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The Development of events outside a persons control is regarded as the most basic definition of fate; the belief that a stronger power or supernatural being has the ability to change the course of one’s life and override a persons fundamental tool of refined thought and decision making. The story of Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy is one clouded in the mist of fate and destiny versus human thought and emotion.
The tragic becoming of Tess Durbeyfield can hardly be classified as the work of the devil or simply put down to the fickle fates when the protagonists own decisions as well as that of those surrounding her, alter the outcome of each day and situation throughout the novel. Furthermore the morals of society throughout the Nineteenth century blamed a woman for any form of sexual assault at the hands of a man; Tess struggles and at times, thrives throughout her life as a strong and passionate woman, however mistakes are made by each and every character within this story including the striking protagonist.
The concept that all actions have consequences is a value instilled in one’s mind at a young age; that with each decision a greater effect will shortly follow, a rule disregarded by Tess throughout the novel. Being a passionate and proud heroine Tess opted for he most honest, and virtuous path, in order to uphold these characteristics. It is these decisions that set in motion the journey to Tess’ fateful death. It can not be disputed that one of the most proud and simultaneously ignorant moments was of informing her husband, Angel Clare, of her impure past. ‘it is as serious as yours…
It can hardly be more serious,’… she entered on her story of her acquaintance with Alec D’Urberville and it’s results” (pp. 292-293, Tess of the D’Urbervilles) Such a decision caused Tess an enormous amount of grief, heartbreak and confusion instantly, first and foremost from the man whom she loved and believed that loved her also, however the social and religious conventions of the time outweighed any love Angel may have felt for Tess. “‘Tess, forgiveness does not apply to the case.
You were one person; now you are another. ’” (p. 298, Tess of the D’Urbervilles). Angel can no longer see anything except Tess’ past tragedy, and despite the fact he does not blame her, her simply is not able to love the same person. As a young women, Tess appears ignorant of men and sex and the complex world that young girls today are taught it is; she relies solely on the only older female figure in her life, her mother, and whilst her mother gives her the advice to remain silent on the subject f her rape, Tess goes against these wishes.
On no account do no say a word of your Bygone trouble to him…Many a woman… have had trouble in their time; and why should you trumpet yours when others don’t trumpet theirs?… knowing it to be your childish nature to tell all that is in your heart. ” (p. 256, Tess of the D’Urbervilles) Despite the way in which society is at the time of Tess’ rape, and the advice given from her own mother Tess makes a decision which is far bigger than any other throughout the novel.
Being raped changed Tess’ life, yet the decision to tell the one person who, in this form of society, could never know was what set in motion the tragedy and horror that followed her. Each character within the novel is interconnected, the choices, thoughts and decision produced by each one allows the story to take a different path and change that of the protagonist; within the story there are many smaller narratives taking place and each one changes the main point of interest.
Parson Tringham- a relatively minor character- plays one of the most major roles to set the journey in motion; addressing Tess’ father as Sir John and advising of the possibility of rich relations. Without this idea Tess’ life may have been a far simpler one yet the decision was made, and the story was changed. Each and every individual decision changed the course of the story; the decision of Angel’s to leave Tess and travel to Brazil when he heard her dreadful story is another that was of vital importance to Tess’ life.
I am going to Brazil alone, Izz,’ said he. I have separated from my wife for personal, not voyaging, reasons. ’… despite her love, the facts had not changed… he took the train that night for London. ” (pp. 343-344, Tess of the D’Urbervilles). Without the help of her husband, Tess struggles through tough winter labour, meets once again her assaulter and faces the death of her own father. Of course these events were never unavoidable, however in leaving Tess, Angel left her vulnerable to the likes of Alec D’Urberville and the poverty that so horridly affected her family.
Events do not purely and basically occur, nothing happens because nature intended it to; each choice, action, thought and opinion changes the course of a life and the world. Angel’s choice to leave Tess ultimately meant she was faced with another difficult decision to become Alec’s ‘creature’ of sorts, and save her family from starvation and severe poverty. “‘Tess!… can you forgive me for going away? ’ ‘It is too late… You did not come! He kept saying you would never come… I hate him now… these clothes are what he’s put on me. ’” (p. 66, Tess of the D’Urbervilles). Through the decisions of each character, Tess ultimately is positioned in a terrible state of affairs that has been affected and changed by the characters of the story. “‘Ah- it is my fault! ’ Said Clare. But he could not go on. Speech was as inexpressive as silence. ” (p. 467, Tess of the D’Urbervilles) Upon finding Tess in such a position when he returns to regain her love, Angel blames himself for the predicament despite Alec’s clear despicable actions. And this blame is just yet cannot be carried purely on the men.
Saint Thomas Aquinas states “far be it from the hearts of the faithful to think that fate is anything real” (P. 1, God and the Order of Creation); Aquinas instead believes that the power of the human mind is what creates a situation or a belief across the world (God and the Order of Creation). This statement reflects the narrative of Tess of the D’Urbervilles and the way in which characters change the course of the story by their choices. However the morals and values of society at the time affected the thinking of everyone, a matter reflected particularly in the dominant male characters of the story.
The Victorian era had many ideals and values foreign to the modern world, particularly in the case of equality and the role of women. At the time Hardy was writing Tess of the D’Urbervilles there was much change brought about concerning women’s rights and ideals, “hysterical forces unleashed by the suffragette movement represented a challenge to the Victorian status quo. The role and status of women were being redefined, and writers such as Hardy… were intimately involved in that redefinition. ” (p. 8, Tess of the D’Urbervilles Second Edition)
The belief that purity was of the utmost important was upheld by majority of the higher class in England at this time, having a clear impact on the difficulty for Tess to deal with what is already a demoralizing, horrid deflowering. Angel in particular has issues dealing with the news as he has been brought up taught that nothing can compare to a pure and virtuous women, which the women he loves is not; “the traditional Victorian ideal/norms of femininity emphasized the belief that the most important principle for a women was that of purity. (p. 18, Tess of the D’Urbervilles Second Edition) As this belief was instilled into society, Tess’ own lower class society would not accept her situation, the church refusing her son a true Christian burial. “‘Then you will give him a Christian burial? ’…‘I must not- for certain reasons’… “I’ll never come to your church no more! ’” (p. 125, Tess of the D’Urbervilles) The values of society had a major impact on the way in which Tess’ life preceded her, and influenced so much how she was treated and expected to act.
Fate is a belief system similar to that of religion, a concept and a notion- nothing more. The way in which people act and think is what truly affects the lives of people around the world, and this is reflected in the fictional world of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Characters make choices as the writer decides to shape a story and a journey, to create a world that portrays reality so succinctly; the characters within this narrative form their own lives and make their own decisions leaving nothing, even the most tragic becoming, up to fate.