Essay on Fate and Chance in The Mayor of Casterbridge

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Fate and Chance in The Mayor of Casterbridge

Thomas Hardy's disillusionment over religion was a major theme in both his novels and his poetry. In his mind there was a conflict over whether fate or chance ruled us. He explores this dilemma in the poems "I Look Into My Glass" and "Going and Staying." Each poem takes a different stance on the matter. It is up to the novel The Mayor of Casterbridge to illuminate which position he ultimately adopts.

The poem "I Look Into My Glass" is similar to "Going and Staying" in many ways. Both poems deal with the effects of time. "I Look Into My Glass" is narrated by a person (I picture a man, although it could really be either) who is very old and looking at his wasted frame in a
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Time is also personified in this poem through its "ghostly arms" (GAS, line 12).

Although time is personified in both poems, it is a very different figure in each. In "I Look Into My Glass" time is a malevolent forse whose purpose is to make the narrator suffer. Clearly, the narrator in this poem believes his actions are controlled by a higher power. There is even a prayer of sorts in the first stanza when the narrator says "Would God it came to pass/ My heart had shrunk as thin" (ILIMG, lines 3, 4). This poem says fate or destiny exists.

Differing greatly from the convictions of the narrator in "I Look Into My Glass" are the narrator's beliefs in "Going And Staying." The "we" in this poem at first postulate that a malevolent power is choosing the ugly to remain on earth while the beautiful disappears as soon as it comes into being. Because they wish that beauty outlasted ugliness, and they feel that it is just the opposite, their conclusion is that a higher power is purposely trying to cause them pain. Their attitude changes in the final stanza when they "look closelier at Time" (GAS, line 11). They come to the realization that Time is an indifferent ruler who is constantly changing the good and
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