Tess and the New Farm
Thomas Hardy characterizes Tess of the d’Ubervilles as a vibrant, passionate and excited about her future position in a dairy farm. The tone in the first few lines conveys her unbridled joy. The tone of the passage quickly changes from hopeful excitement to worried anxiety and apprehension in Line 5. Hardy describes her walk as a “pilgrimage” in line 3. By line 5 a strange and unfamiliar vista has appeared like magic in front of her making her feel ill at ease and changing the tone of the passage. A Pilgrimage usually means traveling a great distance and encompassing many hardships along the way. Tess must have led a very sheltered life to consider a quick walk through the woods a pilgrimage of any sort. The new farm she was traveling towards was so large she needed to discover it from great heights to appreciate the pastoral setting. Tess describes the lands as “exhausted “ and “aged”, she could be describing her own feelings of exhaustion as if she was ageing and growing too. The narrator expresses her feelings of inferiority and the very essence of her existence as being small and inconsequential, like a “fly”.
Tess hears a farmer call out to a group of cows in the fields, the cows know where they're going, even if she doesn't. She wants to think that the land was calling out her arrival, but unfortunately just milking time for the cows. Tess wants to be a bigger part of the world. Little fish, big pond is a concept she probably has not thought of before this pilgrimage. As she enters the cows domain and begins walking towards the barn it occurs to her this has been going on for many years. She feels like a tiny speck on the world. Just like one cow remains unimportant to the “infinite” (Line 44) herd she feels like a spec of the human race to this farmer and his farm.
The shadows on the barn walls are the only monument to the cows existence in time and space. Just as the sun goes down, the shadows will go away just as quickly. Her life in a nutshell, she truly has no significance in the history of man. As quickly as her shadow is cast upon the wall it will extinguish as the sun goes down and somebody new will be standing in her place. Tess starts out her trip with such excitement and now realizes that she is just one more cow in a long history of cows and although the farmer needs her now, another cow, a new farmer, and a new Tess will rise and the whole process of daily life will continue with or without her for hundreds of years to come exactly where she stands.
Tess is determined to have her moment in the sun casting a tall shadow in the barn and being important for just one moment in time in this new job.