- Alternative Character Interpretation: Some scholars argue that Tess acquiesced to Alec, rather than being raped by him, in what is arguably a "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization on the part of those scholars. Of course YMMV, but this is not the most commonly accepted reading of the text by any means.
- Anvilicious: Hardy uses every single piece of symbolism he can to associate Tess with purity, and the omniscient narrator also interjects fairly frequently to reinforce the point. Justified in that it would have taken a lot to convince conservative Victorian readers that a woman who was raped was innocent, although to modern readers who (in most cases) are more likely to be sympathetic towards Tess anyway it can feel like overkill.
- Pretty much everything connected to religion in the novel is Hardy railing against religious dogmatism.
- Complete Monster: Alec d'Uberville is a sexual predator who constantly lusts after Tess from the moment he meets her. Alec makes multiple attempts to force himself onto Tess and eventually rapes her. Becoming a preacher years later, Alec abandons his duties upon meeting Tess again, showing no remorse for raping her. When Tess suffers through massive hardships, Alec emotionally manipulates the poor girl into becoming his mistress.
- Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: It becomes pretty clear that Tess is hopeless early on. Hence some readers stop caring early on.
- Draco in Leather Pants: Alec in the 2008 BBC version. He's way more sympathetic than in the book or the other films, complete with a clear Freudian Excuse (and lacking a creepy moustache, too). Hans Matheson's Evil Is Sexy portrayal doesn't help either.
- It's All About Me: Particurly at Tess's confession, Angel spends time feeling sorry for himself for accidentally choosing an impure woman as his wife rather than actually giving Tess the comfort she deserves.
- Narm: Modern readers often find the Deus Angst Machina plotline just a little bit too much to handle seriously.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Rape is not the victim's fault and they shouldn't be blamed for it.
- Values Dissonance: Even if the work is Fair for Its Day, it sticks in the teeth of many readers.
- Values Resonance: But despite the aforementioned Values Dissonance, the premise of the novel is still fairly relevant to the modern day as victims of rape are still sometimes persecuted due to Victim Blaming and Slut-Shaming.
- The Woobie: Tess.
- Jerkass Woobie: Angel, he suffers a severe fever in Brazil.
- The Alec of the 2008 version seems to have shades of this, since he appears to have a cold relationship with his mother.
YMMV / Tess of the d'Urbervilles