Jacques the Fatalist and His Master

by Denis Diderot

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The story starts with Jacques and his Master embarking on a journey. They face a series of unfortunate events as their horse takes off. They stay at an inn and end up getting robbed. These events, and many more, become examples of fate. Jacques describes them as predetermined and out of their control. To further explicate this point, there are several additional journeys that are described by the characters. Each journey is interrupted by an occurrence out of their control. This further exemplifies the philosophical doctrine of determinism. Jacques shares the story of how he was wounded in the army and was left bleeding on farm land. He was rescued and underwent surgery. He then proceeds to fall in love. This rambling storyline is interrupted many times by Jacques’s own thoughts and other characters. Jacques finally gets through his story line and introduces the young woman he loves. However, this interaction is paused by a disagreement between Jacques and his Master over who is in charge. The Master now has the opportunity to share his own love story. It is a sad story and in which he ends up having to care for a son that was not his. We learn that the pair are traveling to trade the son. Suddenly a former friend who betrayed the Master appears and they fight. The Master ends up fleeing and Jacques is put in prison. Jacques’s friend frees him from jail and reunites him with his Master and love.

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