Understanding of Fate in Stories Essay

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Fate in Literature

Stories whether they are presented in film, printed or orally spoken all share important commonalities. One of the important shared elements amongst stories that have been around for hundreds maybe even thousands of years in literature is the role of fate within the stories. Fate in literature can be broadly defined as the power, influence or will of a superior or supernatural force that stages and predetermines events in the voyage of a the main character in the story (Princeton.edu).

A classic example of this is the tragedy written by Sophocles, the infamous tale of Oedipus Rex a king who desperately seeks to outrun, challenge and contradict fate, but is unable to because the supernatural forces above him (The Gods), have predetermined and staged inevitable events in his life. Fate is a very interesting topic to explore as it relates to stories because it challenges the notion of free will. This is important because many times specially in adventures or epics, free will is closely related and associated with concepts of uncertainty, adventure both of which provide excitement. If a person believes that fate is inevitable, then it takes away from the excitement of the story because it ultimately takes away meaning and value from the decisions that characters make.

On the other hand fate can also be considered a blessing or a positive thing, maybe even source of comfort because both readers of a story as well as characters within the story can rid themselves of guilt and disappoint and place the responsibility of the final story outcome on supernatural forces beyond their control. In order for fate to be analyzed and explored critics of literature must accept that there are forces beyond their control at work. It can be compared to a show of puppets on strings, where a puppeteer is above all the characters controlling them while at the same time providing the illusion to the crowd that these characters or puppets have free will. In order to consider fate within stories we must accept that there are supernatural forces above the characters. In earlier works of literature especially those that are of ancient Greek origin, the supernatural forces at play that determine fate are easy to identify and point out. The same can be said for Medieval and Renaissance literature which was heavily influenced by Christianity, in these two categories of literature it appears that God is the determining and supernatural force behind faith. In more contemporary and modern forms of literature that include films, the determining factors or influence behind fate are more diversified and complex. Beginning primarily in the Victorian Era of literature, social and cultural issues began to be explored and written about. In these less emphasize was placed on "super natural" forces relative to spiritually and faith. Instead social, economic, cultural and governmental systems now became the determining factors and forces behind of fate.

Fate plays itself out in a curious manner during the 1986 film The Mission, which was directed by Roland Joffe. During this film fate plays an important role because it determines the destiny of the characters and ultimately the outcome of the film. As pointed out before if a story is written during or set in earlier times such as the 1700's, it is likely that Christianity determines the fate of the character. The setting of this film is contemporary enough, to be touched by cultural, political and social factors when trying to identify the supernatural forces behind faith. Essentially fate is determined by a combination of strong spiritual, political and social forces that each claims their part in sealing the fate of characters within the film.

Take for example the character of Rodrigo Mendoza in the beginning of the film he is an evil, inconsiderate, murderous and slave trader. He shows no mercy for the indigenous people, he is in essence operating without a conscience. Conventional wisdom and literary and film history tells the viewers of the film that his fate will likely end up being a terrible one. After all, this film is very strongly influenced by the philosophy of Christianity which more or less states that if you are evil and you sin you will be punished, but if you repent you will be redeemed. Contemporary films and story also tell us that many times your spiritual state or good deeds have little to do with your ultimate faith. Both of these notions or theories regarding fate are proven true through Rodrigo Mendoza in the film.

Mendoza's evil nature begins to change when he discovers the affair between his brother Felipe and his soon to be wife Carlotta. Rodrigo is so outraged that he kills his own brother in a duel. After Mendoza kills his brother he spirals into depression and he conducts himself as though he understands that his past evil deeds have determined his fate. God who is responsible for determining the fate of characters in this film however, would not have it so. Apparently God has a different fate planed for Rodrigo spiritually speaking, and the will of God is manifested through the intervention of father Gabriel who encourages Rodrigo to repent and endure a penance. Rodrigo agrees to repent and do penances for his sins, his penance consists of accompanying father Rodrigo to his mission and while carrying a very heavy bundle as he scales the Iguazu Falls. Rodrigo struggles through the burdensome journey and in the end he is relieved of the weight he was carrying both physically and spiritually when one of the members of the Guarani tribe cuts the bundle off his back. This symbolizes that god had determined his spiritual fate, although he had committed great transgressions against the Guarani people and he had committed a very grave sin by murdering his brother God had determined that he would be redeemed.

End the end of the movie the other force that determines the physical aspect of his fate determines that he should die. The political forces involved which are not really supernatural but are nevertheless very powerful kill him as he tries to defend the mission. Rodrigo's fate was determined before hand; he operated in the extreme end of the spectrum both spiritually and politically. The forces that determined his fate decided the outcome they chose without regard to his free will or his much diversified actions throughout the film.

The forces that determine fate are also at play during the 2005 film Tsotsi, during this story however the forces are not supernatural they can be considered socially constructed by the culture and politics that are in the setting. The movie is set in South Africa, a place filled with poverty and very little hope. For the main character Tsotsi who is a young gang leader, his fate has been determined by his surroundings since his birth. Fate has set up predetermined events in his life, which no matter how much he tries to avoid will eventually come to fruition. The forces at work that have determined his fate are poverty and hopelessness resulting from a failed political and economic system.

Tsotsi was born into poverty and his mother dies from an illness which can be considered an event determined by poverty as they are unable to cover the expenses to keep her alive or save her. Another factor that helps determined his fate is the abusiveness of his father, this is an unavoidable circumstance pushes to Tsotsi to run away and face the world on his own without any moral upbringing. Social circumstances and poverty which are products of a broken system, which is the force that has determined Tsotsi's ultimate fate, has decided that Tsotsi will have no other options, regardless of his will. He is thrusted into a life of crime and violence in order to replace the natural and inherit rights that should belong to all young children Tsotsi take to the streets. Family and food is what Tostsi seeks to find on a daily basis, through association he seeks to find a family by bonding with his gang. Through crime he seeks to find food, shelter and clothing. His fate has been pre-determined by social factors beyond his control, they have determined that he would be born hurgry and lonely. It is a natural reaction to try to appease hunger and loneliness, when Tsotsi does this he end ups being captured due to the type of criminal lifestyle that he led, imprisonment was his fate.

In the 1958 novel titled Things Fall Apart written by Chinua Achebe, fate clearly determines the destiny of the main character Okonkwo. Much like the character of Tsotsi in the previously mentioned film, Okonkwo is born into family legacy of failure and low social standing. Unlike Tostsi however Okonkwo is determine to change his life for the better by resorting to honorable and socially accepted means. Social standing and rank are very important factors in determining the destiny of member of the Umuofia culture.…[continue]

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