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The Story of Tess

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Title: The Story of Tess
Authors: Lau, Helen
Issue Date: 15 Jan 2014
Publisher: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract: Whenever "human actions are formed to make an art work," human meaning is involved, as the critic, Wayne Booth, points out in his classic, Rhetoric of Fiction (p. 397). One of the tasks that he charges an author with is the need to be clear in his values. He also charges that the author needs to "plumb to universal values about which his readers can really care" (p. 395). Given this, Tess of the d'Urbervilles becomes an intriguing work, for although Hardy draws on certain moral values which his readers can share, he intends to call these values into question. In the novel he endows the heroine, Tess, with certain moral attributes, but he also creates a narrator who, at every step, explains away the meaning of her actions through an amoral ontology. A reader can perceive the narrative's dual function, of showing value but also undercutting it, through a dissonance between Tess and the omniscient narrator. But for the reader, Tess simply comes alive, and takes on a moral significance that the narrator cannot perceive. Writers from time to time speak of such a phenomenon, that in creating a character, they produce something that takes on a life of its own. A character can come to life for a reader, that the author did not intend, and acquire its own authority, when the character’s experiences contradict narrative explanation. The paradox for a reader of Tess is that he or she both accepts and appreciates the story of Tess, but rejects the amoral vision of its implied author. My project is to investigate the conditions under which a reader can dissent ideologically from a work but still value it.
Pages/Duration: 53 pages
Rights: All UHM Honors Projects are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections:Honors Projects for English

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