Structure of Plot in Thomas Hardy's Novel

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Hardy: A Follower of Fielding's Convention

      A novel must have a "plot" and a "story"— the action should be governed by a single idea, a visible idea and one of which the essential story is the result In the construction of his plots, Hardy was a follower of Fielding. Hardy's novels have a structure, a design, a plan, a framework which is definite, not loose. These plots are dramatic in quality, nothing superfluous, extraneous, unrequired-for, is inserted in them. It was but necessary for him to adopt Fielding's convention for his plots because he always aimed at tracing a single pattern in the carpet of life and for the achievement of his aim, for the representation of any special vision of reality must involve a process of elimination, he must avoid and repeat superfluous things from his plots.

Architectural Design of his Plots

      An architect by profession, Hardy gave to his novel a design that was architectural. He was a superb master on the constructive side of his plots. He builds it as a mason or an architect builds a house. The string of every part is calculated, every stone has its place, every crumb of mortar bears its part. The creative work of Hardy is governed by a powerful logic, the logic of events infinitely dear, never moving by the tenth part of a millimeter from appointed sequences. "The broad sweep of design" goes hand in hand with a strict accuracy in details. Nothing, not even the slightest part, is forgotten. The ends of final issues in Hardy's stories are foregone conclusions. Things and circumstances being as they are, the results will be as they must be. No trait of Hardy's work is so marked as this and none is so impressive. Of all great writers of the English novel, he alone has, in equal proportions, great gifts of imagination and extraordinary powers of invention.

Movement of Plots

      His narratives are conducted slowly at the first, and great pains are taken to make clear the spirit of the country, with its works and ways when that has been made clear, the play quickens into passions and begins to move with an increasing momentum to an incalculable goal; the actors come into conflict, there is strong attraction and repulsion, "spirits are finely touched" then, there is a period of waiting, a breathing space, an ominous stillness and a pause till, at the last, with increased force and motion, it goes forward to the "fine issues"; all the inherent necessities of things cause their effects, tragic or comic, triumphs of the right or of the wrong and the end of all is told with a soft solemnity, a sense of pity striving against a sense of fate. The final grandeur is the logical climax of converging trivialities. In each separate incident there is an element which proves necessary in the completion of the whole. When we close one of the Hardy's greatest books, the deepest impression is always of something fated and inevitable in the sequence of events and this impression rests equally upon his skill in episode and his power of climax, his genius in invention and his genius for imagination, his logic in science, turned him a novelist, a mathematician dealing with dramatic and poetic material. We find no digressions, no superfluities, no redundancies. His novels always produce a unity of impression. His plots in his novels are simple, unimpeded, organic and symmetrical, they move in direct lines. And however great the play of an external fate, the life or motive which is at the center of each plot is essentially psychological. Every novel is an answer to the question, "Given certain characters in certain circumstances, what will—happen—what will become of them?"

Effect of Philosophy on Plots

      One remarkable fact is that Hardy is among those who have given us works of art wherein, having grasped the central idea of each, we find it to be not only a thing of beauty, delight and charm but grand moral lesson also. Due to his philosophy, all his plots turn to be a drama of conflict; between man and "the Immanent Will" and Man always plays his part manfully, heroically and nobly and this is a grand moral lesson. Is not it? Another notable fact is that his plots always consist of an eternal triangle i.e., one man loved by two or more than two damsels or one Eve being hunted after by two or more than two Adams at the same time.

Limited Range in Plot Construction

      Before concluding the essay, it must be said that there is no "variety of plots" i.e., they are always hung on the same peg of love, they always work in the same atmosphere of Wessex, they always move in almost the same way, they sooner or later, turn out to be a drama of conflict, between the Immanent Will and Man. And sometimes we do feel an occasional stiffness and eccentricity of mechanical contrivance — chance. He sometimes makes too much use of chance and fate. Perhaps, "coincidence" is a device, with him, for bringing about crisis or denouement and this sometimes spoils the artistic value of his plots.

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