When John Durbeyfield learns that he is descended from ancient Norman stock, he and his wife encourage their daughter Tess to befriend the neighboring family of Stoke-dUrbervilles. Their charming but self-centered son Alec is frustrated by her lack of interest in him. He forces himself on Tess, and she has a child which dies. In search of a way to begin her life afresh, Tess moves away and works as a dairymaid on a farm. She meets Angel Clare, a parsons son, and following a blissful summer she overcomes her uncertainty and accepts his hand in marriage. But on their wedding night he learns of her past and rejects her in disgust. Finding new employment with the tyrannical Farmer Groby, Tess crosses paths with Alec once again. Forced by financial necessity, she becomes his mistressuntil Angels return from Brazil sparks a tragic chain of events.