The uses of casualty and coincidence in the novels of Thomas Hardy
White, Iris Alice
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Many critics, especially the earlier ones, assumed that Hardy employs accident and coincidence in his novels either to add excitement by touches of melodrama as was done by many popular novelists of the Victorian era, or else to suggest intervention in human affairs by a power beyond man's control which determines the pattern of each life. This thesis attempts to explore these views, and by examining Hardy's use of coincidence and accident, first in his ballads and short stories, then in the minor novels and finally in the major ones, to discover if Hardy were propounding a philosophic system or if another purpose lies behind the numerous coincidences to be found in his novels. It finds that Hardy was profoundly influenced by ballad techniques and local narrative forms which rely heavily on coincidence. Hardy uses coincidence to inject melodramatic incidents into his novels for the sake of extra liveliness; he uses it to emphasize certain incidents by giving them symbolic significance and he also uses it to hasten to its conclusion a chain of events which, without the coincidence would reach the same conclusion but over a longer period of time. This use of coincidence is a technical device since, although it is used to intensify atmosphere and hasten inevitable endings, it never changes the course of a logically developing sequence of events. It is not used as evidence of forces which work either consciously or unconsciously against the affairs of men. In Jude the Obscure, Hardy's final novel, accident and coincidence play no part in the unfolding of the plot, and the tragic climax is clearly shown to result from the forces of society.