Tess Of The D’Urbervilles: Rape In The Olden Days

Last night, instead of watching “Desperate Housewives” and “Brothers & Sisters,” I opted for slightly more intellectual but no less drama-filled fare and watched Masterpiece Classic on PBS, hosted by Laura Linney. This week, it was part one of “Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” based on the novel by Thomas Hardy. I was enthralled, and I can’t wait for the conclusion next Sunday at 9pm.I’m always a sucker for a movie adaptations of classic novels, particularly ones that take place in the English countryside (“Pride and Prejudice,” anyone?), but I found Tess’s story especially compelling. As Linney said when she introduced the film, Hardy had to find a new publisher who would print his book in its entirety — his original publisher didn’t think some of it was appropriate for delicate readers (read: women). What might not have been appropriate? SPOILER ALERT! Well, Tess is raped (or seduced, as some have interpreted it) by her cousin and benefactor, Alec d’Urberville. She gets pregnant, and then her baby dies. Tess moves on with her life, not telling anyone about her past, and when she finally finds someone who loves her, he doesn’t know what has happened to her and wouldn’t want to marry her if he did.

In the previews for next week’s episode, her fiance, Angel Clare (what a name!), says something to the effect of: “You let yourself be seduced by him” when he finds out that Tess is not in fact “pure.” The second half is probably going to be very hard to watch, because it will show how rape was regarded then, and how it continues to be seen by some nowadays: as the woman’s fault

Now, don’t you worry if you missed the first half, PBS.org is streaming it so you can get up to speed before Sunday, Jan. 11 at 9pm EST. And if your boyfriend complains, just tell him Tess is played by Gemma Arterton, the hot Bond girl Strawberry Fields in “Quantum of Solace.”