Studiu de specialitate – Free will in ”Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy

Autor: prof. Teiușanu Cristina
Liceul Tehnologic Vedea, Argeș

”Tess of the D’Urbervilles, A Pure Woman, Faithfully Presented’’ is a protest against society, a novel where Hardy writes about: the will to recover, the growth of love, faith, frail, happiness and death.
Here, the struggle of the main character begins after she is seduced by Alec D’Urbervilles, something that can be considered fatal or at least as the ending of all her hopes and future happiness. Fate seems to play a very important role in Tess’s tragic life, leaving her no chance for redemption. She sees her misfortunes to be so great that she finds no other solution than that of killing the man she considers responsible for much of her sufferings, at the same time sentencing herself to death.
Tess Durbeyfield is an intelligent, sensitive, scrupulous young woman and a strikingly attractive one. However, aside from her physical and moral qualities, she is still portrayed as a representative of  the lower class and of her own sex. Tess is isolated from the urban world, and spends her whole life in rural areas, working on farms to support herself and her own family. Being a woman and belonging to the working class makes Tess be more vulnerable. She is subjective and limited to a very few social roles, being considered only an unskilled labourer and a sexual object by men in her society. Still, in her innocence she shows determination and the will to fulfill herself by loving and trusting one man.
Throughout the novel, there is a sense of inescapable destiny as often characters are driven to act for reasons they themselves have not chosen. Thus, in the novel, Hardy explores the concept of fate versus free will, as he demonstrates the way in which fate plays an important role in every event that takes place.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles raises a series of questions among which the most important are what a woman would be like and how she would act without male oppression, if she were allowed to be herself, able to make choices freely, planning her own life and thus, being totally responsible for those choices; in other words enjoying free will.Tess proves that, no matter the difficulties she is forced to face, she can be strong and opinioned. She is not afraid to speak out her mind and face the possible consequences when she wants to give her baby a Christian burial in the churchyard.
When the vicar denies her that right, Tess exclaims: ‘’Then I don’t like you! And I’ll never come to your church no more! …
Don’t for God’s sake speak as saint to sinner, but as you yourself to me myself-poor me! ‘’ showing that she can see straight through him and remain true to her convictions, while the vicar feels cornered.
In the end, Tess baptizes her dying baby, Sorrow, as she is firmly convinced that there will be no future for an illegitimate child and for an unmarried mother, considering the rules of the society she lives in. Moreover, Tess shows that she can overcome the tragedy of losing her baby and that she is strong enough to recover, if given the chance, when she goes to Talbothay’s Dairy, where she meets Angel Claire. By killing Alec, Tess frees herself from the man who destroyed her life and she allows herself and Angel a few days of happiness together. She makes the decision aware of the consequences, feeling that she owes this to herself and to Angel.
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