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.