The Role of Chance and Fate In The Wessex Novels

Importance of Fate in Hardy
In Hardy’s novels, Fate plays an all important part. It is the supreme over-character in his works, controlling the destinies of his characters and sending them to their doom. His characters seem to be simply puppets in the hands of malignant Fate or Destiny. They are always in conflict with their fate, for while they work to one end, Fate seems to be working to some opposite end. The result is tragedy, misery and suffering for puny mortals. It is for this reason that,  the ill-judged execution of well-judged plan of things, the call seldom produces the comer, the man to love rarely coincides with the hour of loving. Nature (or Fate) does not often say “see!” to a body at a time when seeing can lead to happy doing.”

This blind working of Fate makes life a “strange orchestra of victim shriek and pain.” “Man and woman wander about the earth, like two halves of a perfect whole, each waiting for the missing counterpa1 and out of this maldroit delays spring anxieties, disappointments, shocks, etc.” Commenting on the importance of Fate in the novels of Thomas Hardy, writes D. Cecil: “A struggle between man, on the one hand, and, on the other, an omnipotent and indifferent Fate —that is Hardy’s interpretation of the human scene.”
The Conflict Between Fate and Individual
Thus in Hardy’s view, Fate is indifferent and blind. In its blind and indifferent working, it often works against human happiness and so it seems to the victims as hostile and malevolent. It is omnipotent and the cause of all human suffering. In his novels, the real conflict is not between man and man or between man and society, but between man and the impersonal, omnipotent Fate. All are puppets in the hands of Fate. Even those characters who are’ generally considered wicked, are as much the victims of Fate as those who are considered good. Thus Alec is as much in the hands of Fate as Tess : Henchard is as much a plaything of Fate as Farfrae or Eliabath-janc. All are to be equally pitied; none is to be blamed, for all are creatures of circumstances, helpless victims of a blind, indifferent and all powerful Fate.
Fate as Some Natural Force
Now Fate is an abstraction, and in order that it may play an effective purl in the human drama, it must be objectified in some particular form. Sometimes, it is objectified as some natural force. For example in Tin1 Mayor of Casterbridge, Fate expresses itself as hostile weather which ruins Henchard. But more frequently, Fate expresses itself as chance and love.
Fate and Chance
Chance plays an important role, even an exaggerated role, in the novels of Thomas Hardy. Many things which are mysterious, and sudden, and which cannot be accounted for in any natural way take place. The unexpected often happens and always it is the undesireable unexpected. Such chance events are heavy blows aimed at the heads of Hardy’s protagonists and the send them to their dooms Cross in The Development of the English Nave has emphasised the role of chance in Tess of the D’urbervilles in the following worlds :
“At the very threshold of her life she (Tess) meets the wrong man.  few days before she marries Clare, she pushes under the door of his bedroon a written confession, which slips out of sight under the carpet, where i remains concealed until found by Tess on the wedding morning. On a Sunday Tess tramps fifteen miles to the parsonage of the elder Clare to seek protection but there is no answer to her ring at the door, for the family is at Church At just the wrong time she stumbles upon Alec once more. A letter she despatches to Angel in Brazil is delayed; and he reaches home a few days too late”.
In this way, from first to last, the plot of Tess is dominated by chance events. It is a tragedy brought about by wrong things happening unexpected!’ at the wrong moment. Tess suffers because everything happens contrary to her wishes and expectations, in a way that cannot be accounted for, except by reference to a hostile Fate.
Fate as Love
Sometimes, Fate takes the form of love. All Hardy’s novels are love stories. Love is the predominant factor in the lives of his characters, more specially female characters. Love as conceived by Hardy is a “Lord of terrible aspect, a blind irresistible power seizing on human beings whether they will or not, and always bringing min on them.” After her betrayal, Tess had regained equilibrium and she would have lived contentedly enough, had she not beer mastered by her passion for Angel Clare. But her love for him carries her off her feet and throws her down broken and despairing. She loves Clare with all the warmth of her emotional nature. She worships him and inspite of all her resolution to the contrary marries him. She consideres it an act of treachery to conceal anything from her beloved and so reveals to him all about her past. The result is terrible. Angel Clare, that man with a hard ‘logical deposit’, cannot forgive her. He deserts her. Tess pays, and pays terribly for loving him so much. It is again on account of her love for him that, in a fit of desperation, she stabs Alec and ends her life on the gallows. Love is equally the cause of tragedy in the Return of the Native. Eustacia is dominated by her passion and the result is not happiness but tragedy. It is rarely that love leads to happiness, but it always leads to tragedy. Elizabeth-Jane, too, suffers in love, though ultimately she gets the objects of her desire.

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