In the final paragraph of Tess of the D 'Urbervilles, Hardy reiterates his principal theme with an overtness that has caused some critics to regret his heavy-handedness: the "President of the Immortals, in the Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess." In the serial version, the statement was even more overt: "'Justice' was done, and Time, the Arch-satirist, had had his joke out with Tess." What Hardy is describing is of course Tess's being hanged for murdering Alec D'Urberville, and with this portentous clause he revisits the question of determinism that has been woven in several ways throughout the novel. While the clause provides a fitting hyperbole to express the degree to which Tess as an innocent woman was the victim of a piously hypocritical and repressive society, it also inadvertently begs the question of personal responsibility. If, after all, Tess's fate was mapped out by the "President of the Immortals," indubitably one of the "purblind doomsters" of Hardy's great poem "Hap," her story can only evoke sorrow that she is the victim of undeserved misfortune. It is, however, the case that while misfortune dogs Tess's path at every turn and events as well as individuals seem to conspire against her happiness, Tess of the D'Urbervilles is a traditionally tragic meditation on the relation between personal responsibility and unavoidable necessity.
Like most of Hardy's novels, Tess of the D 'Urbervilles is at the plot level...
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