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Belletristik / Gegenwartsliteratur (ab 1945)
The novel is set in impoverished rural Wessex during the Long Depression. Tess is the oldest child of John and Joan Durbeyfield, uneducated rural peasants; however, John is given the impression by Parson Tringham that he may have noble blood, since "e;Durbeyfield"e; is a corruption of "e;D'Urberville"e;, the surname of a noble Norman family, now extinct. The news immediately goes to John's head. That same day, Tess participates in the village May Dance, where she meets Angel Clare, youngest son of Reverend James Clare, who is on a walking tour with his two brothers. He stops to join the dance, and partners several other girls. Angel notices Tess too late to dance with her, as he is already late for a promised meeting with his brothers. Tess feels slighted. Tess's father gets too drunk to drive to market that night, so Tess undertakes the journey herself. However, she falls asleep at the reins, and the family's only horse encounters a speeding wagon and is fatally wounded. The blood spreads over her white dress, a symbol of forthcoming events. Tess feels so guilty over the horse's death that she agrees, against her better judgement, to visit Mrs d'Urberville, a wealthy widow who lives in the nearby town of Trantridge, and "e;claim kin"e;, unaware that in reality, Mrs d'Urberville's husband, Simon Stoke, purchased the baronial title and adopted the surname though unrelated to the real d'Urbervilles. Tess does not succeed in meeting Mrs. d'Urberville, but chances to meet her libertine son, Alec, who takes a fancy to Tess and secures her a position as poultry keeper on the estate. Tess dislikes Alec, but endures his persistent unwanted attention to earn enough to replace her family's horse. The threat that Alec presents to Tess's virtue is obscured for Tess by her inexperience and almost daily commonplace interactions with him. He calls her "e;coz"e; (cousin), indicating a male protector, but, late one night, walking home from town with some other Trantridge villagers, Tess inadvertently antagonises Car Darch, Alec's most recently discarded favourite, and finds herself in physical danger. When Alec rides up and offers to "e;rescue"e; her from the situation, she accepts. Instead of taking her home, he rides through the fog until they reach an ancient grove called "e;The Chase"e;, where he informs her that he is lost and leaves on foot to get his bearings. Tess stays behind and falls asleep on a coat he lent her. Alec returns and rapes her. The rape is also alluded to in another chapter, with reference to the "e;sobbing [heard] in The Chase"e; during the season Tess was at Trantridge, and Alec is later referred to as "e;the seducer"e;. (Excerpt from Wikipedia)