Role of Fate in Tess of the D’Urbervilles

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In the late 1800s, Thomas Hardy wrote a novel that is notable for its tragic portrayal, a recurring theme seen in his other works. The conclusion of the story is also tragic, reflecting Hardy’s belief in fate and drawing parallels to Greek tragedies. Interestingly, the novel mirrors the structure and themes explored by Aristotle in classical Greek plays. It should be noted that Hardy places great emphasis on dramatic plays.

The world view in Greek tragedies was primarily disastrous due to the influence of fate. Tragedy emerged as a result of predetermined events, which were destined to happen and inevitably did so. In accordance with the classical western tradition, the presence of tragedy in Greece can be attributed to the intervention of fate. The tragic conclusions observed in works by eminent classical writer Sophocles, such as Oedipus Rex, were outcomes determined by the decrees of fate.

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Freud’s interpretation of Oedipus Rex has greatly increased its renown. The play narrates the tale of a child who, since birth, is fated to slay his father and wed his mother. Oedipus carries out this foretelling by killing his own father and marrying his mother, an act considered abominable and the utmost transgression. This tragic destiny was predicted by an oracle.

The king, who is also the father of the child, throws him into the jungle. As a result, Oedipus is saved by a shepherd. Eventually, Oedipus comes back and becomes the king of the empire by chance. He takes over his father’s role and marries the Queen. Later on, with assistance from the shepherd, it is revealed that Oedipus is indeed the same child. Thus, the story of Oedipus signifies destiny and fate.

Destiny has determined that it will be this way. Destiny has foretold that Oedipus will assassinate the King and wed the queen. Consequently, this destiny is proven to be accurate. Thus, Oedipus Rex is merely one of the tales within Greek traditions that closely resemble other Greek stories. This recurring pattern involves an oracle prophesying a looming catastrophe for either the general population or an individual. Despite human attempts to prevent it, whatever has been predicted ultimately comes to fruition.

Within the tale of Oedipus Rex, there exists a king who discarded his child due to a prophecy proclaiming that the child would commit patricide and incest. Despite the king’s attempts to circumvent this destiny, it ultimately proved to be accurate. It is upon this premise that the framework of tragedy is established. The essence of classical Greek tragedy lies in its foundation of fate. The events that unfold are tragic because they were predetermined to transpire as they did. Thus, we discover that fate and destiny wield significant influence in the realm of Greek classical tragedy.

Despite the differences between Shakespearean tragedies and classical Greek tragedies, fate still plays a minor role in Shakespeare’s works. This is evident even in Romeo and Juliet, which may be seen as more of a dark play than a tragedy. The deaths of the two protagonists are ultimately caused by chance. Juliet’s decision to take a potion and feign death leads Romeo to mistakenly believe she has died, resulting in his own tragic end.

Juliet’s death is caused by Romeo’s decision to end his own life, emphasizing the role of chance. However, love does not play a central role in tragedy within any other Shakespearean play, including Romeo and Juliet. The love between Romeo and Juliet develops amidst their families’ ongoing feud as neighboring enemies. Consequently, the feud itself serves as a separate underlying cause for both the tragedy and conflict. Nonetheless, apart from this factor, the rest of the play unfolds due to an entirely different cause.

When examining other stories, it becomes evident that the primary focus is on the protagonist’s personality. This personality plays a crucial role in the development of tragic events. It is not luck or fate that has the greatest influence, but rather the character themselves. Thus, in Shakespeare’s works, it is ultimately the character who determines their own destiny. Moreover, instead of destiny shaping individuals’ futures, it is actually their character that shapes their destiny. For example, let us consider a play like Antony and Cleopatra where we encounter Cleopatra as an Egyptian queen and Antony as a Greek general. Therefore, this Greek general holds dominion over a portion of the empire previously conquered by Alexander.

Antony and Cleopatra’s love for each other is passionate and intense, but it faces opposition from the Egyptians and Greeks. Consequently, the Greeks attack Cleopatra while she is surrounded by enemies who want her dead and facing imminent demise. In the midst of this turmoil, Antony decides to leave his own country in order to be with her. Despite their sacrifices, Antony and Cleopatra ultimately meet their destiny.

Antony and Cleopatra’s destiny is not controlled by fate, but rather influenced by Antony’s personal decisions in the play. Despite potential consequences, Antony intentionally chooses to remain with Cleopatra. This choice is driven mainly by human agency instead of predetermined fate. Shakespeare is known for writing four renowned tragedies: Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello, which are widely recognized as his major tragic works.

The main determinant of what happens to the characters in these stories is not fate, but rather their own choices and actions that shape their destiny. The story of Macbeth exemplifies this notion. Macbeth decides to pursue his ambition of becoming king and takes deliberate steps towards achieving it, such as inviting Duncan, the current king, to his home for a meal. During this dinner, Macbeth murders Duncan and seizes the throne. However, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are burdened with guilt after assuming power. Consequently, Lady Macbeth repeatedly washes her hands in an attempt to cleanse them from Duncan’s blood.

Despite her efforts to wash her hands, Lady Macbeth cannot remove the guilt she feels for the blood of Duncan. This inability to cleanse herself serves as a constant reminder of their ambition and ultimately leads to their downfall. In contrast, the tragedy of Othello centers around his own suspicion. Despite having a loving and loyal wife, Othello’s distrust in her leads him down a destructive path. This suspicion is planted by Iago, an assistant who harbors a dislike for Othello and falsely suggests that Desdemona is being unfaithful.

The tragedy of Othello revolves around the destructive power of suspicion, a theme that is recurring in Othello’s character. Despite Desdemona’s faithfulness to him, Othello unjustly suspects her due to his belief in Iago, ultimately causing her death and realizing later that his suspicions were unfounded. This tragic outcome is not brought about by fate but rather by Othello’s own tendency towards suspicion. Similarly, let us examine the story of King Lear who decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters and tests their love for him.

Thus, he initiates by interrogating his eldest daughter Regan regarding the extent of her affection for him. Regan replies by declaring that her love surpasses even the vastness of the skies, transcending the moon, the earth, and the stars. Lear accepts her words as genuine. Subsequently, he poses the same question to his second daughter Goneril who affirms a love that exceeds what can be contained within the earth and assures him that her devotion knows no limits. Lastly, Lear turns to his third daughter Cordelia and inquires about the depth of her love for him, urging her to express her sentiments towards him. Cordelia responds by stating she has nothing to articulate.

According to him, if she continues to claim that, she will receive nothing, as nothing is derived from nothingness. He also states that she will not receive her portion of the empire. However, she responds by saying that it is irrelevant because she has nothing to communicate. Therefore, we are faced with two situations: daughters constantly deceiving and Lear believing those lies, and a daughter who is incapable of expressing her love and affection for her father. In this case, Lear misunderstands the concept that language or words possess a inherent truth, when in reality, language lacks any inherent truthfulness; we are able to utilize language to deceive.

Despite there being no connection between language and truth, Lear incorrectly holds the belief that everything he says is true. Eventually, towards the conclusion of the play, he comes to acknowledge that language does not possess a inherent truthfulness. The level of intricacy found in Hamlet’s tragedy can be likened to the Oedipus Complex as both involve Hamlet’s father being murdered and his mother marrying his uncle. Additionally, Hamlet grapples with an abnormal state of mind and remains uncertain about what course of action to take. Numerous inquiries arise regarding the reasons behind Hamlet’s behavior, including whether he is genuinely insane or merely pretending.

Nevertheless, the issue is that Hamlet’s fate is not determined by destiny but rather by his character. Hence, all the events that occur to Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear or Antony are a consequence of their individual character traits. Each of them possesses a distinct aspect of their character which compels them to confront tragedy. Therefore, tragedy arises from what the ancient Greeks referred to as “face culpa,” or “Tragic Flaw” in English translation. Face culpa comprises a collection of human qualities within these characters that propel them towards extremes and ultimately result in tragedy.

Othello, a naval general, achieves success due to his skills. However, his tragedy arises from his suspicious nature. In contrast, Macbeth’s ambition prevents him from experiencing happiness. Similarly, Lear’s belief in the truth value of language hinders his happiness as he fails to recognize the gap between words and actions. This flaw leads to his downfall. Moving on to Thomas Hardy, although he writes novels instead of plays, his works convey a tragic vision.

Hardy’s tragedies can be compared to classical Greek tragedies as they both focus on the concept of fate. Hardy’s works do not portray law in particular, nor do they aim to highlight any flaws in the character of the protagonist or any other individuals involved. Instead, Hardy explores the origins of tragedy in fate or destiny. It is common for Hardy’s characters to meet their fate due to predetermined circumstances. The element of chance or fate is significant in these situations, often leading to tragic outcomes. Thus, in Hardy’s tragedies, chance plays a crucial role and is ultimately responsible for the tragic consequences.

Hardy’s vision aligns closely with classical Greek tragedy, emphasizing the role of destiny or chance over individual character. In creating a story reminiscent of classical Greek tragedy, he directs his focus towards the fate or destiny of mankind. While he does acknowledge certain attributes of the characters, he ultimately believes that the tragedies humans experience are a result of their predetermined fate or destiny.

The text explains that Thomas Hardy’s stories are often tragic and demonstrate a belief in destiny. The novel being discussed is also a tragedy. Hardy creates characters with romantic inclinations and grounds them in the Wessex region of England, where he lived. The novels evoke the atmosphere of Wessex, allowing the characters to relate to their environment, society, and rural surroundings.

The main theme of Tess of the D’Urbervilles is the idea of fate. Tess, a content and hardworking young woman, undergoes a tragic incident that completely changes her life. While traveling from one village to another with a family member, she becomes prey to seduction by a man. Due to her youth, she is unable to reject his advances. Hardy does not solely blame Tess for this event; nevertheless, it cannot be overlooked that she also holds some responsibility.

Hardy perceives Tess’s seduction as a predestined occurrence regardless of his perspective. During the course of this seduction, she experiences various forms of anguish: carrying the stigma, abandoning her home, and being forced to work in a distant village separated from her family. Eventually, she weds someone and discloses the details of her seduction to him. As a consequence of this confession, her husband deserts her. Therefore, alongside the act of seduction itself, there exists an overwhelming sense of culpability that compels Tess to divulge everything to her spouse.

As a consequence of this, she is abandoned and eventually takes her own life by killing the man who seduced her. Thus, it is evident that her tragedy is predetermined and unavoidable according to Thomas Hardy’s perspective. There is no alternative for her to end her life differently or take any other action. Upon analysis, we can observe similarities to Greek tragedy. Hardy does not aim to depict any tragic flaw within her, but instead views her life as a tragedy with inevitable tragic outcomes.

Thomas Hardy presents the story from a unique perspective to convey his tragic vision and world view. To truly grasp Hardy’s works, especially Tess of the D’Urbervilles, it is essential to understand his inherently tragic outlook. This novel stands out in Hardy’s body of work as Tess, an innocent young girl, leaves a lasting impression on readers. He portrays her as a maiden.

From that point forward, her fortune began to decline, as a result of losing her maidenhood. This progression of events is how the story unfolds. The traditional interpretation of the novel depicts a pure, innocent, and beautiful girl who is seduced by an irresponsible family member. The importance of purity, chastity, and more specifically virginity is emphasized. The author, Hardy, strongly highlights this aspect. This can be observed in the first chapter titled “The Maiden” and the subsequent chapter titled “Maiden No More.”

The titles of the text emphasize maidenhood and its associated qualities throughout. It is important to consider that Hardy wrote this in the nineteenth century, a time when the prevailing ethos placed emphasis on virginity in a male-dominated society, limiting women’s free will. Consequently, most actions were initiated by men. Therefore, the headlines “The Maiden” and “Maiden No More” reflect the societal expectation for women to be chaste.

Both the title “Maiden No More” and the story center on chastity, a concept traditionally linked to women. The main character is a young girl who has not yet encountered the vices of womanhood and is still in the process of transitioning into a woman. However, her maidenhood is taken away before she can fully embrace her womanhood. This loss of innocence is criticized, as evidenced by the focus on chastity in both the title and the implied acknowledgment of its importance.

The main theme of this text is the male-centered society. In contemporary Europe or the UK, this theme may seem irrelevant. The concept of chastity is not regarded as highly as it was in the past. Nowadays, for various reasons, these notions are not respected to the same extent. However, in Victorian England, chastity played a significant role. It is important to consider that the mindset in Victorian England had a double standard regarding chastity.

The concept of chastity involves women being chaste and faithful. In the past, there was an unspoken double standard that assumed men were free to behave as they pleased while women were expected to adhere to strict standards. This double standard is still prevalent today. It not only demands chastity from women but also places blame on them if something goes awry, while men are not held to the same level of accountability. Society should instead hold both parties equally responsible for any immoral actions they engage in together.

The society, with its double standards, judges and holds women to higher moral standards compared to men. This societal and cultural ethos puts Tess in a vulnerable position as she becomes a victim of this blame culture. Additionally, the circumstances that unfold during her journey, including the coincidence of travelling with a close relative, contribute to these events. Throughout their time together, there are moments of closeness between them, ultimately leading to her seduction.

In this passage, we see that Tess is tempted to comply with all of the man’s requests, despite being blamed and held responsible for the consequences of his actions. Despite not being entirely accountable for what the man has done to her, Tess still carries a sense of guilt and is forced to leave. The social and cultural environment condemns her, and it appears that Hardy sympathizes with women like Tess. Tess desired to keep her child, but societal norms prohibited her from doing so.

Then Tess must vanish, seeking refuge and concealing her identity. As a result, we discover that Tess is compelled to exist in obscurity and isolation. Consequently, the series of seductive acts prove lethal for her. Hence, Tess’s narrative represents the plight of an ordinary English woman in Victorian society, vulnerable to being victimized due to its male-dominated and male-centered nature. Particularly, women lacked agency and were often subjected to blame. Therefore, Tess embraces the blame and its subsequent repercussions.

The context in which Tess finds herself leaves her with no choice but to engage in an act that may go against her wishes. Despite her own desires, her autonomy holds no bearing, as she is merely seen as a means to an end. As the novel progresses, Tess becomes more assertive, resorting to violence against the one responsible for her predicament. Ultimately, she is an innocent girl led astray by a man, resulting in her condemnation.

Thus, Tess is seen as a victim in this novel. Hardy explores the role of fate, highlighting that Tess is a victim of circumstances beyond her control. Despite simply living her life as an ordinary girl, she faces mistreatment and suffers for faults she did not commit. She has no choice but to act as she does, making her a victim of her situation. Hardy aims to evoke sympathy for Tess while also narrating the unfortunate circumstances she encounters. Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a tragedy that revolves around circumstances, social and cultural norms, and the dynamics between men and women. It tells the story of a girl who remains true to herself and desires loyalty to her husband. Consequently, when she gets married, she discloses her past experiences to her husband, which becomes a pivotal aspect of the story that showcases a man acting against her wishes and taking responsibility for certain events.

On one hand, there is an innocent girl who strongly believes in faithfulness. She openly shares all the events of her first night with her husband. However, her husband responds cruelly and abandons her. It is important to note that this is not solely his fault. The husband is merely complying with the cultural and social expectations that dictate any man in his situation would act in the same manner. Thus, he feels compelled to uphold his male pride and conform to the male-dominated society’s standards.

And that is how he behaves. Consequently, Tess endures the consequences. Thus, Tess not only suffers the consequences of being seduced, but also partly pays the price for her innocence and honesty in revealing these things to her husband. Even though she could have kept it a secret and avoided any blame, she chooses to confess to him. This also means that her innocence becomes a form of entrapment for her, leaving her with no other option but to seek revenge. Death is the only remaining possibility for her, as she believes life is no longer feasible; her only choice is to die.

This paragraph discusses the idea that life’s choices are limited for the protagonist. She is unable to make decisions for herself; instead, fate determines her path. The narrative explores the theme of destiny overpowering human agency, highlighting that individuals are not in control of their own fate. Tess serves as an example of someone who falls victim to her circumstances, influenced by societal norms and practices such as male dominance and community-driven charity.

These factors greatly contribute to her overall growth, but now she is restricted from progressing further. If she tries, she will face failure and consequences as there is no way back. Hence, she remains stuck and unable to make any movement. She is trapped in a state of confusion and helplessness, making her a mere bystander of her circumstances. Consequently, she resolves to take drastic actions.

When left with no alternative, she resorts to violence, killing the man who seduced her as she holds him responsible for whatever befalls her, ultimately meeting her own fate. Violence is her only option, as other avenues of civilized behavior are closed off to her; she cannot react civilly as civilized society rejects her. Thus, violence becomes the manifestation of her self-will, a result of suppressing her personality, anger, and suffering.

The lack of sympathy and support from others leaves her feeling isolated in society. As a result, she must face the consequences of her actions alone, without acceptance from society. This leads her to resort to violence as a means of expressing her determination, ultimately leading to tragedy. If the society provided justice and empathy, this violence could have been prevented. The absence of sympathy and justice culminates in both violent and tragic outcomes.

Hardy seeks to elicit sympathy for Tess and portray her as a victim of societal and cultural norms. He presents her as someone striving to break free from negative influences but ultimately unable to do so. The novel explores the concept of tragedy through Tess’s story and poses inquiries about the nature of chastity and its definitions.

He is challenging the fundamental aspects of the aforementioned issues. He is raising questions such as: does being unchaste once mean being unchaste for life? Does being a sinner once mean being a sinner forever? Is it fair to condemn someone for a lifetime based on a single act of sin? In essence, he is advocating for a Christian perspective in a society that professes belief in Jesus and his teachings of love, compassion, and forgiveness.

Then, when a woman commits a sin, people want to kill her. He tells them to throw stones at her, but the first stone must be thrown by a person who has never committed a sin in their lifetime. Obviously, there is no one who can come forward and say that they have never sinned. So instead of taking a broad perspective, society takes a narrow view of things which is responsible for the kind of fate that Tess has to endure because it is decreed by fate to be that way.

It is predetermined that she will experience suffering as it has been decreed for her to suffer in that manner. Thus, there is no tragic flaw in Tess’s character; she is an innocent girl, her innocence is personified; she is innocent because she is chaste. Regardless of what befalls her, she remains chaste; it is those individuals who should be held accountable; she is chaste and pure. Therefore, Hardy hopes that people will empathize with her rather than condemn her. In a sense, he attempts to portray a story of a girl who is a product of circumstances, societal and cultural norms.

Due to this ethos, Tess experiences a tragic outcome. Therefore, Tess of the D’Urbervilles tells the tale of a young girl who is innocent and falls victim to her circumstances. She is seduced by a relative who takes advantage of her vulnerable position during their alone time together. As a result, she must face the consequences of her companion’s actions. This makes her an absolute victim and transforms the story into a tragedy where fate and destiny play significant roles.

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Role of Fate in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. (2017, Feb 28). Retrieved from

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