Victorian Society in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Furthermore as an aside, Hardy hints his views on Tess' crime and punishment (and thus Victorian society's views) in this line at the very end of the book:

What justifies the anti-Tess interpretation of “Tess of the d'Urbervilles ..

Susie L. Steinbach, Understanding the Victorians: Politics, Culture and Society in Nineteenth-Century Britain. London: Routledge, 2012.
Kate Summerscale, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. New York: Walker and Company, 2008.


Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Wikipedia

He repeats several times in the novel that was has happened to Tess has not offended nature, but merely society.

Upon its publication, Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles inspired much debate as to whether Tess should be perceived as an innocent young woman thrust too early into the cruel world of men or as a shameless, immoral woman who deserved everything she got. The author claimed to be surprised by this controversy, as he had intended the interpretation to be clear all along; he even added the subtitle "A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented" in an attempt to clarify the issue.


Tess of the D'Urbervilles Quotes

The presence of the quotation marks suggests Hardy's contempt of contemporary views on a situation like Tess'. They are unforgiving and condemn her without consideration of the crimes that the 'victim' (Alec) committed. The stress here is that he is criticising the same people who then criticised the subtitle of Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

To all humankind besides Tess was only a passing thought

Thirdly, it was interpreted that, after Alec assaulted her, Tess lost what was called her 'physical purity' and hence Hardy came under fire for his subtitle of 'A Pure Woman (...)' since this contradicted the contemporary commonly accepted ideas of purity. ( article explains it well if you want to go into it.) I will paraphrase the basic idea: The Victorian idea was that 'purity' was lost in such a situation regardless whether consent was given. Virtue was synonimized with this 'purity' and hence Tess would not have been considered pure by many contemporary readers.