While reading the novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles, I noticed there are two incidents of marrying a second time. First, Angel is the son of his father's second wife. This is shown in a normal way. Is this because the second marriage happened after the first wife's death? Or, was it normal for men to marry a second time in Victorian society?

On the other hand, Tess can be found in a far off town with her second husband and she doesn't have much connection with her family. Is this seclusion because she is a woman who marries a second time? Or, because her husband is abroad and they are not divorced when this marriage takes place?

What was the Victorian society like in regards to second marriage? That might be helpful to understand this novel also.

  • 1
    Seer also this question. Commented Mar 17 at 9:43
  • If a man's wife died, marrying again was the expected thing to do, especially if there were children. The 'decent interval' (time to wait after the dead wife's funeral) was, I believe, six weeks if children were involved. Commented Mar 18 at 10:37

1 Answer 1


(1) Angel's father would certainly not have remarried until his first wife was dead. Divorce did exist, but it was frowned on in 'respectable' society.

(2) Tess isn't married to Alec d'Urberville. They are only pretending to be a married couple for the sake of appearances; 'living together' would have been openly frowned on at that time.

  • Why do you think they are pretending to be married couple, would you care to explain? I was not confused in this case. But now I'm curious.
    – Dia
    Commented Mar 24 at 13:09
  • Why, because for a couple to have a sexual relationship without being married was very much disapproved of by society at that time (and for many decades afterwards). Quite possibly, the landlady of the lodgings where Tess and Alec are staying would have turned them away if she had known that they were not legally married. Commented Mar 24 at 14:11

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