Controversial novels Essay
Argued to be one of Hardy’s most controversial novels, published in 1891 during an era when the underprivileged classes of society, were submissive to superstitious beliefs in particular those such as luck spiritual beings and ultimately fate which were the foundations of lower class civilisation, Tess of the D’Urbervilles presents a story of Fate toying with the life of the Heroine Tess. Fate is an influential part of the plot because it is what dictates her life.
Events in the beginning of the novel begin a domino effect that cannot be reverse, thus Her fate is already chosen and all she can do is live through the events that happen to her. Whilst Walkers Colour purple is written during an era of gender social and racial inequalities narrated through Celie whose life consisting of an abundance of obstacles refuses to give into the Fate which determined the lives of poor uneducated black females during the 1930s. What exactly is Fate, is it in our personalities, actions and character or are our lives controlled by a supposed force or power which predetermines events in our life’s, meaning regardless of what we do we are unable to change our destiny.
This theme is explored thoroughly by Thomas Hardy through his heroine Tess who is portrayed as a victim of fate throughout the novel, chance and coincidence bring about disasters in the novel that we can claim occur due to fate, it appears the main characters are subject to forces beyond their control.
The author employs a very fatalistic plot throughout the novel making Tess endure whatever is thrown at her . In the first chapter of the book the horse Prince dies, this is seen as Tess’ fault as she falls as sleep due to being exhausted, this happens at night when the weather is very depressed. Hardy uses pathetic fallacy by claiming the ‘atmosphere’ was pale, this makes the reader feel tension and also an expectation of tragedy . This scene is similar to that of the one at the chase when Alec finds Tess unconscious and may have raped her which is ultimately up to speculation.
It is clear that Hardy uses the death of prince to create a sense of foreboding as this episode and the one at the chase are extremely similar, on both occasions Tess has fallen asleep due to tiredness and also the weather is used as an indication for what is to follow. From this we can question whether these events are down to fate and also ask if Hardy pre-determines Tess’ fate and future through her early actions thus her future is unalterable so there is nothing she can do to change.
This has lead to the critic The Irvine Howe has writing: ‘May we see her purely as a victim, like the white horse, the pheasants, the animals who are killed at harvest time? Hers is a poor wounded name’ This supports The interpretation that Tess’ life was controlled by Fate the just like the events in the novel such as the horses death and the death of the pheasants which all acted as a sense of foreboding and events which pre determine Tess death. Towards the latter stages of the novel during chapter 46, Hardy again emphasises the significant role Fate has played in Tess’ life and misfortunes.
Firstly at the bottom of page 320 Tess states… “How can I pray for you?… When I am forbidden to believe that the great power who moves the world would alter his plans on my account? ” Tess is telling Alec that she has lost her belief in God as her prayers do not move him. Therefore she is indicating this is happening because God already has his plans made and what she wants makes no difference because she is not important enough for him to change them, thus empowering the element of Fate and it’s restrictions on her ability to change.
Alice Walker, author of ‘The Colour Purple’ approaches the theme of Fate and destiny in a similar way to Hardy to a certain extent, in ‘The Colour Purple’ the character Celie goes through a series of events at the beginning of the novel, she is raped by her father on several occasions is forced to give away the children that she conceived through him then her sister Nettie is forced to leave the home in which Celie lives due to her Husband Mr… , but later on in the novel we learn that Nettie is now living with the family that adopted her sister’s children.
This shows that Alice Walker purposely portrayed Celie’s life as a victim of Fate, but gives her character an opportunity to resist this fate which results in a positive outcome for Celie. Its possible to say that Walker highlights the fact that although we may be victims of Fate we are able to control this Fate and our, she does this by showing that Celie is in fact not a victim of fate and unlike Tess her own actions are what allow her to change her destiny.
We can say this because Celie confides in God through her letters, giving her hope and belief and she restrains herself from killing the man who has brought her pain and suffering, Mr… , unlike Tess . Celies ability to change and prevent Fate from controlling her life is ultimately down to the letters she writes to God, she tells her sister Nettie…
“Long as I can spell G-o-d I got somebody along” She believes she is never alone or hopeless as long as she has God in her life, writing to God gives her hope, this hope is what helps her overcome the negative aspects of her Fatalistic path that seemed as though her life would be controlled by abusive males that would drive her to murder her husband just like Tess did. On the other hand Tess’ Fate is once again predetermined by Hardy in chapter 41 when she stumbles upon dying pheasents and puts them out of their misery by bringing their inevitable deaths to an end prematurely…
“Poor darlings-to suppose myself the most miserable being on earth in the sight o’ such misery as yours! ” she exclaimed, her tears running down as she killed the birds tenderly. ” This Fatalistic event represents Tess’ destiny as she to will die due to her neck breaking as she will later be hung, Hardy uses this sense of foreboding once again signifying the belief that her character is her Fate, she is unable to change this, nothing she does will alter it.
Similarly but with a contrasting outcome, in Colour Purple Fate re-emerges as killin Mr… begins to dawn on Celies mind. “How I’m gon keep from killing him… Naw I think I feel better if I kill him, I say I feels sickish. Numb, now. ” Mr… has abused Celie to the extent that she contemplates killing him, at this stage of the book readers are likely to speculate whether Fate has chosen this path for Tess, is this her destiny? Will she have to emulate Tess’ action to end her misfortunes?
Or will she be able to alter her Fate through her hope in God and rational actions? Although she doesn’t go on to murder Mr… , through God and her companion Celie she finds the courage to speak up against Mr… and leave him, ultimately changing her Fate which is something Tess was unable to do… “You a low down dog is what’s wrong. It’s time to leave you and enter into the creation. And your dead body just the welcome mat I need. ” Here Walker shows her strength and courage obtained through her hope in God.
The authors use of foreboding throughout the novel can be seen as a representative of fate, Hardy believed that what happened to us was a product of our personality, class, status and the way in which we view life therefore Tess’ pride and her concern for Angels reputation after he leaves her prevents her from seeking help at an early stage of her troubles can be seen as her own actions but in Hardy’s view our own actions were down to fate , she ends up confiding in Alec which leads to disaster. From this we can question whether Tess’ actions lead to her downfall or was it Fate?
This is demonstrated at the beginning of the final paragraph, hardy writes… ” ‘Justice’ was done, the president of immortals had ended his sport with Tess. ” Hardy is telling us Fate has finished playing with its victim, Tess. He may have done this to further draw attention to his beliefs that we are subject to a immoral force beyond our control that we are forced to endure and that religion does not have bearing on any events in our life. This is a viewpoint that was developed by critic Irving Howe who too believed Tess’ fate had already been predetermined, Proposing this is why Hardy named the final phase of the novel ‘fulfilment’.
Furthermore, another way Hardy depicts Tess as a victim of Fate is through the language he uses, particularly in the last phase of the novel as he named it ‘fulfilment’ thus this is a play on words as we are left to question what has been fulfilled. It is possible to say Hardy believed Fate had been fulfilled it had played it’s role in bringing Tess to her tragic downfall. Walker presents Celie as a victim of Fate like Hardy does Tess, however Walker stresses the point that we are able to change our Fate and destiny, this is significant as the colour purple which is the colour of the purple flowers represent spirituality & hope.
She is almost trying to convey the message that, Fate can be overcome as long as hope is present, where as Hardy purposely doesn’t give Tess any chance of overcoming her Fate, he deliberately does this to assert his negative view on religion, Walker gives her character hope through God, this is what enables Celie to overcome her so called ‘Fate’ or ‘Destiny’ whilst Hardy’s pessimistic belief of religion deters him from doing this.
Through his novels Hardy repeatedly articulated that chance and coincidence that bring about disaster are ultimately Fate, thus he empowers his belief through Tess that characters are subject to forces beyond their control. This is similar to another of his novels, ‘The Return of the Native. ‘ Throughout The Return of the Native bad things happen to good people, this is a depiction of his atheist perception that God does not exist and if there is a God it is lacking in morals, because good people, such as Tess are the victims of bad events and tragedy in life due to Fate. Like Hardy himself said… ‘Once a victim, always a victim of fate. ‘