I read this book in AP English lit when I was a senior in high school and no matter what you tell me its literary merits are, it’s one of the most obnoxiously depressing books you’ll ever read. Thomas Hardy does this a lot, which you’ll know if you’ve read Jude the Obscure and (like me) had an epic wtf moment at that part I won’t say but you know I’m talking about. Back to Tess, I get that it’s all about how bad industrialization is and how modernism is a problem, but REALLY? You have to have THAT many bad things happen to a single person?
I can’t talk about this book without giving some spoilers, so don’t hate me for doing so, but this is also my reading journal so I reserve the right to talk about what I feel is important, even if its a giveaway (see my “about” page). For Tess, I feel that it’s important to note that not only is this poor girl raped by the guy she’s working for, she gets pregnant, the baby dies, and because Thomas Hardy is a total freak, the baby is literally named “Sorrow”. I’m not fucking kidding either. This guy writes the most pessimistic books and then sprinkles spare melancholia on them. Not only that, Tess finally meets a nice guy, but then he turns out to be a totally holier-than-thou jerk who deserts her because she’s not a virgin (because, you know, it was her fault). Oh and then she’s HANGED in the end. This book is the ultimate downward spiral, both in narrative and your mood as you read it.
Like I said, I get that people think it’s really important in its literary elements and I honestly think it has some good points about how we don’t respect nature in a modern age. But . . . like . . . can we make that point without making the reader want to kill themselves? Maybe? . . . Please?