Wednesday, April 10

Tess in the Right Place at the Right Time

I am currently reading Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles for my literature class.  It's a book that I've been meaning to read for a long time, so I'm glad for the opportunity to read it now.  (Thankfully, it doesn't feel like homework because I'm actually enjoying it, and I can indulge in a good book without the guilt trip that usually comes from avoiding my study.)  

I'm only a little way in, so please, nobody give the ending away by accident!  So far, though, I'm really enjoying the writing style.  It is strangely fresh and tangy - much more so than I would have expected from a book so old.  I am also enjoying the language.  It's fairly easy to understand, but every now and then Hardy slips in an outrageously unusual word that I've never heard of before, which immediately sends me scrambling for the dictionary.  I had to tear out a bookmark-sized strip of paper from my notebook so I could jot down all the cool words I was learning.  I will share them with you eventually, but I don't have the book with me at the moment.  I'm blogging from my university library, you see.  Yes, I am currently avoiding essay-writing.  

Anyway, there was this lovely passage at the end of Chapter Five that I wanted to share.  Here it is:

In the ill-judged execution of the well-judged plan of things the call seldom produces the comer, the man to love rarely coincides with the hour for loving. Nature does not often say “See!” to her poor creature at a time when seeing can lead to happy doing; or reply “Here!” to a body’s cry of “Where?” till the hide-and-seek has become an irksome, outworn game. We may wonder whether at the acme and summit of the human progress these anachronisms will be corrected by a finer intuition, a close interaction of the social machinery than that which now jolts us round and along; but such completeness is not to be prophesied, or even conceived as possible. Enough that in the present case, as in millions, it was not the two halves of a perfect whole that confronted each other at the perfect moment; a missing counterpart wandered independently about the earth waiting in crass obtuseness till the late time came. Out of which maladroit delay sprang anxieties, disappointments, shocks, catastrophes, and passing-strange destinies.
When d’Urberville got back to the tent he sat down astride on a chair reflecting, with a pleased gleam in his face. Then he broke into a loud laugh.
“Well, I’m damned! What a funny thing! Ha-ha-ha! And what a crumby girl!”
Tess of the D'Urbervilles: Chapter Five by Thomas Hardy.  (First published in 1891)

This is my copy of Tess
What I like about this passage is that it reminds me so much of in a movie, when the action suddenly cuts and the narrator, using a warm, story-teller's voice, takes some time to hint at the misfortunes that are soon to follow.  It is like the voice of God, pausing the story of Tess's life to reflect upon it.  The change in tone makes this little piece seem like a serious and shivery awakening.  

I also love the imagery of perfect people just missing the right place at the right time so that it all goes wrong - a distressingly thought-provoking concept that should remind you all of that horrible scene in the movie adaptation The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  (Which is, by the way, an incredible story that you should take to time to read, or even to watch, as both are beautiful.)  

Anyway, I must get back to my study.  Also, don't forget to enter into our  One Book Challenge.  
(You still have until Monday the 15th to enter, so get cracking!  Just follow the link.)

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