One of the central themes of ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ by Thomas Hardy, which also appears in ‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker, is male dominance and how females respond to this. Sometimes this dominance is purposeful, where the man has full knowledge of his abuse. Victorian society when ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ is set, accepted the idea that the upper class or nobility could basically get away with all sorts of injustice against women, especially those of classes lower than themselves, simply due to rank. Furthermore, there were double-standards regarding the sexual behaviour of men and women – women being judged far more harshly than men for similar behaviour, or being blamed for men’s lust.
Hardy highlights and criticizes these attitudes of women being lesser than men using the three main characters, Tess Durbeyfield, Alec D’Urberville and Angel Clare. Although ‘The Color Purple’ is set a little later than Hardy’s novel, in the early 1900s, Walker confronts the same issues in society’s view and treatment of women. ‘The Color Purple’ deals with the struggle of black women to gain recognition as individuals who deserve fair and equal treatment in America and in Africa, where male dominance is the norm.
Hardy ensures that Alec’s malicious intentions are clear from the moment he is introduced in the novel. Hardy describes Alec as having a “well-groomed black moustache with curled points”, which implies that he is considerably older than Tess and also fits the stereotypical image of a villainous character. His complexion is said to be “swarthy” which implies a literal and metaphorical darkness, contrasting the purity symbolised in Tess’ paleness. He has a “bold rolling eye” which can be perceived as a metaphor for his eye for women suggesting that Alec will be a sexual influence on Tess. These first physical features immediately give the impression to the reader that Alec’s older, male experience will be a threat...