Hardy was such a "modern man".
I found Tess to be a lovely hero. She is smart, honest, skillful, hardworking, humble and proud. She is seen as the best product of her unproductive parents. Her downward projectory begins when the parson says,"Good night, Sir John." Jack Durbeyfield's eyes and his wife's eyes look up from their meager existance and plan to make use of their ancient heritage and Tess.
Tess is dutiful and mature. Her parents believe her to be maleable. She unwillingly goes to meet the D'Ubervilles to better her family's life. Yet, she does not "play the game." She has her pride. She does not lie to Alec D'Uberville. She has her code and stays true to it. Alec violates Tess. Tess brings Sorrow into it and soon after buries him.
Later, she leaves Marlott again, in an attempt to leave her past. She meets Reverand Cuthbert's son, Angel. Tess tries to extinguish Angel's passion. She succombs, finally, to his chaste love making. As she finally reveals her buried Sorrow, she finds that her loving husband Angel, has no charity.
At the end of the novel, I was reminded of O'Neil's Desire Under the Elms. There are so many parallels. I was shocked by the violent and almost "just" ending.(less)