Alec vs Angel: The Two Leading Men Of Tess Of The D’Urbervilles

A blossoming English rose, Tess manages to beguile two very different men in Thomas Hardy’s classic tale. So how do Alec D’Urberville and Angel Clare compare?

Angel Vs Alec

LOOKS

Alec d'Urberville: With his glossy dark hair, jaggedly jutting features and piercing gaze, Alec cuts quite a dramatic figure. Even if he wore drab and dowdy clothes he'd still be striking, but Alec is the opposite of drab in every sense. His sartorial style is that of a flamboyant aristocrat - think golden waistcoats, natty fob watches and flowing overcoats. All the better for impressing local lasses.

Angel Clare: The phrase "as different as night and day" is almost literally appropriate when comparing Alec and Angel's appearances. Where Alec looks dark and plush, Angel appears light and ethereal, often clad in wispy whites, creams, and light blues. His face too, contrasts with Alec's. Here we have a young man who lives up to his name, with gentle angelic features and a pair of doe eyes which set hearts a-flutter.

Hans Matheson as Alec D'Uberville.

Hans Matheson as Alec D'Uberville.

STATUS

Alec D'Urberville: The heir to the D'Urberville fortune, Alec is - on paper at least - a very eligible bachelor. Wealthy, handsome, unattached, he's the kind of man any single woman in the region would have on her list of potential matches. The only snag is his actual personality, which we'll get to in a moment. Be warned: it isn't pretty.

Angel Clare: Angel may not be as outwardly, ostentatiously wealthy as Alec, but he too is quite the catch. The son of a clergyman, he hails from a solid, respectable family, and is a driven, dependable sort of chap. While Alec merely LOOKS like a good bet, Angel really is one - which explains why so many women seem to swoon in his presence.

PERSONALITY

Alec D'Urberville: Look up "lazy good for nothing playboy" in the dictionary and you might well see Alec's face smirking up at you. The man is perfectly content to swan around enjoying his status and indulging every fleeting whim, which tend to be of the carnal sort. Lacking any real motivation beyond the pursuit of immediate pleasure, his existence is shiny but empty - unless by some miracle he actually finds some kind of calling in life.

Angel Clare: As intelligent and thoughtful as Alec is shallow and impulsive, Angel is a proud free thinker. At least by the standards of his day. While he's not quite as much of a social revolutionary as he might like to imagine, he still chooses to go his own way, rejecting the religious views of his father and pursuing the life of a farmer in order to embrace the beauty of nature. His tendency to idealise the world - including Tess - may get him into trouble though.

Eddie Redmayne as Angel Clare.

Eddie Redmayne as Angel Clare.

MORALITY

Alec D'Urberville: "I am a bad fellow, a damn bad fellow." That's straight from the horse's mouth, and it's a rare example of Alec speaking the total truth. He is, by any measure, a terrible man. It's not simply that he's a self-centred cad. What sets him apart is his total lack of morality, and the way he has no scruples about manipulating, coercing and even traumatizing people to get what he wants.

Angel Clare: Is Angel the "goodie" to Alec's "baddie"? Not quite. Nothing in this story is so black and white, and Angel is a flawed hero. He has a strong sense of right and wrong, but if anything it's TOO strong. His rigorous ideology can make him cross the line into self-righteousness, though to be fair this can also be put down to his relative youth, and to the rules of society that bind him. Perhaps as time goes on he can break free, and be true to his own inner potential?