In introduced to the titular character of Tess

In his novel “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” Thomas Hardy writes about
Victorian women being victims of male dominance, specifically through the
character of Tess who’s presented in a tragic light due to the dominance she
has been subjected to.  “The World’s
Wife” by Carol Ann Duffy also explores the effects of male dominance by
presenting historical figures anew for the reader to look at women that were
previously obscured behind the men who dominated their society.


In Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” we are first introduced to
the titular character of Tess at the May Day dance she is wearing a white dress
with a red ribbon in her hair and is described as “the only one of the white
company who could boast of such a pronounced adornment”. The white dress
immediately gives the impression that she is angelic and innocent, as typically
in Western literature white represents purity, innocence and chastity. However,
she is also the only woman at the dance who wears red a colour typically
associated with sin, sexuality and danger. This could be foreshadowing from
Hardy of the danger that Tess will find herself in due to her sexuality and the
sexual dominance that men will exert over her, specifically Alec.

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Alec first exercises his dominance over Tess when he coerces her to eat
a strawberry from his hand, something that she clearly did not find comfortable
“in a slight distress she parted her lips and took it in”. The red colour
of the strawberry reiterates the fact that she is in a dangerous position which
is also sexually charged. Not only is Alec abusing his power over Tess in this
situation he is also foreshadowing the sexual dominance that he will eventually
have over her, as strawberry’s can be considered to be symbolic of passion and
sexual desires. The verb “distress” displays that she didn’t want to
eat the strawberry but because of his position in society as a rich, white,
powerful male she felt obligated to follow his instructions as it is what was
expected of her in a Victorian society. Tess once again displays her submissive
nature to Alec when she “obeyed like one in a dream” after he demands to place
flowers in her bosom and on her hat