Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Coincidences Lead to Consequences

Angelica

The belief that the order of things is already decided and that people's lives are determined by this "greater power" is called fate. Many people, called fatalists, believe in this and that they have no power in determining their futures. Despite this, many others believe that coincidence is the only explanation for the way their lives and others turn out. Thomas Hardy portrays chance and coincidence as having very significant roles in "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" continuously. Three such coincidences were quite influential and had large effects on Tess's future. The first being that Tess Durbeyfield's father, discovered that their family came from the oldest, (and at one time) most wealthiest family in England. Another event that occurs by mere chance in Tess's life is when Tess slips a letter of confession underneath both her lover's door and (by accident) the carpet, where he could not see it. The final coincidence would be the death of Tess's father, which not only leaves Tess in a state of deprivation, but also the rest of her family including her mother and six siblings. All of these coincidences had consequences that would change Tess's life,.

For the first sixteen years of her life, Tess Durbeyfield and her family lived in a middle-class-like situation in the town of Marlott. Since her father, was a life-holder on the cottage in which they lived, his rank was above the farm laborers. However, John Durbeyfield is not in good health when we meet him and he does not put much interest in working, and instead spends time drinking. Upon returning to his home one evening, Durbeyfield meets a man named Parson Tringham who tells him that the Durbeyfield family is the "lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles, who . . . came from Normandy with William the Conqueror."(p. 18) This news suddenly changes Durbeyfield's view on his family's lifestyle and he decides that they should be living as their knightly and noble ancestors once did.

With this new lifestyle in mind for his family, John's wife, Joan Durbeyfield recalls that a man by the name of d'Urberville lives not far from their home and might be able to help them in their hard times, seeing as how he is kin to them. After the death of their only horse, the Durbeyfield family must do something to sustain themselves, but Mr. Durbeyfield refuses to sell the horse for food money due to his newfound d'Urberville pride. "'When we d'Urbervilles was knights in the land, we didn't sell our chargers for cat's meat.'" (p. 45) So, the family sends their eldest daughter, Tess to see if the d'Urberville family would help them, with side hopes of Tess possibly marrying a gentleman and restoring their family's status. This single decision, of sending Tess to the d'Urberville, and making her leave the sheltered life and town of Marlott that she had known for so long would be the change in her life that would lead to so many other events for her. Had Tess not been sent to the d'Urberville home, she would not have met Alec nor would she have bore his child out of wedlock and her life would have been completely different.

After her son died, Tess's shame overtook her and she left her birthplace of Marlott to find work at a dairy called Talbothay's. Here, she told nothing of her past and only came to work, where the surroundings were peaceful, calm and quite lush in vegetation. After much delay and postponement, Tess would accept the marriage proposal of a co-worker named Angel Clare, who was in love with her. Knowing that if Angel ever found out about her past, she would feel horrible, Tess decides that before they get married, she would tell him. "Declare the past to him by word of mouth she could not, but there was another way. She sat down and wrote . . . a succinct narrative of those events of three or four years ago, put it into an envelope, and directed it to Clare."(p.226) Despite this lengthy four-page letter, Tess's confession did not reach Angel Clare. By pure chance, her letter was not only slipped underneath his door and into his room, but also slipped underneath his carpet, where he could not see it. However, Tess did not discover this