Literary Character Analysis: Alec Stoke in Tess d’Urbervilles
Alec Stoke is a kind of Byronic hero. Is he arrogant? Yes, he is. Is he cunning and able to adapt? Yes, he even pretended to be a sincere Christian. I can admit that he was not playing a role and was honest, but in any case, it would reveal a Byronic feature: he is emotionally conflicted and bipolar. If someone says that Alec behaves like a determined self-confident man, I oppose that it is only what he shows, what he allows us to see, but deep inside he is harshly struggling. He may be unaware, he is not conscient of the inner fight that was lasting from his childhood until his death.
Is he disrespectful of rank and privilege? Yes, he took, as his father did, a noble name that had nothing to do with his real genesis.
Had he a troubled past? Yes, even if he pretended to be fine and do not suffer. He could persuade himself that he is satisfied with his condition. All this just to avoid regrets, more frustration, and pain.
He is also intelligent, it is said in the novel itself.
Is he charismatic and perceptive? Yes, how otherwise would he be able to seduce Tess? Is he sexually dominant? Is he self-destructive? Again, the issue with unconscienceness. He is a man that takes firm, steady steps right to the fall.
Finally, he is treated as an exile by his own mother. She never denied the truth. Alec always knew that he was an unwanted child. It’s a cruel attitude and marked Alec’s whole existence. He was just a begger for love, maybe a too-insistent one.
There are events that people do not remember. But they stay deeply buried in our brains and we cannot escape them. We think and act according to these patterns. His personality was deeply influenced by his mother’s treatment. According to the modern social research, the ones that are deprived of love in their early childhood, become sociopaths; so, Alec had all the chances to be a killer, a real culprit, or just an emotionally disabled person unable to fall in love. Instead, he managed. He is a dessert, there is no water, not at all. However, flowers grow there and they are rough and coarse ones. This is the condition for survival.
About his rude behavior: why he laughs or make rude comments on Tess’ unhappiness: he loves her, but isn’t rewarded with the same. He got her body only, no soul and spirit. He is eager for them. They are all he needed. So, he hurts back.
He cannot confess his pain, he did it as a child and got more damaged. Now he cannot say loudly that he loves. His infant dignity would never let him recognize how rejected and neglected he feels.
It’s said that being unaware of that, every man chooses a wife that would resemble his mother. That is Alec’s case. He knows, as it says the novel, that Tess will never love him. Or, maybe, he hoped that Tess would give him the second chance. His mother passed away, she was a lost case, but Tess could still return him the respect for himself – as he said. In fact, these words hide much more…he felt as an outcast and he wanted to overcome this feeling. Tess was the one and only woman that walked the earth like a shadow of his unhappy childhood.
He suffered failure with Tess, with his mother. I guess, it would make desperate anyone.
The Byronic hero isn’t the only one to whom Alec could resemble. Some critics consider him as a Satan that tempted Eve. Here, at this point, associations can be a draw to lord Henry as well, from the picture of dorian gray. He tempted Tess, but then, his passion for her turned him into her victim (change of roles?), as lord henry became a victim of his student dorian. Common feature – change of roles.
A mad man would never recognize that he is mad. But Alec knows and recognizes that he’s bad. It means that he was struggling with his integrity with his badness. He was suffering a lot. He is an anti-hero that seeks his savior and finds it, Tess set him free by killing him.