Tess of the d’Urbervilles


In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Hardy and The Catcher in the Rye, by Salinger, the protagonists of both novels Tess and Holden, are portrayed as being the typical teenager of their time, who both choose to make rash decisions based upon their naivety. Tess and Holden are both inexperienced in the world and they are forced to choose their own path to follow. Tess and Holden are trapped by society’s class system, their struggles with money, and their own inexperience and naivety, which lead them to make disastrous choices that inevitably doom them to a tragic end.


Tess and Holden are both caught in society’s class system, and because they are confused about what is expected of them from society they make choices based upon their own beliefs. Tess felt inferior to Angel because his family was financially stable, while her family was not. Tess chooses to tell Angel about Alec seducing her, and when Angel takes the news poorly she tells him “I will obey you like your wretched slave, even if it is to lie down and die” (Hardy 226). Because Tess feels socially inferior, she is willing to act as a slave. Angel, however, leaves because he sees Tess as something too low for him. This abandonment is the key to Tess’ downfall. Holden is at the opposite end of the ladder, he has wealth, and because of his money he feels as though he is better than other people, while Tess feels as if she is lower than other people. While Holden is in the cab he makes the choice by of asking Horwitz “you ever pass by the lagoon in Central Park? Down by the Central Park South?” (Salinger 81). Holden is asking the cab driver, Horwitz a question that he knows will not have an answer to.


When Horwitz does not respond, Holden has a feeling of superiority over him because Holden perceives Horwitz as a mere cabbie who doesn’t compare to himself and his social class. Tess and Holden are opposite ends, and in this instance they approach similar situations completely differently because of where they stand in society. Society and the class divisions of their time influence them both. Tess makes the choice of telling Angel of her previous sexual relation and because of it Angel tragically leaves her, and Holden makes the choice of mocking those who he feels to be socially inferior, eventually ends up tragically alone and institutionalized.


Tess was a beautiful English peasant whose sole purpose in life was to marry a wealthy man so that her family would become financially stable, while Holden’s family already had wealth, but he felt as though money made people phony. Tess reluctantly made the tragic choice of marrying Alec for his money and because he told her that Angel was never going to return. After Angel returns from Brazil, he immediately goes to see Tess and notices


Her neck rose out of a frill of down, and her well-remembered cable


of dark-brown hair was partially coiled up in a mass at the back of her head and partly hanging on her shoulder-the evident result of haste. (Hardy 371)


Tess is a different person from when Angel last saw her, and now Tess has become a gold digger who only married Alec for his money. Tess is no longer happy and the arrival of Angel only reminds Tess of the happiness she is missing. Tess and Holden are similar to one another in that they both realize that money doesn’t bring them happiness, and they both can be happy without having wealth.


Even though Holden doesn’t believe in God, he willingly gave two nuns ten dollars for their collection, but then he realized


After they left, I started getting sorry that I\'d only given them ten bucks for their collection. But the thing was, I\'d made that date to go to a matinee with old Sally Hayes, and I needed to keep some dough for the tickets and stuff. I was sorry anyway, though. Goddamn money. It always ends up making you blue as hell (Salinger 113).


Holden says “Goddamn money. It always ends up making you blue as hell” shows that he really doesn’t like to have money