It is said in The Bible that God has given Man “free will. ” Unfortunately for Man, The Bible does not entail exactly what “free will” is. Some speculate that there is a force called Chance. These people believe that through a serious of coincidence, luck, and their own choices, they can control their future. Others believe in a force known as Fate. With this line of thinking, everything has a goal, and those goals will be met eventually. This gives the believer a sense of inevitability and they tend to be more laid back due to the philosophy of least resistance.
Least resistance is the idea of “it’s going to happen anyway, so there’s no real point in pushing back. ” In Pushkin’s “Queen of Spades”, chance and fate seem to endlessly intertwine themselves to the point where there appears to be a third force somewhat dictating their actions. In some instances, the lives of the characters seem to be going in a set path (Fate). At other instances, it appears as if had this not just happened to happen at this point in time, this person’s life wouldn’t have been affected in this way (Chance). Are Fate and Chance separate forces, or puppets on the strings of another power?
Chances are, they’re one in the same. The play opens with a man, Tomsky, who “just so happens” to be telling the story of his grandmother and how she “fatefully” came upon the secret to wealth. First, looking at it from the chance perspective, had this not happened, life would have been altered for many people. Countess Anna Fedrova, Countess A, is the person who puts the order of chance happenings in motion. Had she not been born, had she been “damaged” in some way earlier in life, had she not married the man she did, and many other “what ifs” and “if onlys” could have stopped the series of events from occurring.
But, “by chance”, all of these things did happen. “By chance”, a man who would be interested in learning the secret of the three winning cards was listening to Tomsky. Again, had his life not gone the way it had, he might not have been around Tomsky in the first place. “By chance”, he was. The pattern of “by chance” is set up early in the story. The entire story was written “by chance”, which makes an interesting parallel to real life. Had Pushkin not been born, we would not have the story, and so forth. Or was it fate?
Was Countess A destined to be at the card game that caused her to lose her money which caused her to become desperate, and ultimately be given the secret? All this was set up for her to continue living the life she was accustomed to and by doing so gave birth and had assistants, and lived to be very old. This set up for the rest of the events to take place. At times, it appears that everything is happening for a reason; as if a coin were flipped and it was known what the result would be and due to the result being pre-ordained and not left to chance, something would happen.
Or to relate more to the story, had she never learned the secret, she wouldn’t be killed because of it. ” Money is not necessary,’ replied St. Germaine: be pleased to listen to me. ‘ Then he revealed to her a secret, for which each of us would pay a great deal'” (Pushkin, pp. 3) But discussing fate as an inevitability goes against the notion of free will. If we cannot escape our fate, are we actually making the choices at all? Instep the third force. The Puppeteer. God. If fate has goals, who sets them? When this question is asked, another force happens to be created. When this happens, chance and fate may be more easily meshed.
God set a goal for Fate to strive toward. Fate achieves this by acts of Chance. Acts of chance are based on our decisions. With this line of thinking, fate and free will can exist. Some would argue that if God is setting our goals, then we have no free will. A rebuttal to that would be that we have the freedom to choose how we get there. The God Force could easily explain how things come to be. This gives rise to infinite possibilities to how the story could progress. For example, God wants to test Hermann at some point in time. Because of a timeline built on fate, Tomsky is born and Hermann by chance hears of the three winning cards.
Because Hermann made the choice to listen to Tomsky’s tale, he is tempted and a fate’s goal is complete. One problem with using the God Force to explain the story is that it contradicts with the religious ideology of Russia which was at the time composed of an atheism enforcing government. Yet again, Pushkin did make reference to Mephisto, which is a reference to Goethe’s “Faustus”. Mephisto is another word Satan. To refer to Satan, one would infer that God is. If one were to rule out the God Force and simply use Fate and Chance individually, I believe that each refers to a different perspective.
Fate is more from the characters’ perspective. Their lives, no matter how many times they’re retold, always end the same way. The end of the book is the goal of the fate set at the beginning. From the reader’s perspective, this is simply a story of chance happenings. We as readers have the unfair advantage to jump around time within the story. The characters, however, perform in the way it is said they do. In their minds, as we read, actions are in the present tense and to them; they are making the choices resulting to a fate. To illustrate this, Hermann’s tale shall be the example.
Through his eyes, everything is happening by chance. Hearing the story, meeting the girl who just so happens to know the countess from the story, and eventually going insane was all coincidence to him. To the Countess, however, his fate was known when he killed her. She did not know her own fate because to her all was chance. She did, however, know his fate because she decided it as if to be playing God. She knew, if she told him the cards, what he would do and what would happen. To her, she made the choice to do it. “Can you not name me these three winning cards? ‘ continued Hermann.
The countess remained silent; Hermann Continued. For whom are you saving your secret? ‘ The Countess remained silent; Hermann fell upon his knees. ” (Pushkin, pp. 14-15) Another illustration would be from the card games. To Countess Anna Fedrova, the card game was fated in her favor for she knew the cards. To everyone around her, who didn’t know that she knew which cards to play, this was all chance. In essence, she was on the outside looking in on the card game; where everyone else was looking out. Later, Hermann thought he was fated to win because the Countess told him the cards.
This became a different fate to him when he played the wrong card. The card happened to wink at him. It was the spirit of the Countess, who knew the real fate as she was yet again on the outside looking in. This is also an example of repeating motifs and echoing within the story. Exploring the theme of chance, one realizes that chance is simply a game of perspectives. Random to one was planned by another. Was everything put together as a plan to make Hermann go insane one day? “At that moment it seemed to him that the queen of spades smiled ironically and winked her eye at him. He was struck by her remarkable resemblance.
The old Countess! ‘ he exclaimed, seized with terror. ‘” (Pushkin, pp. 23) Or did it simply just happen to turn out that way? “Hermann went out of his mind, and is now confined in room Number 17 of the Oboukoff Hospital. He never answers any questions, but he constantly mutters with unusual rapidity: “Three, seven, ace! Three, seven, queen! ” (Pushkin, pp. 23) As only God knows why all was created, only Pushkin knows why these events happened in the way they did. It all depends on how you look at it. In hindsight, what was once thought to be fate is simply the pattern of chances strung together.