I finished Tess of the D’Urbervilles several weeks ago and have been thrashing around since then trying to start something else. I’ve started several books – Barchester Towers, The Bourne Identity, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and now Jude the Obscure – and just not felt that they were worth the time to finish.
Anyways, Tess made me angry pretty much the whole way through. I presume that this was Hardy’s intent – to get me outraged about injustice. The way that everyone in the story accepts the injustice as though it was the right and proper thing was very irritating.
I think I like Dickens’ way of calling out injustice with caustic sarcasm over this style of writing about it as though it is proper, and thus making me angry both at the injustice and the author. I wonder, however, how folks at the time received it. I expect that large parts of the audience missed his point entirely, and thought it was merely an inoffensive story.