Role of Fate and Chance in Tess of D’Urbervilles Analysis

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In Hardy’s novels chance plays a predominant role. His characters are puppets in hands in the hands of malignant chance or fate which robs them of any chance of happiness. It works both from without and within. All the misery and the sorrow that we see in the world, are there because some external power called Fate. Fate has many manifestations that thwart human happiness and most common of them is chance or coincidence. Coincidence is so frequent in Hardy that there is some danger of its being regarded as mannerism, or even as a weak device for bringing about crisis. The method is however, quite deliberately employed, and is well-rooted in Hardy’s philosophy. Hardly skillfully employs this theme of coincidence in Tess of d’Urbervilles to produce a tragic effect. So tragic downfall of Tess should not be labeled as surprised but it was inevitable as well as mandatory to augment the thematic expressions of the novel and machinations that Hardy utilizes.

In Tess of D’Urbervilles, the vast web of existence is hopelessly inextricable and it is to the privileged few that the junctions and crossings and interweaving of the web become clear and explicable and when the artists records it, the result is marvelous in our eyes…His [Hardy’s] coincidences are not forced–they are always explicable, and sometimes explained; nor are they so imaginary as to be incredible, except in cases like the fall of tower. The strange coincidence in Tess when she has but that moment severed herself from her seducer, and as she walks on in the sad Sabbath morn of October, a stranger appears suddenly on her side, and paints out slowly in letters of starting vermillion, the menacing declaration, Thy, Damnation, Slumbereth.”

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            Hardy aims at reflecting the constant struggle between man on one hand and, on the other, an omnipotent and indifferent fate. Since fate plays an active part in a human drama, it is personified in various forms. Hardy embodies fate in various forms. Sometime it appears as a natural force. Some times it embodies itself in the form of some innate weakness of disposition and character. Chiefly, however, the forces of fate in Hardy’s novel incarnate themselves in two guises i.e. chance and as love. Of these chance is most typical. In no other novel chance plays such a conspicuous on the course of events than in Tess of D’Urbervilles. We witness an intense battle between Man and Destiny in Tess. Destiny is inscrutable; we do not understand it nature same like Tess was unable to comprehend it real character, might and intentions. S we can not predict what it will do so was the case with Tess. In consequence it (fate) show itself in the guise of inexplicable and unexpected blows of chance in Tess of D’Urbervilles and thus Tess becomes victimized.

            In harmony with Hardy’s view of character as the resultant of heredity and environment, in his notion of events that lie outside and beyond us; of happenings, chance and fortune, the immortals would appear to have become enraged at Tess, and to have predestined her hard career. At the very threshold of life, she meets the wrong man. A few days before she marries Angel Clare, she pushes under the door of his bedroom a written confession, which slips out of sight under the carpet where it remains concealed until found by Tess on the wedding morning. On a Sunday, Tess tramps fifteen miles to the personage of the elder Clare to seek protection, there is no answer to her ring at the door, for the family is at church. At just the wrong time she now stumbles upon Alec once more. A letter she dispatches to Angel in Brazil is delayed, and he reaches home a few days late. The ironical arrangement of events clearly shows that Hardy castigates the Wordsworthian thought of beneficent Providence.

            It is a chance that Jack Derbyfield happens to meet Parson Tringham who informs the former that he has descended from the noble d’Urbervilles family. Jack Derbyfield is passing his days well but this information has a tremendous effect on him and the story of the novel. It is because of this news that Tess is sent to Trantridge to claim kinship with the rich Mrs. D’Urbervilles In another way chance also guides her to take this expedition. After receiving the grand news, Jack Derbyfield, her father drinks so much that he is unable to go to Casterbridge next morning. So fate is carving ways through chance to set an impetus to fulfill its own objectives i.e. ways of the providence. Tess goes to Casterbridge but on the way to Casterbridge, ‘Prince’, the horse that was their sole breadwinner dies in a accident. Thus she gladly undertakes the journey to Trantridge with the hope of finding some job there. Thus we see that it is fate in the guise of chance that carves her ways and ultimately leads her to her tragic downfall.

             Again, it is chance that when Tess calls at the d’Urbervilles mansion. She meets the wrong man. This happenstance has nothing to do with any tragic flaw in the character or fatal error of judgment but it is solely due to the designs of fate. This wrong man Alec destroys her chastity and she no longer remains a “pure woman”. Here it is another manifestation of fate i.e. love and its intricacies are at play. Had she perceived this meeting’s import , she might have asked why she was doomed to be seen and coveted that day buy wrong man and not by some other man, the right and desired one in all respects-as nearly as humanity can supply the right and desired. But fate had something else in store for her. She was entangled in the web of love with a wrong person by chance. So both manifestations of fate i.e. love and chance, are acting in a subtle and veiled manner to bring her to tragedy.

            This chance meeting of Tess with Alec ruins her life and robs her of any happiness. Again, Tess being an intelligent girl realizes his evil intentions but though she does not like it, she stays at his house. Something seemed to quicken her to a determination; possibly the though that she had killed Prince”. A little later she quarrels with her companions over a trivial matter when they are returning to Trantridge from Chaseborough. It is just a coincidence that Alec appears on a horseback and asks her to jump on the horseback behind him. She being too tired to walk, does it. Her fate is working against her. He seduces her. It is just a matter of chance that wrong man gets the pure woman.

Thus we see that Hardy uses Tess as tool to reflect the malignant nature of fate through the agency of chance. He further replicates the injustice of social justice through the characterization of Tess and making her encountered with numerous chances. Tess was no towering heroin of huge desires; she was simple, humble, homely girl who asked only for a quiet happiness. But she is not only deprived of those longings but is placed in a situation where she loses her only precious possession i.e. her chastity. He passes comments n fate, society, religion and female chastity on many occasions but the only justification he provides to castigate all these elements of society is the injustice done to the character of Tess. So Hardy uses him as a device to reflect the cruel nature of fate and the injustice of society.  So her fate was inevitable and is closely aligned with the thematic design of the novel.

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