How does Hardy determine his protagonist’s lives are determined by Fate?

Tess of the d’Urberville’s ” A Pure Woman” and The Mayor of Caterbridge “The life andDeath of a Man of Character” are novels written by Thomas Hardy. First published 1886 and 1891 they were the fulfilment of the great tragic novels set in and around the rural Wessex countryside. In these novels Hardy presents a number of different themes within his novels including Fate which most often determines his proganist’s lives.

 Hardy introduces the idea of Fate with Tess of the d’Urbervilles’s in the first chapter and phase of this novel when he introduces John d’urberville, Tess’s father, who while returning from market day in Shaston by chance meets Parson Tringham. This chance meeting could be regarded as the foundation in which Tess’s fate has been decided, as the parson tells her father of the ancient and Knightly family lineage of the d’Urberville’s. This allows Hardy to use Fate as a main theme for his protagonist Tess who has not yet been introduced to us the reader. However her future has been set in motion by what seems to be a coincidental meeting, and the information given to her father would allow her parents the opportunity to look for Kinship, sending Tess off to live and work for this supposedly noble family of d’Urberville’s. ” I tried her fate in the fortune-teller, and it brought out that very thing” (Hardy, addition,1993, p.21). Tess’s mother is superstitious she puts so much faith in this book to prophesy Tess’s future, the book has told her that Tess will marry a gentleman, this is the pefect excuse to send her daughter off in search of kinship in the hope of a grand marriage.

Hardy would inject the same sence of fate within The Mayor of Casterbridge, again in the first chapter and phase but with the main protagonist himself. Michael Henchard would sell his wife and daughter to a sailor while under the influence of alcohol, the next morning when he realises the horrendous act that he has commited ” She’s gone to be sure she is gone with the sailor who bought her and Elizabeth-Jane. We walked here and i had the furmity, and rum in it and sold her”. ( Hardy addition 2003, p16). Henchard would promptly set off in search of his sold off family, stopping by a church along the way to swear an oath on the Holy Book to stay clear of alcohol for the ” space of twenty years” a year for every year lived. Eventually giving up his search he then travels on to the town of Casterbridge where he would become an influential part of the community in becoming towns Mayor. Henchard’s fate is sealed when he enters this tent in search of food for his family, he consumes many bowls of furmity that have been laced with rum, even after his wife Susan had steered him away from the alcohol knowing how her husband behaves, Fate has intervened and ensured he would get drunk.

Other examples which Hardy would use fate as a way of determining his protagonist’s fate can be seen in chapter five of  Tess of the d’Urbervilles when Tess meets Alec d’Urberville the son of the lady to which she would be working for, and who she would explain the whole tragic incident surrounding the loss of the family horse Prince which she herself felt responsible. “ I Killed him” (Hardy, addition, 1993, p.35). Unbeknown to Tess that telling him of her troubles would encourage him to write to her family in his mothers name inviting her to stay and work for them. As fate would have it Alec her supposedly noble family member would eventually be the cause of the most horrific, emotional and physical hardship she would encounter in her short life.  Alec would take advantage of Tess’s innocence by raping her resulting in her pregnancy, and although Hardy avoids examining to what extent she was compliant, by his reference to the “primal yews”, “roosting birds”, and “hopping birds” (Hardy addition, 1993, p.65). He stresses the naturalness of the event and with the wider significance the inexplicable injustice and cruelty of fate as we the readers know how and why she came to be with Alec. Although the most tragic cicumstances any young woman should encounter, she returns home to her parents unwed and with child, and then with the unfortunate death of said child which Tess, would name and baptise herself without the blessing of anyone other than her younger siblings. “sorrow I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. (Hardy addition, 1993, p.83). With this incident Hardy continues to allow us to believe that his young protagonist’s life is fated as no-one person should suffer this amount of bad luck.  Hardy shows a fighting spirit within his protagonist when she decides to travel once again to work at a dairy farm Talbothays as a milkmaid. Here we would encounter a more experienced Tess as a character who would see this as a fresh start, a new beginning and ultimately a time of happiness for her, she has taken fate into her own hands by making this journey not because she feels a sense of guilt or responsibility towards her parents, but for her own happiness and reasons.

We also see these changes with Michael Henchard in the Mayor with the introduction of Donald Farfrae, the Mayor has experienced some rough times with his corn harvest resulting in bad bread throughout the village, this being due to extremely bad weather. Donald Farfrae’s introduction to the story brings about good fortune and a solution to the Mayor’s crop troubles but Farfrae does not intend staying in Casterbridge his plans are to travel onto America. However the Mayor intends on convincing Farfrae to stay on to manage his crop buisness, he believes his appearance is a sign of fate in which he will save his yearly crops. “ For Hardy, Fate is blind, arbitrary and merciless and always brings misery, pain, sorrow and suffering in this novel”. (Hardy, addition 2003). Henchard brings his fate upon himself  as after much persuasion he convinces Farfrae to stay and employs him, this is an ironic twist of fate as one day it will be Farfrae who employs Henchard. Henchard, as a magistrate is in court the day when the woman who sold him the fumity laced with rum is on trial. This event would cause Henchard so much misery and suffering and would change his life forever.

At Talbothays Tess from Tess of the d’Urberville’s would meet new friends, people who new nothing of her past and of course the second man to enter her life Mr Angel Clare. Hardy introduces Angel as a well educated preacher’s son who takes an instant liking for Tess, but he also foreshadows their relationship, as we the reader know Angel and Tess have already met in the first few chapters of the book, when Angel and his brothers had passed through the village of Merlott on the day of the May Day Dance, Angel had stopped to dance with a young lady of the village. Tess falls in love with Angel and they eventually set a date to be married, but once again the idea that this young protagonist’s life is fated with Tess’s own guilt that she is not a Pure Woman because of her past with Alec and Sorrow, she feels this must be divulged to Angel so she writes him a letter and posts it through his door, but as fate will have it Angel completely misses the letter that has been hidded behind the door. She is hopelessly in love with Angel, and on the night of their wedding decides to confess her past to him, which proves to be one of her greatest sacrifices as Tess’s worst fear comes true, Angel cannot accept the truth of what he hears he will not accept it. “ Am I to believe this? From your manner I am to take this as true. O you cannot be out of your mind! You ought to be!”. (Hardy, addition 1993, p.199). His idealistic vision of Tess has been destroyed, and his rejection of Tess would leave her distraught and again returning to her parents without a husband while Angel himself  would leave her and travel to Brazil.

 Hardy’s final reference to Tess’s tragic life as she is hanged for her crime, the murder of Alec d’Urberville illustrates his progonist’s lives are fated, here he reveals that “justice was done, and the president of the immortals, in Aeschylean phase, has ended his sport with Tess”. ( Hardy, addition 1993, p.350). This is Hardy’s final reference to Tess’s tragic life it would seem she has simply been a game or a sport for the people around her to play out, how ironic that it should be with her recieving justice for her crimes against the very man who has caused her nothing but heartache and tragedy from the very begining, throughout this novel nothing about Tess’s life has been fair or just, it has simply been an avalanche of tragedy that has caused Tess’s fate not by her own ambition but by then actions of others.

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