How Does Hardy Portray Women as Not Having the Same Rights as Men in Tess of the D’urbervilles?

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How does Hardy portray women as not having the same rights as men in Tess of the d’Urbervilles? By structuring Tess of the d’Urbervilles in the way that he has, in seven phases, Thomas Hardy has created a character that almost defies classification. Margaret Higonnet said that Tess is a “patchwork of cultural stereotypes” (dutiful daughter, child of the Earth, mother, doomed bride, princess in disguise, prostitute, etcetera), which the critic Ellen Moers complained formed “the all-purpose heroine”. I however believe that Hardy has purposefully created a literary figure that is representative of women of all ages and classes. Every female reader would, at some stage of Tess’ development in the novel, find at least some aspect of the character that they can empathise with. Through this, Hardy has conveyed his views on the treatment of women. One of the earliest ideas in the novel, which present women as having less rights than men, is the idea that Tess’ worth is directly proportionate to her marriage. After the accident that causes Prince’s death at the beginning of the novel the only way that Tess’ parents believe that she can help them is by marrying Alec, and later Angel. In The Maiden, the narrator says “The light-minded woman [Joan, Tess’ mother] had been discovering good matches for her daughter almost from the year of her birth.” Although at the time of publication the way that Tess’ parents treat their daughter was shocking to some, suggesting that Hardy exaggerated the treatment of women, it wasn’t the first time in the late 1800s that the theme of parents almost prostituting their daughter had been raised. In contrast to this, the men in the novel seem to have far more freedom to marry who they please, although this could be due to their class rather than their gender. One of the most obvious events in the novel, which suggests that women don’t
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