Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: Is Tess the hardest working girl in literature?

  1. #1
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,428

    Is Tess the hardest working girl in literature?

    She's such a grafter. She has to all sorts of hard farm labouring tasks at Flintcomb-Ash, even those which men would normally be expected to do (especially as men were paid more). At Talbothy's dairy, she was normally the first or second to get up in the morning. On top of that, she is quite prepared to walk thirty miles in a day. She must have been very strong and her hands must have been as tough as leather. I wonder where she gets it from because her father is bone idle and her mother is hardly any better.

  2. #2
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,428
    I had a quick look around Reading's Museum of English Rural Life this afternoon. I saw some waggons and a butter churn, and then bingo! I think I saw one of those threshing machines that Tess has to work so hard to keep up with in chapter 47. I think the one Hardy described was red, while this one was blue. I expected it to be steel, but it was mainly made of wood. I'd have sneaked a photo, but I forgot my camera-phone.

    I also saw some Cassini maps of Reading as it was in the 1890's. They're like Ordnance Survey maps I gather, designed for hikers and cyclists. I couldn't find any of Dorset, but presumably it is possible to order them.

  3. #3
    Registered User paradoxical's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    269
    It struck me how hard life must have been in the country—how early Tess had to wake up—and like you mentioned, how many miles she would walk in a day. Life also seemed less complicated back then. Less stressful and more "real" somehow. I suppose Hardy idealized rural life to some degree, but was correct in pointing out just how much was lost as a result of industrialization.

    The Museum of English Rural Life sounds interesting. I would love to visit England someday, mainly for the historical sites. I've often wondered if there was some kind of map or guided tour of the places in Hardy's novels.

    The threshing machine you mentioned, is that what they used for the last of the rick, when all the rats came out from the bottom? I found it funny and a bit moving how everyone wanted to take part in killing the rats as a form of sport, even people not connected with the farm.
    "I have never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude." - Henry David Thoreau

  4. #4
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,428
    Quote Originally Posted by paradoxical View Post
    The Museum of English Rural Life sounds interesting. I would love to visit England someday, mainly for the historical sites. I've often wondered if there was some kind of map or guided tour of the places in Hardy's novels.
    A quick internet search shows several tours, some of which are led by a tour guide and some of which you are provided a map to explore at your own pace. Dorset is often described as Thomas Hardy country in the media, so it would be remiss of the tourist industry not to take advantage of him.

    Quote Originally Posted by paradoxical View Post
    The threshing machine you mentioned, is that what they used for the last of the rick, when all the rats came out from the bottom? I found it funny and a bit moving how everyone wanted to take part in killing the rats as a form of sport, even people not connected with the farm.
    Yes, I think Farmer Groby had a 'rick' or stack of some sort of grain (not corn as it is known in the US). iirc threshing is the separating of ears of grain from the stalks. I suppose the entire rick was put through the threshing machine. The stalks would be dumped on the ground where they would either form another 'rick' of straw as they landed or would be gathered and piled up into a rick by the other workers. I expect the grain would pour down some chute and be collected in sacks. I am guessing rather. I read some study notes which said a woman would not have been made to work on one of these, but I suppose that's what Alec tells the farmer.

    I think ratting was considered a cross between sport and pest control. I know someone who bought a jack russell terrier and trained it up as a ratter, but for pest control purposes. I am not sure how strictly legal that is.

  5. #5
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,428
    Not a very good picture because my camera phone is very cheap, but this seems to be a similar threshing machine to that Tess was working on at Flintcomb Ash. This machine was built in 1900, somewhat later than Tess, but it seems pretty similar from the description. It was driven by a belt transferring power from a steam engine. The steam engine is not present, but there was a scale model close by which showed an engine fitted to the front of the threshing machine.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by kev67; 06-26-2012 at 11:10 AM. Reason: Better picture

  6. #6
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Near Chicago, Illinois USA
    Posts
    9,420
    Blog Entries
    2
    Here's a YouTube link with an old threshing machine in operation:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3wod...eature=related

  7. #7
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,428
    Cheers YesNo,

    There was a bit in chapter 47 where I was slightly worried that Tess would suffer an injury on the threshing machine because her long hair had come loose. This blogspot says that threshing machines were particularly dangerous for women because of the long skirts they wore. I thought the reason for women not working on these things was mostly sexism.

  8. #8
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Near Chicago, Illinois USA
    Posts
    9,420
    Blog Entries
    2
    Those old machines do look dangerous.

  9. #9
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,428
    I am re-reading the book. One of the things I like about Hardy's books are his descriptions of agricultural work. Even when I do not completely understand what they are doing, I enjoy the descriptions. I cannot think of anyone who writes about work so well. If it were not for Hardy, I would not know women did this sort of work. Farm laboures were notoriously badly paid when I was a lad. I doubt that very well paid now; it is just these days they are mostly east European. When I was a boy, my idea of a farm labourer was a very strong, but not very well educated man. My grandparents were from a rural area in Ireland. The wrists of the farm workers were huge. I did not think there were female farm labourers. I thought their work would be along the lines of spinning wool, weaving, feeding chickens, making sausages and pies. I doubt there would have been much wool spinning or weaving in Hardy's time, because most of that was done in the factories. I think my other ideas came from James Herriot books.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  10. #10
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    7,211
    I read somewhere, but I don´t remember where ( I think the critic was Raymond Williams) that several of his Victorian peers despised Hardy because he was a farmer.

    I found this two links about Hardy and farming:

    http://public.gettysburg.edu/academi...riculture.html

    http://www.campaignforrealfarming.or...-thomas-hardy/
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  11. #11
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,428
    I think Hardy's father was a stonemason and his mother was a domestic servant. Hardy trained to be an architect, before turning to writing.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

Similar Threads

  1. Screenplays as literature?
    By Chilly in forum General Literature
    Replies: 20
    Last Post: 02-20-2011, 12:35 PM
  2. The Dog, the Cat and the Rat
    By mushin in forum Short Story Sharing
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 06-05-2010, 01:01 PM
  3. J. D. Salinger dies, age 91
    By TheFifthElement in forum General Literature
    Replies: 45
    Last Post: 02-01-2010, 03:25 PM
  4. four meetings
    By alicegotlost in forum Short Story Sharing
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-07-2009, 08:21 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •