How does Providence become necessary in Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'urbervilles?

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Providence, God, divine intervention, are all up for interpretation in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'ubervilles; but, for Tess, the question of whether or not God is necessary to her is continually debated throughout the novel. As a youth, she follows her parents and society to go to church and follow its ways. After returning home from Alec's as a pregnant youth, though, Tess discovers that maybe God can't be found at church. For example, within 4 paragraphs, Tess goes from feeling drawn to church to find solace and peace, to feeling like an outcast and rejected by all who attend the church.

  She liked to hear the chanting--such as it was--and the old Psalms, and to join in the Morning Hymn. That innate love of melody, which she had inherited from her ballad-singing mother, gave the simplest music power over her which could well-nigh drag her heart out of her bosom at times. . .

. . .She knew what their whispers were about, grew sick at heart, and felt that she could come to church no more (52).

Clearly, at a time when Tess needed Providence, it was denied her by society. It is at this point of solitude that she must find strength and Providence within herself in order to carry on. It seems that Hardy is suggesting that one cannot truly find Providence when it is necessary in a person's life if s/he looks for it on the outside; in fact, one must look for it on the inside.

Tess goes through numerous difficulties throughout the story where she is left alone to fight her battles without help from anyone. Her stubbornness creates this at times, too however, by her refusing to accept help from those who have spitefully used her. In the end, she does her best to accept Providence from within and not from without.


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