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Many critics of Thomas Hardy argue that Tess of the d’Urbervilles exhibits a fatalistic vision.  They label it the “darkest” of Hardy’s novels because the force that brings about the tragic circumstances of the characters, be it Fate or a transcendent being, is not, as it seems to be in other novels, impersonal—it is malevolent.  This reading misses the central focus of Hardy’s art.  Indeed, the characters often exhibit a fatalistic understanding of their circumstances (especially Joan Durbeyfield), but their views are set apart from those of the narrator.  The narrator instead understands that the final tragedy of the novel is brought about by human action and choice.  Each tragic event occurs as a result of the faulty decisions of one or more characters.


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