Except for the last few lines of the Tess novel, we might summarize the whole story as a description, with some theatrical license, of the terrible life and fate of Wessex laboring women. They live in bare subsistence vulnerable and dependent upon the wealthy who often use them like momentary disposables. Life begins with hope and ends in misery both for themselves and those dearest to them. But, in the last few sentences we have Liza-Lu paired with Angel. A new cycle of womanhood is about to begin either to resemble Tess' miseries or, something happier. Hardy is leading us to wonder if and why Liza-Lu's life might be different than Tess'.

A marriage between Angel and Liza-Lu might be happy firstly because Liza-Lu is much like Tess at 17 but without Tess blemishes imparted by Joan and Alec. Secondly, but equally important, is that Angel has ethically evolved since his appearance at Talbothays. Thirdly if these two marry, it'll be a marriage likely based in friendship rather than passionate delusion.

More than describing the awful fate of Wessex working class women, Hardy's pointing us towards something better and offering us reasons for optimism. His key messages might include (1) don't base a marriage decision on passion, (2) don't be obedient to societal standards that're unjust and hypocritical, and (3) find meaning in life beyond your own skin. She might have had an unsuccessful life in terms of personal happiness, but in bringing greater happiness and hope to those dearest to her she lived the good life beyond her own skin, which to Hardy is a measure of the successful life.