Can we say that author’s view of the main heroine of Tess of the d’Urbervilles is sympathetic?
Tess somewhat conforms to the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of a ‘fallen woman’ as she does lose her reputation. However, the major difference between Tess and this definition is that she did not choose to have sex with Alec, she was raped, so therefore Tess can be said to be a misinterpreted ‘fallen woman’. When the town finds out Tess is pregnant she is made an outcast and therefore is classed as a ‘fallen woman’ regardless of the fact that she had been raped. From Hardy’s point of view, Tess is a victim of the series of misfortunate events which gradually destroy her life, and she is in no way responsible for what has happened to her.
Some readers view Hardy’s portrayal of Tess as a ‘fallen woman’ as sympathetic, due to the fact he frequently takes on the perspective of Tess, but he ultimately still views her position as a ‘fallen woman’ as the tragic one. He presents Tess is a virtuous victim and therefore a tragic heroine through the use of color imagery and emphasizes her purity when he describes her as ‘the white muslin figure’ (p.73) just before Alec rapes her at the end of phase the first. This means the reader is left in no doubt that Tess is innocent and has been seduced by Alec.