Themes and Symbols

Prince: When Tess falls asleep and loses control of the wagon, the Durbeyfield horse, Prince, is killed. This results in her to seek aid from the d’Urbervilles and sets the tone of the novel.

The death of the horse is a powerful motivator for the plot, and its name is a staunch symbol of Tess’s family’s claim to nobility.

The d’Urberville Family Vault: The family vault is a double-edged symbol of not only the majestic wealth of the noble family that the Durbeyfields learn they share, but also the glory of life and its end.

Since Tess moves from a life of passivity to one as a murderess by the end of the book, achieving a kind of personal opulence even as she delivers death to others and herself, the double meaning of the vault culminates a powerful image for the final meeting of Alec and Tess.

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