The relationship between desire and destiny in selected stories from Isak Dinesen's Winter's Tales

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Isak Dinesen’s writing is characterized by the theme of destiny. Past analyses of Dinesen’s treatment of destiny oppose the concept to desire, arguing that Dinesen advocates “acceptance” of God’s plan at the expense of personal motivations. This construction of destiny as external to the individual has negative implications for agency. Critics have recognized the importance of agency, but efforts to present “acceptance” of destiny as an active rather than passive practice have been relatively uncompelling. This thesis argues that the characters’ agency is never in question because the acceptance framework is incomplete. An analysis of four stories from Winter’s Tales shows that desire is not incompatible with destiny. By tracing the motivations of Dinesen’s characters, this thesis actually shows that desire constitutes the characters’ destinies. Whereas past critics see desire in Dinesen as something to overcome, this thesis shows that desire is a necessary way of knowing.

Dinesen, Destiny