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Tess of the D
Thomas Hardy, who believed that we are all in the inescapable hands of fate,
thrives on hap throughout Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Through this
characteristic, Hardy is able to develop the heroine of the novel, Tess
Durbeyfield. Hap plays a role in fate, coincidence, bad luck, and accidents
throughout the novel.
Hardy begins the novel with early distinctions of fate. When Angel Clare, who
is briefly introduced in the beginning of the novel, sets his eyes on Tess
Durbeyfield, he feels a connection with her immediately:
“ As he fell out of the dance, his eyes lighted on Tess Durbeyfield, whose
own large orbs wore, to tell the truth, the faintest aspect of reproach that he
had not chosen her. He, too, was sorry then that, owing to her backwardness, he
had not observed her; and with that in his mind he left the pasture.”(12)
Hardy’s description of the visual encounter between Tess and Angel
foreshadows that the pair will indeed meet again in their predestined pathway of
life. Hardy also focuses on the attraction presented between Tess and Angel. The
attraction proves to foreshadow the importance of the early relations that they
“This white shape stood apart by the hedge alone. From her position he knew
it to be the pretty maiden with whom he had not danced… She was so modest, so
expressive, she had looked so soft in her thin white gown that he felt he had
acted stupidly.” (12)
Angel’s actions of ignoring Tess are portrayed as part of who he is. He
wished that he had inquired the unknown about Tess when he had the chance at the
dance. However, he does not venture to find out any information about this
peasant girl. Angel’s action parallel the future event when Tess wants to
confess her sins to Angel. He chose to ignore her until they are married and
settled, leading them more towards their fated marital downfall.
“ I am so anxious to talk to you- I want to confess all my faults and
“No, no- we can’t have faults talked of- you must be deemed perfect
to-day at least, my Sweet!” (208)
Angel realized that Tess was hurt by this oversight at the dance. This
parallels when Angel would not forgive her for her sins of her past, proving
that fate had the upper hand in their relationship.
“Trifling as the matter was, he yet instinctively felt that she was hurt by
his oversight. He wished that he had asked her; he wished that he had inquired
her name. However, it could not be helped, and turning, and bending himself to a
rapid walk, he dismissed the subject from his mind.”(12)
Upon first seeing Tess at the church dance, Angel ignores his feelings for
her in the same manner as he did after Tess confesses her past with Alec d’Urberville.
Tess decided not to visit the Clares’ because she overhead Felix and
Cuthbert Clare’s vicious thoughts regarding her. Tess ventured on to find work
at Flintcomb-Ash. While leaving she heard a preacher, and visited the barn where
he was presenting his sermon. She recognized the preacher to be Alec d’Urberville.
“The three o’clock sun shone full upon him, and the strange enervating
conviction that her seducer confronted her, which had been gaining ground in
Tess ever since she had heard his words distinctly, was at last established as a
Utilizing coincidence, Hardy had Tess and Alec meet again. Although their
brief encounter was only a mere coincidence, this reunion played a large role in
the future of Tess’s temperance and tenacity. Tess advanced on to Flintcomb-Ash.
She found work and with the consent of the Master’s wife she began her labor
immediately. Tess met the master of Flintcomb-Ash. She immediately realized that
he was coincidentally the same man whom Angel hit at the Inn and the man she
fled from in the forest. Her new master, Farmer Groby, was the same man who
insulted her through harassing her about her past.
“Presently they heard the muffled tread of a horse, and the farmer rode up
to the barn-door. When he had dismounted he came close to Tess, and remained
looking musingly at the side of her face. She had not turned at first, but his
fixed attitude led her to look round, when she perceived that her employer was
the native of Trantridge from whom she had taken flight on the high-road because
of his allusion to her history”(285-6).
Hardy’s description of the dairy’s dreary atmosphere coincidentally
depicts the harsh treatment Tess received from
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