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can someone give feedback on my eng lit essay?

Hi! am currently in Y12 studying AQA English Lit.

Could someone possibly be able to give feedback on my essay and ways I could improve it to make it a top-band answer please (this essay is on Tess of the D'Urbervilles)? (25 marks)

My teacher has set this question:

To what extent is the tragic outcome the fault of the tragic protagonist?

Hardy crafts a tale that unfolds against the backdrop of rural England in the late 19th century, a setting that introduces elements of social stratification and a rigid class system. The tragic protagonist, Tess Durbeyfield, embodies both the characteristics of a tragic hero and, simultaneously, an individual ensnared by societal expectations, the past and fate. It could be argued that the combination of Tess’ hamartia, Alec (the antagonist), strained familial relationships and fate ultimately cause the tragic outcome of the novel.

It could be argued that Tess’ hamartia is her innocence which progressively fades and becomes exploited as the novel develops, highlighting the tragic downfall of the protagonist. Perhaps, the fatal flaw in Tess of the D'Urbervilles is that of society itself, which fails to protect and support vulnerable women like Tess. Tess is innocent in the sense of being naive about the real world and the consequences of her actions. For example, after the rape, she wishes her mother had told her "about men." In other words, she has limited knowledge of sexual reproduction and the dangers of falling in with the wrong types of men. Also, the rape in the Chase torments Tess due to the "moral hobgoblins" placed in her mind by Christianity, condemning her. Although by today's standards, Christian or not, she is an innocent victim of Alec's cruel lust. However, at that time, women were seen as second-class citizens and were often blamed more so than men because of the idea that they were seduced in some way. For example, Angel Clare tells Tess of a brief liaison with a woman in London, which to all intents and purposes would have been a grave sin, particularly for the son of a person. However, this is seen as casual, but when Tess tells him of the incident in the Chase, which was not even her fault, Angel reacts furiously and condemns Tess as judge and jury. Thus again we see her engulfed by social law and hierarchy, making Tess guilty. Alec also diminishes Tess's innocence by sexualising her. When her lawful husband finally does, this is a tipping point for Tess, so she kills Alec. This means Tess is no longer legally innocent and is far beyond social innocence. It could be said that she is innocent in a sense because her actions come as a result of other people's manipulation of her naivety. Perhaps, her death could almost free her inner spirit from the confines of this world, as she is 'reincarnated' into Liza-Lu, who looks like her and takes her place at Angel's side.

In Hardy's novel 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' Tess and Joan's relationship is depicted as at times resembling one of a mother and daughter and at others of forces: a dominant force -Joan - dragging Tess who is weaker and submissive. At various points their relationship is seen as grounds for profit for Joan, so on Joan's behalf is exploitative and one linked by convenience. Joan converts Tess into a pawn in her scheme to acquire social ascension and financial advancement; her ticket to achieving this is to get Tess married: "Have you come home to be married?" This hopeful question she springs upon Tess the minute she returns from Trantridge: her motives here are poorly disguised given this question is posed before any of motherly concern, conveying to the reader Joan's principal priorities regarding her daughter. In Chapter XII, when Joan discovers Tess has not succeeded in her ploy she is "ready to burst into tears if vexation"..Usually, 'tears' are a physical manifestation of sorrow however, instead Joan feels anger and frustration - 'vexation'. This explosive - 'burst' - a mixture of feelings that can reflect those she has for her daughter are not of pity nor genuine love for Tess but are instead of 'vexation', which symbolises her frustration at not achieving her desire for self-advancement. Hence, like 'tears' her relationship with her daughter has lost its original meaning. overpowered by the stronger feeling - 'vexation' - thus making their relationship for self-profit. This tragic outcome is not Tess's fault as her parents deliberately use her for financial gain in an attempt to restore their family's prestige.

Moreover, chance and coincidence are used to convey the inevitability of fate and injustice. The most distinguishing feature is all the misfortunes Tess is dealt with regarding Alec Stokes D'Urberville. It all begins when Prince is killed by the injection of modernisation into the pastoral world - "hiss of blood pouring": this is the first appearance of blood in the novel. The descriptive noun "hiss" implies a serpentine malice, like the snake that bribed Eve. foreshadowing a future of blood, temptation and evil for Tess. Full of guilt, Tess ventures down a slippery slope accompanied by Alec from the "green" valley to the "grey" roads to obtain enough money for another horse. Then she is raped - as feminist criticism would argue - or seduced - as the nobility of Hardy's time would accuse: 'Providence' was nowhere to be seen, she was left alone - conveniently leaving way for the malevolent powers at play in the novel to take advantage of her -, and "there lay the pity of't". Nothing to be done, only to be endured, yet the 'nebulosity' of that fateful night seems to leave a string of thoughts open to the possibility that Tess may have been able to do something that her upcoming downward spiral before the 'nebulosity' cleared, and her fate was truly set in stone. This possibility is curtly shut off when Alec continues to be thrown in her path. This scene could, perhaps, foreshadow Tess's recasting as a "murderess” by the end of the novel where she murders Alec. Perhaps, without this simple pastoral tragedy in Prince's death, the rest of the tragic events in Tess's life would not have occurred. Her family would not have persuaded her to claim 'kin' at the Stoke-D'Urberville manor, therefore she would have not met the serpent in her life. Thus through the theme of fate, Hardy foreshadows the tragedy of the novel.

Alec D’Urberville’s status as a villain is omnipresent throughout the novel. His rape of Tess is an antecedent for the ignominy of being a ‘fallen woman’ which plagues Tess eternally and ostensibly triggers all the successive tragic events. “springing from the coping to the plot,” as he is described in Chapter 5 of Phase the First, portrays Alec as opportunistic. Hardy may have chosen the verb, “springing”, to paint Alec as a predator, intent on catching his prey. This intention is arguably what makes him evil –his exploitation of the vulnerable Tess is no accident. This sentence is also an allusion to John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’. Hardy references this poem repeatedly throughout the novel. This would resonate with a religious readership when the novel was published in 1891. The allusions associate Alec with Satan, clearly portraying him as the evil interference in Tess’ life. The later comparisons of Tess and Angel to Eve and Adam emphasise their purity, to which Alec’s character is the antithesis. Furthermore, due to his distorted mindset, Alec could be seen to be fundamentally evil. IN Phase the Fifth, Alec claims that “it is a shame for parents to bring their girls in such ignorance of the gins and nets the wicked may set for them.” The noun, “shame”, has connotations of something trivial –perhaps an accident. It downplays the extent to which Tess’ life has been ruined by the rape. A modern feminist could resonate with the constant downplaying of sexual harassment claims made by women which was brought to light through the #MeToo Movement. Alec also tries to absolve himself of blame, putting the responsibility on “the parents to bring up their girls.” This further exemplifies his villainous nature and selfishness.

In conclusion, the combination of Tess’ hamartia, Alec (the antagonist), strained familial relationships and fate ultimately cause the tragic demise of the protagonist (Tess). Alec, embodying the malevolent antagonist, exploits Tess's vulnerabilities and contributes to her downfall through manipulation and coercion. Additionally, Tess's strained familial relationships, marked by societal pressures and parental expectations, serve to exacerbate her predicament, leaving her isolated and vulnerable. Furthermore, the inexorable hand of fate, intertwined with Tess's choices and circumstances beyond her control, inexorably seals her tragic fate.
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