During the 19th century, Britain Victorian Era, class or social status and money played a significant role in shaping the social systems and functions of the society. The possession of money and being at the top class in society meant those people were influential and had a wide range of opportunities. On the other hand, it was very challenging for the lower class to transition to a higher class social status. Therefore, there were high chances of people staying in the social class for the rest of their life. Money and class controlled the social structure. This impression is among the common themes in many of the Victorian novels particularly, as portrayed in Tess’s life by Thomas Hardy. The essay explores how money and class function in Tess's life and how the character’s social statuses are compared while addressing the struggles faced within the social classes.
Money Influence the Choice of Work and Family Biases
Tess is from a poor household that barely had enough money for a living. Tess’s mother discovered high-class decedents the d’Urbervilles who were from a wealthy aristocratic family. Tess’s mother sends her to provide for the family in hopes that the d’Urbervilles son will fall in love with Tess get his hand in marriage to raise her social class. However, this doesn’t transpire as Tess is assigned work on a dairy farm where she interacts with Angel. Angel comes from a family of a high social class. Angel familiarizes Tess with his parents as seen in the following quotes for she is a cottagers daughter, as I am proud to say. But she is a lady, nevertheless-in feeling and nature (131). His parents learn more about Tess’s background and are very skeptical. They attempt to convince him towards another girl from a high social class family (131).
What Is Low-Class Consciousness?
Class is the categorization of a large group of people by the positions they occupy in society. It is determined by a system of social production and consequently by the scopes of one’s possession of wealth. The class has a central role in Tess’s life. Tess’s character is the symbol of how the Victorian low working classes were exploited by the high-class members of society. The character portrays the experiences and struggles that a low class does to change or improve their class and to minimalize the bridge that was a cause of social exploitation.
In an effort to shift class Tess and her parents plays a vital role. In the process, she was faced with several bases of exploitation in the economy as a result of the social class system. These exploitations become a disastrous instrument for both Tess as well as her family. Tess struggles between obstinate material contentment and self-worth. Tess is a victim of the social inequality created by social status. It is evident in Chapter nine that Tess is from a low working class which is made marked by the quotes, Ah, you are young woman come to look after my birds said Mrs. d’Urberville, I hope you will be kind to them. My bailiff tells me you are a quite proper person (p 68).
At first, it appears that Tess is of high self-esteem and very optimistic despite the fact that she is a member of a low-class family in society. Her mother tells her to ask for some help from Lady d’Urberville, a high-class member of society. Tess had no choice but to accept the job because of the shift the society had created from agrarian to machine-driven. The industrial economy replaced agriculture, and the working class had to earn a living by working in the industries. Tess worked because of her mother’s persistence, saying that, and dont go thinking about her making a match for me - it is silly (p 43). Tess may not blame herself since she is not aware of the dangers that lie in her going to work at the house of the elite member of society. Her mother consciously sends her to earn a living at the house despite the fact that she was aware of the danger that might befall her daughter. Her mother’s consciousness is subjected to social, economic compulsion. Therefore, the social, economic class is the driving force that is the source of all degradation for Tess.
The life of Tess during the Victorian age as evident in the quotes in the novel Tess of the d’Uurbervilles the social class and wealth quantified in terms of possession of money and assets influence the kind of life for many people. High-class people had a strong desire to maintain high social status in their families and were very skeptical of the low social status people such as the working class, the farmers, and others with petite skills. On the other hand, the low-class people who had limited or no money struggled to transition to a higher social class. From Tess’s life experiences, the theme of social class and money is evidently recognized in the struggle faced by both the high class with money and the low class without money. Clearly money and class during the Victorian Era played a critical function in the social system as there were biases to individuals of the low working class.
Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D'urbervilles: A Pure Woman. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, 2009. Print.
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