Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Coincidences Lead to Consequences

of the d'Urbervilles: Coincidences Lead to Consequences

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 until her wedding day, when
she decided to tear up the letter and not let him know of her past.

Once again, a major coincidence has changed

Tess's life and