Kelby, I appreciate your insight that Tess wasn't as timorous as many readers find her. As you note, she spoke up to Joan. When farmer Groby demanded an apology from Tess, she told him it was he who owed her one. From a distance, however, it might seem that because Tess toiled like a beast under Groby and without complaint as Alec's mistress she must have been meek. Many site Tess' decision not to meet with Angel's parents to seek their assistance as her absence of courage.

You and some others might share my view that what guided Tess' behavior was her unflinching determination to live by her ideals, her values and morals, not those of others, particularly those others who wronged her. Some may appreciate her behavior in this this respect wasn't the easy road but the hard one.

A popular example some say shows Tess' absence of courage was her last moment decision not to ask assistance from Angel's parents. As I understood it, while she was willing to endure the harshest conditions to subsist, she wasn't willing to beg for assistance from those who viewed her as unworthy, as Angel's brothers clearly would have. I imagined her thinking, "I'd rather starve in the rain soaked fields than beg from them.

What did Tess in was her determination not to compromise her ideals, which she never did. Unwillingness to compromise one's ideals may be impractical, but it's certainly courageous.