Hardy’s philosophy of life is marked with a strong note of fatalism. In Hardy’s novels, Destiny is a character. Man is a helpless creature, a mere puppet at the hands of Destiny or Fate. Mas in Hardy’s world does not enjoy Free Will. The keen eyes of fate are always looking intently on his activities to intervene as and when it so likes. Man is not free to choose the type of life he wants to live. Obstacles and hindrances swarm on his path of life, and they thwart all his hopes and aspirations, though man wages a futile battle against the odds so created.
A struggle between men on the one hand and, on the other an omnipotent and indifferent fate-that is Hardy’s interpretation of the human situation. This struggle determines the character and nature of his drama. Like other dramas, this turns on a conflict, but the conflict is not, as in most novels between one man and another, or between man and an institution. Man in Hardy’s novels is ranged against impersonal forces, the forces conditioning his fate. Note that his characters themselves are always aware of this. Henchard is obsessed by his hatred of Farfrae: Bathsheba looks on Troy as the author of her misfortunes. But from the point of vantage from which Hardy surveys their stories, Bathsheba and Henchard are seen to be under a delusion. For those whom they think their enemies are as much as themselves puppets in the hands of Fate.
Fate, not they, is ultimately responsible for their quarrels and subsequent miseries. Unless they were destined to do so, they would not conflict with each other. Not that Hardy refuses to make moral distinctions between his characters. On the contrary, his leading figures divide themselves into instruments for good and evil. Their attitude determines this line between them to themselves. All alike are striving for happiness: but whereas Eustacia or Fitzpiers or Arabella strive with selfish passion, Gabriel and Tess and Giles are prepared to sacrifice their happiness to ensure that of other people. This difference, however, in their character, does not affect the issue. This is in the hands of Fate.
It may be noted that forces of Fate, in Hardy’s novels, incarnate themselves in two forms-as chance and as love. Of these chance is the most typical. Hardy has been blamed for this; and no doubt, he does sometimes overdo it. But to condemn his use of chance altogether is to misunderstand his view of life. In life, we witness a battle between Man and Destiny. Destiny is a mysterious force: we do not understand its nature or its intentions. And we can not, therefore, predict what it will do. In consequence, its acts always show themselves in the guise of inexplicable, unexpected blows of chance.
This shows that people will gradually develop a feeling of resignation because it is useless to fight against Omnipotent Power. But, it is advisable to create an attitude of resistance against the shocks and bolts of destiny. The development of a mental shell will enable the man to overcome the depression that will enfeeble his faculties to give a brave fight to his averse fate.
Hardy pictures the future generations, not as beautiful, robust like the Hellenic figures, but as people physically weak but mentally strong. Hardy thinks that in future, the idea of the mere joy of living will be replaced by a sense of resignation and indifference towards the joys and sorrows that life offers and that people will develop a mental outlook that will neither feel joy at good fortune nor will it be shocked at the unkind blows of destiny. In the words of Edmund Gosse,
“Abandoned by God, treated with scorn by Nature, man lies helplessly at the mercy of those ‘purblind Doomsters’, accident, chance and time, from which he has to endure injury and insult from the cradle to the grave.”