What happens before and after this quote in Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and what is its significance to the book? "Justice was done and the president of the immortals in eschylean phrase had ended...

What happens before and after this quote in Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and what is its significance to the book? "Justice was done and the president of the immortals in eschylean phrase had ended his sport with Tess."

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quote is not only all-important to Tess but also to Hardy's overruling philosophy.  In Tess, right before the all-seeing narrator makes the aforementioned observation about justice, Tess was executed for the "murder" of Alec.  Most readers would argue that she did not truly murder Alec, but that is insignificant at this point in the novel.

After the quote, Tess's true love Angel Clare and Tess's sister, Liza-Lu, lift up their heads, join hands, and walk away. Tess had asked Angel to look after her sister and hoped that they would marry; so they appear to be carrying out her wishes.

The significance of the quote lies in Hardy's fatalistic view of life.  He thought that all suffering was ultimately meaningless and that no matter what humans do, they have no true control of their destinies. For Hardy, God or whoever is in control of justice sports with human lives and cares nothing about their emotions or trials. Thus, when Tess dies, her ancestors do not even care enough to roll over in their graves, and her former lover and sister simply "went on," implying that they will "endure" life as Tess did with no real sense of direction or passion.

Readers see this portrayal of a flirtatious, sporting Providence in most of Hardy's works (Return of the Native, Jude the Obscure, etc.), because his characters eventually have no control over their fate.  The variety in his works lies only in how much a character struggles to overcome his or destiny or the number of poor choices he or she will make before succumbing to the undeniable.  Rather depressing, huh?!

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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