding Crowd at A-Level - I CHOSE it - madness!

      I love the idea of reading it in a Dorset accent lol

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  6. I never read it, but I very much would have loved to have seen the look on your teacher's face if you had said what you were thinking! :D

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    1. As Fate would have it my English teacher has just joined the gym I work at. I'm plucking up the courage to tell him I'm a published author before I attack him over Tess!

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  7. I remember writing in an English lit exam, aged 15, "I wish I had the maturity to be able to understand this poem." I only wrote it because I knew it wouldn't be seen by anyone I knew. I passed the exam - just.

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    1. What a great thing to write on a paper at that age!

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  8. Never read it, but so happy to hear you were able to unburden that insecurity. Another thumbs up for IWSG!

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  9. Hmmm, can't say I have read this book but it's freeing to get things out in the open. Happy A-Zing!

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  10. I couldn't read Tess D'Ubervilles. It's just too depressing. I started it in high school, and then tried to pick it up again a year or two ago. Thomas Hardy wrote to make people cry. My English Teacher purposely spoiled Jude the Obscure for us and told us to never, never read it.

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    1. I think I love your English teacher, Janna :-)

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  11. My husband was in love with Tess the way I was in love with Holden.

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  12. One of my all time favorite writers...and books. Awesome D post.

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    1. I was expecting more comments like yours, actually. I did wonder if I was committing some kind of sacriledge!

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  13. Hi, I am sure I must have read it back there somewhere but don't remember much of it. Have you ever read "Girl of the Limberlost"? or Silas Marner? I think maybe one of the problems students have reading the older literature is that the authors used words unfamiliar to the readers. I would love to find the Elswyth Thane books that I read in high school sixty-two years ago. Ah, well. I am sure they are out of print. They were romances written with characters who lived in America during the Revolution.
    Best regards to you. Ruby

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    1. It wasn't the language, I found that relatively easy - it was purely the character. I've read quite a lot of other 19th century novels, and none have caused the same kind of dismay!

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  14. Haaaaaaa! Brilliant post. And very cleverly linked in with ISWG, which I have forgotten to do this month - oops!

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    1. I think I was on Alex's blog when he mentioned it a few days ago, which was fortuitous because I had nothing else for D.

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  15. Hi Annalisa! I enjoyed reading your post. I've never read that book, but may have to check it out someday. Thanks for stopping by for my letter C post.

    Susanne
    PUTTING WORDS DOWN ON PAPER

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    1. I hope you do better with it than I did, Susanne!

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  16. i am so not a lit chick!
    great double duty post =)

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  17. sometimes there is freedom in speaking your truth isn't it--great post

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  18. I've never read Tess although I've always wanted to because I did read Hardy's Return of the Native in school and actually really liked it. Didn't think I would because I almost never liked any of those classic novels that were assigned reading (probably because someone told me I had to read it and I hate being told what I have to do).

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    1. Being told to read something is so different to finding them for yourself.

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  19. I've been trying to talk myself into reading this one, but I think you've given me good reasons to put it off even longer. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge blogs in April.

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    1. Well, it can wait until May, at least :-)

      That's a huge attempt - good luck with it.

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  20. I had to read Name of the Rose for my AP English class, it was awful. It rambled and the plot was hard to pick out from all the crazy descriptions of things and the life of monks.

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    1. Sometimes I wonder how some books even get published - that sounds like a first time author failure!

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  21. I love it, I love it, I love it! If Lizzie Bennett could do it, why couldn't the others. I didn't like Jane Eyre either.

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    1. I think Lizzie Bennett is the standard they should have all strived for, but I might be a bit biased.

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  22. Feel better now?
    Thanks for posting for the IWSG.
    And Queenesryche rocks! Been a fan for almost thirty years.

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    1. Much better now, Alex! And I've had to put Empire on!

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  23. I went through a Thomas Hardy phase on my own. Never had to write an essay or have deep thoughts. The whole roam the moors (like Bronte sister books, and Jane Austen) and be miserable was romantic to me at the time (i.e. junior high).

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    1. That's the best way to enjoy books - reading them for pleasure. I'm not sure Hardy wrote expecting to be so closely examined by 16 year olds!

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  24. I forgot to post for IWSG today too. :( But thanks for sharing yours! Love it!

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    1. I had nothing for D, so the IWSG was a godsend!

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  25. I feel this same way trying to read "Pride and Prejudice". My DAUGHTER loves this book, but I just can't follow along. All that proper 19th century English and all, I just want to yell out, "Just say it for Pete's sake!" I'm glad to know I am not alone....
    Dawn

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    1. Pride and Prejudice is actually my favourite novel. But aren't all these novels great - in their own way - to be still read 150/200 years later?

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  26. I'm a terrible lit student myself, I sometimes felt that Lit class was designed to make students hate reading. I love your comments and I'm glad you got them off your chest now. I totally agree with them!

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  27. I've never read it (eek), but I love the sentiment! Sounds like a scene from a movie! I'm glad to see you've unburdened yourself!

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    1. I think I took to writing to be able to do and say things I wouldn't normally do myself!

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  28. Lol. Been 20 yrs since I read it, but makes me want to reread it?

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  29. I never read it and can't remember ever wanting to. Good for you. I am lad you were able to unload twenty years of insecurity.

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  30. This cracked me up. I joined A'Level English Literature night classes. I left before we finished dissecting the first book because I thought they were all talking out of their a***. To be fair, I was 16 and probably the youngest student by 20 years. What did I know?

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    1. That sums up everything I hate about sudying Literature.

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Please comment - I love a good chat!