61 pages 2 hours read

Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1891

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Symbols & Motifs

Tess’s Diamonds

On their wedding night, Angel presents Tess with a beautiful set of diamond jewelry, which she impulsively puts on as they sit together. The diamonds symbolize misogynistic beliefs about feminine deception and cunning. As soon as Tess puts on the diamonds, Angel is struck by both her beauty and how she resembles an upper-class woman. Because Angel has idealized Tess as innocent, pure, and lacking “feminine” guiles, he is both intrigued by and uncomfortable with this new allure, telling her, “I think I love you best in the wing bonnet and cotton frock” (239). The diamonds suggest that Tess may not be all that different from other women and therefore might be subject to duplicity and deceitfulness; as Tess begins her confession, “[E]ach diamond on her neck gave a sinister wink like a toad’s” (244), revealing that Angel’s first reaction to her story will be to believe that she has deliberately tricked and manipulated him. The symbolism of the diamonds is heightened by the fact that acquiring wealth and finery is one reason a woman might enter an illicit sexual relationship; later, when Tess is living as Alec’s mistress, she will be much more finely dressed, reinforcing the association between adornment and women living in illicit circumstances.