The subtitle of Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles is A Pure Woman though Tess had lost her virginity before her marriage and later she commits a murder too.
Tess is seduced by Alec and gives birth to a child which dies. Later, while working as a dairymaid she falls in love with Angel Clare, a clergyman’s son. On their wedding night she confesses to him the seduction by Alec, and Angel hypocritically abandons her. Angel is no virgin himself; he has had an affair with an older woman in London. Moreover, Tess had no intention of deceiving him. In fact, she had written a letter to him explaining her condition. The letter was, however, lying hidden beneath the carpet in Angel’s room. Later Alec manages to seduce Tess once again persuading her to think that Angel would never accept her. Angel, however, returns repenting of his harshness. Tess is maddened by Alec’s second betrayal of her and she kills him. The Law hangs Tess to death.
Hardy, the novelist, calls Tess “a pure woman” in the subtitle of the novel because purity is a matter of one’s intentions and attitudes. Tess possesses a deep moral sensitivity though she has an equally deep passionate intensity. Tess possesses both the weakness and the strength of the human species: the weakness that makes her succumb to her passions and the strength to know her moral responsibilities.
The novel was published in 1891 when virginity was a prized (t)issue. Today, the question seems to be whether virginity is desirable at all! We have come quite a way from Hardy and his Tess.
“Virginity does not lie in the hymen but in the brain, it’s an attitude, a commitment,” I wrote in a comment to one of the blogs I read recently on the topic. It is since virginity is not a matter of a biological membrane that Tess remained “a pure woman” in Hardy’s mind. Tess was not playing with her body, in other words. For her, sex was not merely a means of physical pleasure much as she was driven by passion too. For her, sex was the culmination of an intimate relationship. Relationship matters. Intimacy is important when two individuals decide to share their bodies. Otherwise, it is not love but lust. Now, the question will be: is lust wrong? Well, we live in a world in which greed has become a virtue. In that world, lust may have become a virtue too.
Psychology identifies various types of love as shown in the diagram below (taken from Social Psychology by Robert A Baron, et al.)
|Click to enlarge|
‘Consummate love’ is what should ideally exist between a couple. If that ideal is difficult to achieve, one can try to reach near it through ‘companionate love’ or at least ‘romantic love.’
Of course, it is the individual’s right to choose what kind of love what he/she wants. The choice, however, determines the height/depth of one’s existence. The world today, with its use-and-throw culture, encourages shallow existence. Much of the debate one finds on virginity today implies shallow attitudes towards existence. One night stands have not yet created any individual who has achieved any sense of fulfilment in life.
Inspired by a debate going on at indiblogger.in, particularly by the following: