He had an almost swarthy complexion, with full lips, badly moulded, though red and smooth, above which was a well-groomed black moustache with curled points, though his age could not be more than three- or four-and-twenty. Despite the touches of barbarism in his contours, there was a singular force in the gentleman’s face, and in his bold rolling eye.
When Tess meets Alec d’Urberville for the first time, the narrator takes note of his physical appearance and what that might say about his character. Alec seem like a cartoonish villain, with a curled mustache and a dark look. In contrast to Tess’s purity and innocence, from the beginning Alec looms as a corrupting influence in her life.
He had, in fact, ridden quite at random for over an hour, taking any turning that came to hand in order to prolong companionship with her, and giving far more attention to Tess’s moonlit person than to any wayside object.
While Alec and Tess ride home from a fair, Alec lets the horse lead them astray. Alec first takes advantage of Tess while on this isolated carriage ride in the middle of the woods. He had been trying to convince her to be his lover and now has decided to disregard how Tess feels. His premeditation of the rape reveals an evil nature.
But the loss of my mother hit me most; and by degrees I was brought to see daylight. Since then my one desire has been to hand on the true view to others, and that is what I was trying to do today; though it is only lately that I have preached hereabout.
Here, Alec explains to Tess his conversion to Christianity. He says that the death of his mother served as the main reason for his conversion, but readers know from earlier in the novel that Alec and his mother did not have a strong relationship. The fact that he so easily changed his religion reveals his opportunistic nature, with no fixed values or beliefs.
But you have been the means—the innocent means—of my backsliding, as they call it. I ask myself, am I, indeed, one of those ‘servants of corruption’ who, ‘after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, are again entangled therein and overcome’—whose latter end is worse than their beginning?
When Alec and Tess meet again after his conversion to Christianity, he blames her for his slipping away from his faith. According to him, his nature is to sin when he is exposed to anything tempting. Alec’s casting of blame on Tess and not taking any responsibility for his actions shows how he sees himself as the victim and not the other way around.
“I waited and waited for you,” she went on, her tones suddenly resuming their old fluty pathos. “But you did not come! And I wrote to you, and you did not come! He kept on saying you would never come any more, and that I was a foolish woman. He was very kind to me, and to mother, and to all of us after father’s death.”
When Angel finds Tess in Sandbourne, she explains that she wanted to wait for him to come back but Alec convinced her Angel would never return. Alec manipulated her into being with him by belittling her while at the same time taking care of her family. Alec’s actions right up until the end of his life show his complete disregard for other people’s feelings.
Take a Study Break
Every Shakespeare Play Summed Up in a Quote from The Office
Every Book on Your English Syllabus, Summed Up in Marvel Quotes
A Roundup of the Funniest Great Gatsby Memes You'll Ever See
QUIZ: How Many of These Literary Jeopardy! Questions Can You Answer Correctly?
7 "Crazy" Women in Literature Who Were Actually Being Totally Reasonable
Honest Names for All the Books on Your English Syllabus
QUIZ: Are You a Hero, a Villain, or an Anti-Hero?