Tess Durbeyfield knows what it is to work hard and expect little. But her life is about to veer from the path trod by her mother and grandmother. When her ne'er-do-well father learns that his family is the last of a long noble line, the d'Urbervilles, he sends Tess on a journey to meet her supposed kin--a journey that will see her victimized by lust, poverty, and hypocrisy. Shaped by an acute sense of social injustice and by a vision of human fate cosmic in scope, her story is a singular blending of harsh realism and poignant beauty. Thomas Hardy created in Tess not a standard Victorian heroine but a woman whose intense vitality shines against the bleak backdrop of a dying way of life. The novel shocked contemporary readers with its honesty and remains a timeless commentary on the human condition.