Tonight, as I showered, I found myself thinking of Tess of the d’Ubervilles, a character from Thomas Hardy’s book of the same name. I, therefore, began also to think about the book itself, and the events connected to my reading of the book. I easily discovered that I wanted to share with the world a good section of the e-mail I sent to a former high school teacher of mine shortly after my conclusion of the novel. Be forewarned: Spoilers are included (regarding the novel).
Said e-mail section:
Hi, Ms. B[…]!
Hannah […] here (photos attached), […] class of 2009. I was in your Junior English class of 2007-2008, and likely gave you a hard time in the various class discussions (I always have been one to challenge ideas, even if I believe them already myself, just to find a new perspective). I believe it was around the end of the school year that you gave me a copy of Tess of the d’Ubervilles. I’m not sure what I mentioned specifically that had you give the book to me, but I do believe I had asked for some sort of recommendation.
It took me forever, and I’m not sure why exactly, but I finally got around to reading the book last year (I think it got stored away when I went to college, and I just never saw it until I cleared out a lot of books in my move last March.). As I was going through it, I was captivated. There was some magic-like force drawing me to the book. Most nights, I had to force myself to stop reading and just go to sleep, Hannah! As I reached particularly exciting or nerve-wracking parts, I shared with my flatmate about the book. We eventually were both excited to see what came next – each night, after I explained what I’d read the night before, we would sit in the hallway before bed, discussing our thoughts, predictions, and hopes for the story, and then I’d go and actually read right before bed.
At the end of the book, I came storming out of my bedroom one night to my waiting flatmate (she’d already heard me fussing). I told her how the book ended, and she was flabbergasted. “Are you for real?” was the phrase of the night for the two of us. Thus the reason I am e-mailing you.
I’m hoping you can shed some light on the book for me/us. Why on Earth did we have to go through all the ridiculous and terrible ordeals with Tess, always with a lining of upbeat-ness and hope, only to find her doomed in more ways than one at the end. I mean, come on, who destroys herself so pathetically, while always acting the victim, and then deciding ‘This is what must be done,’ and going insane when an alternative arrives, landing herself in prison with a death sentence? It all just seems so outrageous. (You can sense my outrage, I imagine [Though, I wouldn’t call it outrage so much as dislike and disappointment.].)
Anyway, I can only imagine that there was something more to the book – a societal background, a cultural issue being addressed, a historical event receiving his commentary… that sort of thing.
So, do you mind shedding some light on the situation??
I realize this is a rather big question, but I figured you’d be the perfect person to ask!
The e-mail continued on, discussing another book that I had recently re-read from her class, and asking her thoughts on that novel as well. However, my thoughts were on Tess tonight, so I’ll leave it with the Tess section for now.
What I love about this e-mail is the fact that it exists, as well as the fact that it turned into an actual exchange between the two of us. My high school was one where teachers were not only high quality regarding their subject areas, but impactful and accessible enough that I easily considered e-mailing one of them (and one with whom I wasn’t even all that close) when I had such an inquiry, despite the fact that this was years and years after my time studying at the school. I just love that. Love it, I do!