Here you will find a Tess of the D'Urbervilles summary (Thomas Hardy's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.
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John Durbeyfield, an impoverished hawker, is stunned to discover that he is a descendant of the noble d'Urberville family. His eldest daughter, Tess, captivates a young man at a village dance. Hoping to improve their circumstances, her parents send her to the d'Urberville mansion under the presumption that the resident Mrs. d'Urberville will aid their daughter. Unbeknownst to Tess, the d'Urbervilles residing in the mansion are no relations of hers; the merchant Simon Stokes merely adopted the d'Urberville name upon retirement. Tess, feeling guilty over causing a family accident, reluctantly accepts a job tending fowls on the estate, offered by Alec d'Urberville, Mrs. d'Urberville's lascivious son. Despite resisting Alec's advances, Tess falls prey to him after a fair and becomes pregnant with his child, whom she names Sorrow. The child dies shortly after birth, plunging Tess into a year of despair before she finds employment as a milkmaid at Talbothays Dairy. Here, she experiences happiness and forms friendships with her colleagues. She also reconnects with Angel Clare, the man she'd bewitched at the village dance. They fall in love, and although troubled by her past, Tess accepts Angel's marriage proposal. After their wedding, both Tess and Angel confess their past indiscretions. Tess forgives Angel's affair with an older woman, but Angel struggles to accept Tess's past with Alec, leaving her to start a new life in Brazil. Tess, facing hardship, has a run-in with Alec, now a preacher, and is shaken by his proposal of marriage. With her family facing eviction after her father's death, Tess is tempted by Alec's offer of help but staunchly refuses. Angel, upon his return and the revelation of Tess's situation, is disheartened to find that she has returned to Alec. Tragically, Tess, in her despair, murders Alec and flees. Angel helps her hide, but they are eventually found. Tess is arrested and executed, leaving Angel and Tess's sister, Liza-Lu, to mourn her fate.
Heading back to Marlott, a mature vendor, John Durbeyfield, bumps into an aged clergyman who astounds him by calling him "Sir John." This aged clergyman, Parson Tringham, a history aficionado, discloses he found a document indicating that Durbeyfield is a descendant of the distinguished d'Urbervilles. Tringham mentions that Durbeyfield's noble heritage is so antiquated it holds no relevance, but Durbeyfield becomes rather self-assured after learning this. Consequently, he summons a horse-drawn carriage for his journey home.
Tess, daughter of Durbeyfield, partakes in the local May Day festivities alongside her fellow villagers. When her father parades by in a carriage, the spectacle causes some embarrassment for Tess. Nevertheless, she stands up to the other girls who are making fun of him. The women then head to the village green to dance, encountering three affluent brothers, one of whom is Angel Clare. Despite his brothers' eagerness to continue their journey, Angel decides to stay and enjoy a dance with the ladies. He selects a partner who, to Tess's disappointment, is not her. After a brief dance, Angel departs to rejoin his brothers, but not before noticing Tess and lamenting his choice of dance partner.
Tess arrives back at her house to find her mother, Joan, who reveals two upsetting news pieces to her: her father's noble ancestry discovery and his severe heart condition. Joan seeks advice from a large, ancient book, the Compleat Fortune-Teller, which she keeps hidden in the outhouse out of fear of having it inside the house due to her belief in astrology. Mr. Durbeyfield is absent, instead spending his time at Rolliver’s, the neighbourhood pub, likely celebrating his newfound heritage. The family is unsurprised at his location. Joan leaves to collect her husband from the pub, but doesn't return. The author suggests Joan's delay could be due to her relishing the shared time with her husband at Rolliver's. Becoming concerned, Tess sends her younger brother, Abraham, to the pub to check on their parents. Later, with no one having returned, Tess decides to follow them herself.
Abraham, Tess's younger brother, hears their parents discussing plans for Tess to inform Mrs. d’Urberville about their shared heritage in hopes of securing Tess's fortune. Arriving home, Tess suspects her inebriated father will be incapable of taking his beehives to market. Her suspicions are confirmed, leading her and Abraham to deliver the beehives themselves. During their journey, Abraham shares their parents' plans and shifts the conversation to astronomy. He queries if other celestial bodies are superior or inferior to their own, to which Tess responds that they live on a "blighted one," blaming it for their family's woes. After Abraham dozes off, Tess ponders, falls asleep and dreams of a scornful gentleman. They are jolted awake when their carriage crashes into a mail cart, resulting in the death of their old horse Prince. Understanding the financial burden this loss will impose, Tess is consumed by guilt. The accident scene appears pale and white, mirroring Tess's complexion. They manage to transport the beehives to Casterbridge with the help of a farmer, hitching their carriage to his wagon. Tess heads home in shame, burdened by guilt more than anyone else about the incident. She is the only one who fully grasps the repercussions of losing Prince. With the farmer's help, they bring Prince's carcass back home. Mr. Durbeyfield refuses to sell or dispose of the body, instead exerting more effort than he has in a month to bury his treasured horse.
Tess, burdened by guilt over the horse incident, acquiesces to her mother's suggestion of seeking aid from Mrs. d'Urberville. Upon reaching, she is met with a modern, stylish dwelling, contrary to her expectations of a decaying estate. She encounters Mrs. d'Urberville's son, Alec, who is taken in by her beauty and pledges to assist her. Alec mentions his mother's poor health but assures Tess he'll do his best to help.
Coming back to her dwelling, Tess discovers an unread letter. It's from Mrs. d’Urberville, who proposes a role in maintaining the d’Urbervilles’ chickens. Tess seeks local employment but her search is fruitless. With the aim to gather sufficient funds for a fresh horse for her kin, Tess concedes to the proposed d’Urbervilles’ role and makes up her mind to revisit Trantridge.
On the day Tess is set to depart for the d’Urbervilles’ residence, her mother persuades her to wear her finest attire. Elated by her own handiwork in dressing Tess, Mrs. Durbeyfield and her husband contemplate selling their family title. The arrival of Alec to pick up Tess stirs doubts about her decision. The children and Mrs. Durbeyfield are tearful, the latter fearing Alec may exploit her daughter.
During their journey to the d'Urberville estate, Alec takes a dangerous approach to driving, despite Tess's plea for him to slow down. Fearing for her life, she clings onto him, as instructed. As they speed down a steep hill, Alec asks Tess to hold onto him once more. She refuses and begs him to decelerate. Alec makes a bargain to slow down, but only in exchange for a kiss. Tess grudgingly accepts, allowing him a peck on her cheek. However, she absentmindedly wipes off his kiss with her handkerchief, angering Alec. He becomes indignant at her rejection of his forwardness. A quarrel ensues and Tess completes the remainder of the journey by foot.
Tess encounters Mrs. d’Urberville for the first time and learns that she is visually impaired. The elderly woman's indifference to Tess's arrival to work for her catches Tess off guard. Mrs. d’Urberville requests Tess to bring each poultry bird to her for stroking and examining. She also instructs Tess to serenade her bullfinches each morning. Tess concedes and departs. However, Tess later struggles with the whistling, and Alec offers to assist her in remembering.
Tess, after staying for a while with the d’Urbervilles, explores the local market. She develops a liking for it and decides to visit more often. A few months later, her market trip coincides with a town fair. She refuses Alec's offer to escort her home, preferring to wait for her friends. However, once her friends arrive, they are intoxicated and grumble about her getting all of Alec's attention, causing the atmosphere to turn sour. Alec then shows up on his horse, and Tess reluctantly agrees to accept his offer for a ride home.
Alec steers the horse off course into the dense forest in an attempt to persuade Tess to accept his romantic advances. Tess, however, remains hesitant. Alec acknowledges they have strayed too far into the misty forest. He offers Tess his coat and sets off to identify a recognizable feature. In his ongoing efforts to woo her, he reveals that he has purchased a new horse for her father. Upon his return, he finds Tess asleep, and seizes the moment to sexually assault her.
Following several weeks of aimless flirtation with Alec, Tess acknowledges her lack of affection for him and chooses to escape from the d'Urberville estate to her home in the early morning. Alec finds her en route and queries her premature departure, attempting to persuade her to return. She rejects his appeals, including his proposition to escort her home. He reminds Tess to contact him if she ever needs assistance. On her journey home, Tess encounters a sign painter who is inscribing Bible verses on various walls and fences across the rural landscape. During their conversation, he pauses to create a sign with the words, “THY DAMNATION SLUMBERETH NOT.” This phrase echoes in Tess's head and she questions the painter about his belief in the words he marks. He confirms his belief and when Tess seeks guidance regarding her situation, he directs her to a priest at a nearby church. Tess arrives home to a surprised and initially annoyed mother who reproaches her for not marrying Alec. However, she becomes more understanding when Tess points out her mother's failure to caution her about the potential risks.
Tess's spirits lift briefly when her pals drop by. However, her gloom swiftly returns the next day as she views her future as ceaseless and grim. She makes an effort to go to church, but the murmurs of the congregation about her unsettle her. Consequently, she adopts the routine of venturing out only when nighttime falls.
In the subsequent August, Tess chooses to abandon self-pity and aids in her village's harvest. Her illegitimate son, fathered by Alec, becomes sick, leading Tess to fear he might die without being christened. She takes it upon herself to perform the ceremony, giving him the name 'Sorrow'. The next day after his death, she seeks the clergyman's opinion on whether her christening grants her son a Christian funeral. The clergyman, moved by her plight, allows Tess to bury Sorrow, although he can't do it himself. In the quiet of the night, Tess buries Sorrow in a secluded part of the graveyard and crafts a small cross for his grave.
Tess understands her hometown of Marlott can no longer provide her the happiness she yearns for, and she desires to start afresh somewhere her history is hidden. A year later, an opportunity presents itself for Tess to work as a milkmaid at Talbothays Dairy. She grabs this chance, partially attracted by its proximity to the ancestral d’Urbervilles estate and motivated by "the invincible instinct towards self-delight."
Cheerfully, Tess embarks on a new journey to start her job at Talbothays Dairy, situated in the famed Valley of the Great Dairies. She's captivated by the fresh views that greet her as she ventures through the foggy Blackmoor. The mesmerizing day coupled with the stunning surroundings uplifts Tess's spirit. She comes across her forebears' graveyard, but opts to continue her journey.
Tess reaches Talbothays Dairy where she is met with kindness by the head dairyman, Richard Crick. Instead of resting as he suggests, Tess chooses to start work straight away. She adapts quickly, feeling comfortable in her surroundings. She spots a familiar face amongst her coworkers, recognizing him as the intellectual man from the Marlott May Day dance. Through eavesdropping on her fellow dairymaids' conversation, she learns his name is Angel Clare, the offspring of a respected Wessex clergyman. Despite his family's religious background, Angel opts for a farming life and is at the dairy to gain practical knowledge. The male dairymaid becomes a popular topic, with many of the female workers developing a liking for him.
The story momentarily turns from Tess to relay Angel's history. Of his siblings, Angel is the most talented but he chooses not to pursue university education due to his father's view that it's only useful for preparing for the priesthood. He questions church teachings and believes it would be insincere to become a clergyman. In search for a business career, he spent time in London and had a relationship with an older woman. Eventually, he settles on farming as it allows his intellectual freedom to thrive, away from the city's constraints. At twenty-six, he educates himself about farming by touring relevant places. He's well mannered and considerate, leading most dairy workers to regard him highly. Initially aloof and somewhat timid, Angel soon becomes friendlier with his colleagues and begins engaging with them more. He is quick to be captivated by Tess's beauty and perceives her to be unusually pure and innocent. Nevertheless, Tess purposely distances herself from him, feeling guilty about her undisclosed, tragic past.
Several weeks later, Tess discovers Angel's habit of arranging her preferred cows for her, which is against the dairy rules. She confronts him about it and later spends the evening in the garden, listening to his harp music. He joins her, leading to a close conversation. Angel is intrigued by Tess's bleak outlook on life, given her youth and beauty. She avoids his inquiries about her by making general life remarks and then questions him about his life. Tess's curiosity sparks around Angel's education and his choice of farming over joining his father and brothers in the ministry. When he offers to teach her, she declines, stating that the knowledge she seeks won't be found in books.
In the ensuing months, Angel and Tess's bond intensifies, marking the most joyful period of Tess's existence. Rising before everyone else, they experience a sense of solitude, as if they were the world's only inhabitants. The dairy transforms into a paradise, with Angel and Tess assuming the roles of Adam and Eve. To Angel, Tess is the “visionary essence of woman,” and he affectionately refers to her as “Artemis” and “Demeter.” Unaware of the meaning behind these monikers, Tess requests him to just call her Tess. They relish the early morning, watching the summer fog dissipate and birds frolic in the hazy atmosphere.
The dairy farm encounters an unusual issue: the butter is not forming as it should. Mrs. Crick humorously implies such problems emerge only when someone is smitten. Indeed, two individuals have fallen in love. Angel's affections for Tess are a frequent topic among the milkmaids, who speculate about their potential future. Tess, however, resists the idea of matrimony due to her lingering disgrace from her past. Eventually, the butter successfully solidifies, dissipating all concerns except for Tess's lingering fear.
In the early hours, the Cricks get a letter from a disgruntled customer claiming the butter he bought had a sharp flavor. Mr. Crick surmises this could be due to the cows ingesting garlic weeds. The dairy workers head to the fields to hunt for these problematic weeds. Tess, feeling weak, is advised by Mr. Crick to rest. Angel stays with her, and she takes the opportunity to praise the qualities of her fellow milkmaids, Izz and Retty. Angel concedes they are pleasant and skilled, but shows no romantic inclination towards them.
Two months into her stint at the dairy, Tess and her companions decide to visit Mellstock Church. The previous day's heavy rainfall has left a section of the road underwater. Angel helps them cross, taking noticeably more time with Tess, making it clear to the girls he favors her. Tess starts to distance herself from Angel, yet she can't help but admire his demeanor around the other girls who are clearly smitten with him. One evening, Marian, Izz, and Retty admit their feelings for Angel. Tess shares these feelings, but she has resolved not to marry. This leads to a sense of guilt as she contemplates whether she's wrong in consuming so much of Angel's attention.
As the summer advances, Angel and Tess find themselves tending to the cows. Amidst this, Angel is consumed by his affection for Tess. He wraps himself around her, and for a moment, Tess surrenders to her emotions, but quickly attempts to retreat. Angel confesses his love for Tess, a declaration that even takes him by surprise. Their interaction goes unnoticed and they resume their work, a little rattled.
Angel decides he needs some distance from Tess to contemplate their relationship, so he leaves the dairy to visit his family. Arriving at his father's residence in Emminster, he encounters his parents and his brothers, Felix and Cuthbert, both clergymen, having breakfast. His family perceives a mildly roughened edge to his etiquette due to mingling with ordinary farm workers. Conversely, Angel observes his brothers as intellectually restricted and complacent in their privileged circumstances.
Angel and his father have a conversation post evening prayers about Angel's potential spouse. His family is keen on him getting married to Mercy Chant, a devout girl from their neighborhood, emphasizing the necessity of a wife with strong Christian beliefs. Angel, however, argues the value of a wife who is familiar with farming, introducing them to the idea of Tess, who he praises for her spiritual sincerity. His family agrees to meet her. His father reveals that he has reserved money intended for Angel's college education. As Angel chose not to attend college, his father offers him this saved fund to buy land. Before they part ways, his father shares his missionary activities among the locals and talks about his unsuccessful attempt to reform a wayward young man named Alec d’Urberville. This further fuels Angel’s distaste for noble families.
Angel comes back to the dairy and finds Tess rousing from her nap. He embraces her and proposes marriage. Tess admits her love for him, yet insists they cannot be wed. Angel, promising her time to reconsider, is met with the same response about the impossibility of their union. However, in the following days, he keeps urging her and Tess finds her resolve wavering due to her deep feelings for him.
As autumn approaches, Angel proposes to Tess once again. Despite his persistence, Tess remains uncertain, suggesting that another girl could potentially be a more suitable spouse. Her hesitation is rooted in her fear of the consequences of revealing her past mistakes. Angel, however, misconstrues her reluctance as a concern about her inferior societal position, and expects her eventually to give in. Tess knows she has to disclose her family history and past secrets to Angel, yet chooses to postpone this to a later time.
Rumors about a botched wedding fill the farm. Jack Dollop ties the knot with a rich widow, hoping to benefit from her large inheritance. However, after their wedding, her financial resources disappear. The majority at the dairy believe the widow should have been honest with Jack Dollop before they wed. Tess, hearing these opinions, feels anxious about her own hidden past and contemplates if she should disclose it to Angel.
While engaged in their daily tasks, Angel casually mentions to Tess that they're in the vicinity of the old d’Urbervilles lineage grounds. Tess seizes the moment to reveal her heritage as a d’Urberville. Angel is delighted by this news, understanding that her noble lineage would elevate her status in his family's eyes. Overwhelmed, Tess finally consents to his marriage proposal, breaking into tears. She requests permission to pen a letter to her mother. When Angel discovers her hometown is Marlott, he recalls their earlier encounter—a May Day celebration where they failed to dance together.
Upon receiving Tess's letter, Mrs. Durbeyfield quickly counsels her not to disclose her history to Angel. During October, Tess indulges in joy, but hesitates when Angel proposes setting a wedding date, expressing her reluctance to alter the status quo. Angel's public revelation of their engagement to Mr. Crick and the dairymaids elicits a gleeful response that leaves Tess astounded. This allows her to openly express her joy, but soon thereafter, she feels undeserving of Angel. Eventually, Tess resolves to reveal her past to him.
Tess consents to depart from the dairy with Angel near the festive season, setting their nuptials for the last day of December. Angel plans to utilize this period by visiting a grain mill and lodging in a property that was once part of the d’Urbervilles' estate. He purchases wedding attire for Tess and, much to her comfort, discreetly acquires a marriage certificate instead of announcing his marriage plans with Tess.
During a shopping trip, Angel and Tess cross paths with a man from Alec d’Urberville’s village. The man slanders Tess, questioning her purity, causing Angel to hit him. However, after the man apologizes, Angel gives him some money. Overwhelmed with guilt, Tess writes a confession that evening and slides it under Angel’s door. However, when he behaves as usual the next morning, Tess realizes her letter went unnoticed beneath the carpet. Tess attempts to confess her past to Angel on their wedding day, but he dismisses her, suggesting they discuss it after the wedding. They are accompanied to the church by the dairyman and his wife and get married. As the ceremony ends, a rooster crows unexpectedly in the mid-afternoon.
Following their nuptials, the pair journey to the deserted d’Urberville estate for some solitary time. Tess is gifted a package from Angel’s parent that contains jewelry, a bequest from Angel’s godmother for his future spouse. The joy of the newlyweds is interrupted when their luggage arrives from the dairy with a messenger who brings tragic news about Tess’s companions. Post-wedding, Retty tried to take her own life and Marian turned to alcohol. Following this revelation, Angel seeks Tess’s pardon, confessing a past romantic misstep with an older woman during his time in London. Tess reciprocates with her own confession regarding her history with Alec.
Angel is overwhelmed by the revelation from Tess. He implores her to retract her words, but she remains truthful. He abruptly departs from their home, with Tess trailing behind him. They wander the mansion's extensive property for several hours. Tess pledges to comply with whatever he demands, even suggesting she could take her own life. Angel instructs her to return to the home. Upon his return, he finds Tess sleeping. He briefly contemplates the portraits of the d'Urberville ladies before choosing to sleep in a separate room.
A trio of desolate days pass, Angel filling his hours at the mill and immersed in his books. Tess ponders the idea of a divorce but comes to understand that it's not permissible by law. In the end, Tess proposes that she could return home, a suggestion that Angel agrees she should pursue.
Upon nearing her, Clare whispers, “Dead, dead, dead!” Tess wakes in the middle of the night to find Angel sleepwalking. Mistaking her for a ghost, he leads her to a graveyard and lays her in a casket. After the ordeal, Tess guides him back home, and by dawn, Angel has no memory of the incident. Their journey to Marlott includes a short visit at the dairy where they appear uncomfortable in each other's presence. Upon reaching her village, Angel parts from Tess. He promises to try and reconcile with her past and asks her to wait until he is ready to fetch her.
Tess, laden with sorrow, returns to her family and confesses her predicament. Her mother, Mrs. Durbeyfield, labels her a fool, while her father struggles to comprehend Tess's marriage. Tess's home life proves to be miserable. However, when she receives a letter from Angel stating his pursuit of a farm in the north, Tess takes this as an opportunity to escape. She informs her family that she will be rejoining her husband and, from the money Angel had given her, she leaves half of it for her family before departing from her home.
A few weeks post-wedding, Angel informs his parents of his plans to journey to Brazil without Tess. This news worries and upsets his parents, yet Angel reassures them that they will get to know Tess when he comes back in a year. To Angel's surprise, his parents share a passage from the Bible talking about the virtues of loving, loyal, and hardworking wives. His mother interprets the scriptures as referring to Tess, showing she completely supports Angel's decision to wed her instead of a high-class lady. Overwhelmed, Angel excuses himself and exits. His mother follows him, suspecting that Angel has learned about a disreputable episode in Tess's history, but he strongly refutes this.
Angel stashes away the jewels in a bank and makes arrangements for Tess to receive some extra cash, before heading to Wellbridge Farm to wrap up some work. He runs into Izz, spontaneously suggesting she accompanies him to Brazil. Izz consents, confessing her love for Angel. He questions whether her love surpasses Tess's, to which Izz responds that Tess's love for him was unparalleled. Dejected, Angel escorts Izz back to her place and sets off to Brazil solo a few days later.
Tess secures occasional employment at varying dairies, successfully hiding her marital status from her family. As her finances dwindle, she reluctantly uses the money Angel had given her. Upon receiving her parents' letter for financial aid to fix their home's roof, she partakes most of her money to them. Concurrently, Angel is in distress in Brazil, amidst a failing British farming community. Despite her financial woes, Tess is too embarrassed to ask the Clares for assistance. Marian tells Tess about a farm offering work. Despite its reputation for being tough, she decides to go there. On her way, she meets the man from Alec d’Urberville’s village who had slandered her in front of Angel, forcing her to evade him. She feels pursued by Alec. Later, Tess comes across a group of pheasants, some dead, others suffering. She guesses they were shot by hunters who would return for them later. Sympathizing with the wounded birds, she mercifully ends their suffering. She later self-reproaches for thinking her suffering was unparalleled. “Poor darlings—to suppose myself the most miserable being on earth in the sight o’ such misery as yours!” she voiced out, weeping as she compassionately ended the birds' lives.
Tess starts to purposefully disfigure her appearance to guard herself against the lecherous advances of men, resorting to removing her eyebrows and adorning herself in outdated, unappealing clothes. Upon arriving at a farm near Flintcomb-Ash, Marian's curiosity about Angel is piqued, but Tess discourages her from asking questions. Tess secures employment from the farm owner and informs her parents of her new location, without mentioning the troubles in her marriage or her financial struggles.
Tess and Marian labor in difficult terrain to dig up rutabagas. Soon, Izz Huett joins in their toil. When winter arrives, they're reassigned to the barn where Tess encounters the farm's owner, a familiar face from Alec d’Urberville’s place. Tess is criticized for her lackluster performance, prompting her to promise increased effort. Marian reveals that Angel has invited Izz to accompany him to Brazil. This news initially inspires Tess to consider writing to Angel, but she soon becomes apprehensive about the idea.
Tess embarks on a journey to meet Angel's kin, aiming to uncover his whereabouts. She stashes her boots away, intending to wear them on her return trip. She overhears Angel's brothers talking about Angel's regrettable marriage and, after they discover her boots, they assume the owner is a commoner. Overwhelmed by embarrassment and sorrow, Tess abandons the idea of meeting Angel's relatives. As she starts her trip back home, she pauses outside a barn where an intense sermon is in progress. She peeks inside, only to spot Alec d'Urberville.
Tess encounters Alec unexpectedly, who is now a religious convert. He spots her and insists he must rescue her soul. He attributes his newfound spirituality to Reverend Clare. Tess reacts with scorn, criticizing people like Alec who cause harm and then seek redemption through sudden religious conversion. She can't trust Alec's faith when Angel, a more virtuous man in her eyes, lacks belief in that religion. Alec admits to being frightened of Tess and asks her to promise, near a stone marker known as the Cross-in-Hand, that she won't seduce him again. Tess complies, and Alec departs, pacifying himself with a letter from the Reverend. Tess inquires about the Cross-in-Hand's meaning to a shepherd and is informed it's a symbol of bad luck.
Alec finds Tess in the fields and proposes marriage, suggesting they move to Africa as missionaries. Tess tells him she's wed and urges the upset Alec to go. She tries writing another letter to Angel but can't complete it. At Candlemas, Alec confronts Tess once more, requesting her prayers. She confesses she's unable to pray and repeats Angel's doubts about church doctrine. Alec seems affected and Tess maintains that while she's religious, she doesn't believe in the supernatural. Alec expresses regret for missing a preaching opportunity to meet her and voices his frustration about not having the right to help or protect her, unlike the man who abandoned her. Tess insists he leaves to preserve her husband's dignity.
During the onset of spring, Tess has the challenging task of threshing on the farm. Alec reappears, confessing he has left his preaching duties and pleading with Tess to accompany him, citing a deeper love for her and disapproval of her husband's neglect. Tess reacts by striking his face with a leather glove. Alec, while initially enraged, manages to suppress his anger, reiterating his wish to control her and claiming he is her legitimate spouse. He promises to return in the afternoon to fetch her.
Alec returns as he vowed in the afternoon, escorting Tess to her home. He promises to look after Tess and her family if she places her trust in him. Despite his offers, Tess rejects him yet again. Later that evening, she pens a letter to Angel, professing her undying love and loyalty to him and seeking his assistance in resisting Alec's seductive allure.
Angel in Brazil receives Tess's letter via his parents. Angel's mother, Mrs. Clare, criticizes her husband for preventing Angel from going to Cambridge, while Reverend Clare stands by his decision but laments his son's suffering. As for Angel, his tough experiences in Brazil have softened his stance towards Tess, prompting him to reconsider his farming ambitions. He becomes deeply remorseful after a seasoned man tells him he was wrong to abandon Tess and his remorse intensifies when the man dies. Meanwhile, Tess receives a grim update from her sister, Liza-Lu, at the farm: both their parents are seriously ill and their father is too sick to work. After sharing the tragic news with Izz and Marian, Tess departs for home the next sunrise.
Upon reaching home, Tess tends to her mother's needs before tending the family's garden and farmland. To her surprise, Alec is seen working adjacent to her and once more, offers assistance. Tempted as she is, Tess refuses again, leading to a furious Alec departing. During her journey back home, Tess's sibling informs her of their father's demise. The death implies that the family will be evicted from their dwelling as their father, John Durbeyfield, was the final individual covered by the lease agreement. The landholder wishes to allow his workers to occupy the house instead.
Tess is getting her family ready to move to Kingsbere. Alec shows up and shares the tale of the 'd’Urberville Coach', a ghostly carriage which is considered a sign of ill fortune. He tries to convince Tess to relocate her family to his garden house, allow him to take care of her siblings' education, and let her mother take care of the poultry. Tess is tempted but declines Alec's proposition. As Alec departs, Tess acknowledges Angel's unjust treatment of her. She writes him a letter vowing to forget him since she cannot forgive him. When Joan inquires about Alec's words, Tess does not share the details, promising to tell her mother once they are settled in Kingsbere.
Tess and her family's relocation begins and they encounter Marian and Izz, heading to a different farm for work. Upon arrival at Kingsbere, they find out that Joan’s mail was delayed resulting in their rooms being rented out. Unable to secure another accommodation, they spend the night in the churchyard, particularly in the d’Urberville Aisle. Tess stumbles upon Alec in the graveyard, who arrogantly claims he can assist her more than her distinguished forefathers. In response, Tess dismisses him. He leaves in a huff, warning Tess she will learn manners. Tess questions her existence as she kneels by the funeral vault. Marian and Izz help Tess by sending Angel a letter, urging him to return to her.
Angel comes back to his family home, worn out from his overseas ordeals. He goes through Tess's harsh letter, burdened by the notion that she may never pardon him. His mother, in her arrogance, tells him not to bother about the thoughts of a mere commoner. Angel then discloses Tess’s honorable ancestry to her. Taking some time to recuperate at home, Angel pens a letter to Tess, sending it to Marlott. In due course, he receives a response from Tess's mother, revealing that they have moved from Marlott and Tess is no longer part of the family. After a brief period of waiting, Angel realizes he has to hasten his reunion with Tess. This urgency is fueled by the discovery that Tess did not touch any of the money he left with his father. This leads him to believe that Tess lived in extreme poverty during his absence, filling him with remorse and compassion. Angel's parents finally deduce the hidden reason for their son's alienation from Tess, making them view their daughter-in-law more favorably. Just as Angel is about to depart, he gets a letter from Marian and Izz.
Embarking on a journey to locate his wife, Angel traverses the terrain of Flintcomb-Ash farm and Marlott, only to discover the demise of Tess's father. He comes across John Durbeyfield's intricate tombstone, and understanding that it's still unpaid, he settles the cost. On encountering Joan, he realizes her unease and reluctance to disclose Tess's whereabouts. Eventually, she yields to his distress and informs him that Tess is residing in Sandbourne.
At Sandbourne, Angel discovers an individual named d’Urberville is at a swanky place, The Herons, but can't locate a Mrs. Clare or Miss Durbeyfield. He rushes to the lavish lodging, baffled about Tess’s means to afford such luxury and speculates she must have sold his godmother’s diamonds. Upon seeing Tess in affluent attire, he implores her to forgive him, expressing his acceptance and longing for her return. However, Tess, drowning in heartbreak, reveals that it's too late for them. Believing Angel wouldn't return, she surrendered to Alec d’Urberville’s advances and is now under his care. After this crushing revelation, Tess exits, and Angel hastily departs the house.
Observing from the keyhole of The Herons, Mrs. Brooks encounters Tess reproaching Alec for misleading her into believing Angel wouldn't return. Alec retorts sharply, causing Mrs. Brooks to retreat hastily. Once back in her own chamber, she sees Tess exiting the property and vanishing into the city. Later, she spots a growing crimson stain on the ceiling. Fearing the worst, Mrs. Brooks instructs a worker to unlock the door to the d’Urberville rooms, where they become aware of a shocking sight - Alec, motionless on the bed, has been fatally stabbed. She raises the alarm, and word of Alec's brutal end soon engulfs the town.
Angel decides to depart immediately by train. At his hotel, he receives a telegram that Cuthbert is set to marry Mercy Chant from his mother. He opts to walk to the next station rather than wait for the train. As he leaves the valley, he spots Tess chasing him. He pulls her aside and she confesses to murdering Alec. Tess explains she killed Alec for the harm he did to Angel, but also admits she went back to Alec because Angel had deserted her. She pleads for Angel's forgiveness who, believing she's not in her right mind, proclaims his love for her. Eventually, he grasps the seriousness of her confession, though he's still skeptical about Alec's murder. He consents to safeguard her. They head towards the country's center, anticipating the search for Tess to end, enabling them to flee abroad. By nightfall, they discover an ancient mansion and slip inside through the windows. After a lady shuts the house, Angel opens the window covers, leaving them alone for the evening.
After five days, Tess and Angel relapse into their previous affectionate state and largely avoid discussing their past differences. When a woman tasked with maintaining their hideaway stumbles upon them, they conclude it's necessary to depart. Following a day's journey, they reach Stonehenge by evening, and Tess feels eerily comfortable. Leaning against a stone pillar, she expresses a sense of isolation, feeling like they're the only two people in existence. Overcome with emotion, Tess implores Angel to care for her sister Liza-Lu in her absence. She expresses a wish for Angel to eventually marry Liza-Lu and queries whether they will reunite in the afterlife. Angel, unable to respond, leaves Tess in distress until she falls asleep. Come morning, Angel suddenly notices they are encircled. Men are closing in from all directions, leading him to the grim realization of Tess's crime. He pleads with the men to wait until Tess awakens before taking her. To Angel's surprise, Tess seems oddly at peace, relieved even. She expresses contentment with her impending fate, feeling undeserving of Angel's devotion.
After a while, Angel and Liza-Lu gaze at a black flag fluttering atop a tower from an elevated spot near Wintoncester. It signifies the end of Tess's life. Both of them remain still momentarily, before intertwining their hands and continuing their journey.