What is the role of the fate in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles?

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

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Near the beginning of the novel, Joan, Tess's mother, consults a book called The Fortune Tellerwhich leads her to believe that her daughter could marry a nobleman. This leads her to say to her husband, "I tried her fate in the Fortune-Teller, and it brought out that very thing!...You should ha' seen how pretty she looked to-day; her skin is as sumple as a duchess'" (12). This referenceĀ of consulting a type of magazine is typical of the lower social classes of the day and it is also a foreshadowing of what is to come. However, just believing that marrying a nobleman will fix it so a girl will have a wonderful life is completely the opposite of what actually happens to Tess. From Homer to Shakespeare, anyone believes that a character will end up happy due to Fate's prophecy is usually disappointed. Tess does marry a nobleman, but it doesn't turn out happy for her. Characters in stories seem to focus on the end result rather than the journey and this is where Fate is tricky. Through Tess experiencing one disappointing set-back to another, Hardy shows that Fate is more about the journey rather than the end result. Tess is a figure pitted against the Victorian society in which she finds herself living as a victim, but she never truly knows it.


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