Thirty-five years after witnessing the last public hanging of a woman in Dorset, Thomas Hardy set out to show how an innocent soul can be so let down by the cruelties and hypocrisies of our society as to end up on the gallows. Tess herself may well be more a representation of an ideal than a real person, and Hardy may get a little too caught up in the experience of his natural world to judge what is real and what is metaphor, but overall I still find it to be a very powerful work.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Full text at Project Gutenberg)
Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Free audiobook at Librivox)
Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Excellent panel discussion on Radio 4’s In Our Time)