A) Tess’s cousin hits on her in a way that would be creepy and annoying even if they weren’t related (and yes, I know it didn’t matter back then).
B) Tess, refusing to stand up for herself, keeps getting stuck alone with the guy.
C) He rapes her and then disappears, leaving her to deal with the rape-baby, which dies.
II. DAIRY FARM
A) Tess meets Dreamboat Man. High-school drama ensues. All the chicks on the farm make ga-ga eyes at the guy.
B) Dreamboat Man falls for Tess and proposes seven or eight times. Tess whines that she can’t marry him, but won’t tell him why. She does finally accept.
A) Dreamboat Man confesses that when he was younger, he spent some time carousing with French girls.
B) Tess says it’s no big deal, and tells him about the rape.
C) Dreamboat Man absolutely freaks out, says she’s not the woman he thought she was, and moves to Brazil indefinitely.
IV. RAPIST REAPPEARS
A) Except now he’s a preacher and very, very sorry.
B) He also thinks Tess should marry him. When she says no, he makes her swear she’ll never “tempt him” again. There is a disturbing lack of irony in this scene. The author may as well have said the rape was Tess’s fault. This notion is strengthened by the fact that Tess reacts not with indignation but with blank-faced assent.
C) Tess writes frantic letters to Dreamboat Man, begging him to come back. When he doesn’t, she marries the guy who raped her because he has money.
V. DREAMBOAT MAN REAPPEARS
A) He tracks Tess down and says he’s sorry. Tess’s reply is the one cool thing that happens in the book: She remembers she has a backbone and says coldly, “Too late.”
B) When Dreamboat Man leaves, Tess goes upstairs to talk to her rapist husband. She screams that he ruined her life and then sticks a knife in his chest. This might have been a good twist if the author hadn’t submerged the whole scene in melodrama and whining.
C) Unfortunately, Tess completely negates her earlier moment of mettle by running after Dreamboat Man. Er, happily ever after— right?
VI. COMPLETELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE ENDING
A) Tess and Dreamboat Man wander through the forest together in a fog of secluded bliss.
B) Then they find Stonehenge. Tess declares that she and Dreamboat Man aren’t meant to be happy, and allows herself to be killed by druids. Which appear out of nowhere.