Chance and Coincidence: Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding crowd-A Wanton Field of Destiny

Hardy in a fatalist and to him destiny is always hostile to mankind. Fate acts according to its own whims in the form of chances, accidents and coincidences. Hardy thinks that the expected happy reality; the unexpected happens suddenly. The fate of his characters especially the hero or the heroine depends on the working of fate. In far from the Madding crowd there are number of events which make the characters to place them in the odd situation from which they have no way to get out. Chance in its purely malevolent aspect enters our life and spoils it, brings trails and tribulations, sorrows and sufferings, pain and agony in its train. What is the use of being play thing in the hands of “the President of the Immortals”.Hardy's novel Far from the Madding crowd is also a wanton field of destiny.

The sudden loss of the sheep of Gabriel brings a great change and destruction in the life of Gabriel. It is dog that chased two hundred sheep which were kept aloof from the fifty sheep which already had given birth two lambs. When Oak came out he saw the dog standing at the covering point of the hedges just on the crag from where two hundred sheep lay dead below in the chalk pit. Oak was now totally ruined.

            Another incident which makes the possibility of having get a place and live with Bathsheba comes purely by an accident in the life of Gabriel Oak. When Oak was taking rest in an inn after his deplorable plight he suddenly saw a luster of fire at a distant spot. On reaching the spot he saw some way stocks which had been mostly burnt. It was difficult to save them, but Oak showed his spirit of adventure in putting out the fire. It was the most important moment in Oaks life because he started to play besides Bathsheba and ultimately this proved his happiness.

            The life of Fanny has been harmed by her failure to keep the appointment of marriage. Troy reaches the appointed place in time. But Fanny does not reach the place as she reaches the wrong place. Fate seems to have played a trick on Fanny and this will lead the tragic death of Fanny.

            Another event is the effect of valentine on Boldwood. When Bathsheba writes a love letter to Boldwood it produces an electric effect on Boldwood. The love letter kindles passion for Bathsheba in the heart of Boldwood. The pent up passion takes the form of ‘volcanic Eruption’. Nobody could have thought that the serious minded gloomy Boldwood would fall in love so wildly and desperately. Boldwood’s whole life is ruined by unconforllable passion.

            Bathsheba and Troy meet accidentally one night as Troy is returning home after his round of the farm. This accidental meeting creates many complications in the novel. Bathsheba falls in love with this handsome soldier. She elopes with him to avoid Boldwood. She marries him and finally they have to lead a most unhappy life. This marriage brings the ruin in Bathsheba’s life.

            The chance- meeting with Fanny and Troy in another key event of the novel. One day when Bathsheba and Troy were riding towards Casterbridge they met a most wretched woman ( F. Robin) , Tory recognizes her and he promises her to meet her in the next day. Fanny dies and she was carrying a baby. The dead body was brought to Bathshebs’s house and Troy expresses his grief whole heartedly. The cord between Bathsheba and Tory is now completely broken concerning this incidence.

            Troy has suddenly disappeared from the scene. It is rumored that he is drowned. Bathsheba is under a spell of sorrow. Boldwood pursues his courtship with Bathsheba with greater vigour and obtain promise from Bathsheba to marry him. When everything is going well, Troy appears in the scene. Boldwood loses his temper and kills him instantly with him gun.

            In the later novels of Hardy we find that chance and coincidence occur repeatedly. The excessive use of change becomes very mechanical. Therefore it injures the spirit of realism in the novels. But in Far from the Madding crowd, the use of chance as a deciding factor is not excessive. Thy do not make the plot unrealistic. They do not create improbable situations. In real life chances and coincidences are mixed tragic and pleasant but in Far from the Madding crowd all chance happenings are tragic.

            We can therefore conclude that in Far from the Madding crowd, Hardy continuously hints at some external force or forces at work. These forces according to Hardy are blind and express themselves through chance happenings. Hardy has used chance and coincidence in the novel to illustrate his theory of immanent will which is amoral.  

Ardhendu De 

Now give short answer of the following questions:

a. ‘But she has her faults.’ Whom does Gabriel refer to here? What is the person’s fault?
b. What ‘mistake’ does Bathseba want to clarify by running after Gabriel after the latter’s visit to her home?
c. Who signs his name as ‘Henry’? What reason does the person give?
d. ‘Adam had awakened from his deep sleep....’ Who is ‘Adam’ here and who was his ‘Eve’?
e. Who is Bathsheba’s ‘last old disciple’ and how?
f. Name four rustic characters in Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. What role do the rustics play in Hardy’s scheme of the novel?  
g. What is Fatalism? How is it related with Hardy’s scheme in Far from the Madding Crowd?
h. What trouble brews in the chapter Troubles in the Fold? What remedy is suggested for this trouble? What message does Bathseba send to Gabriel for this?  
i. Give the meaning of Concurritur- Horae Momento? What for does Hardy give the chapter such a title?

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