Tess of the D'Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the D'Urbervilles Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Tess was now carried along upon the wings of the hours, without the sense of a will. The word had been given; the number of the day written down. Her naturally bright intelligence had begun to admit the fatalistic convictions common to the field-folk and those who associate more extensively with natural phenomena than with their fellow-creatures; and she accordingly drifted into that passive responsiveness to all things her lover suggested, characteristic of the frame of mind. (32.24)
This passage is important both to the idea of "Time" in the novel, and to the theme of "Fate and Free Will." Tess has named the date of the wedding, and has lost any sense of agency in the matter. Now all she can do is wait, "passive[ly]," for the wedding to take place. It's out of her hands, and she's given up personal responsibility for it.
This incident had turned the scale for her. They were simple and innocent girls on whom the unhappiness of unrequited love had fallen; they had deserved better at the hands of Fate. (34.72)
When Tess hears the bad news about Retty's attempted suicide and Marian's drunkenness, she blames it on "the hand of Fate." Sure, the two girls were disappointed, but blaming fate for a suicide attempt and the decision to forget her troubles by getting blistered shifts the responsibility onto an abstract idea.
'Decrepit families postulate decrepit wills, decrepit conduct.' (35.61).
Angel blames Tess's past (i.e., her rape) on the fact that she comes from a "decrepit" family. Broken-down families create people with broken-down wills – people who can't think and act for themselves. So Angel seems to be coming down pretty firmly on the side of "free will" for the reason of Tess's rape, and he's putting an awful lot of the blame on the side of her "will," as opposed to Alec's. We all know that Tess's "will" and wishes weren't consulted at all by Alec, but Angel assumes that they were, and that she complied.