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Counterfactuality, Determinism and Free Will in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge and The Return of the Native.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2012 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores the themes of counterfactuality, determinism and free will in Thomas Hardy’s novels Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Return of the Native and The Mayor of Casterbridge. The aim is to show how some literary strategies create a sensation that the characters are trying to diverge from an anticipated destiny, and how these measures contribute to the impression that the characters possess free will. In other words, Hardy’s literary devices create the notion that the characters are confined but paradoxically they appear independent. The tragic fate and the tragic past of the characters are the two main literary strategies which are investigated in order to show how the characters are confined by the plot, which influences the reader’s perception of the characters. The tragic fate of the character is expressed through the numerous coincidences, the characters’ choices and actions as well as the way the order of events is presented in the narrative. The tragic past is expressed through a history that is assigned to the character or by the events that the character experiences as part of the narrative. Highlighting these literary devices allows for a reading where many of these events have the ability to spark a counterfactual thought in the reader’s mind, an imagined possibility of how a causal chain could have developed differently. I claim that the moment the reader begins to construct a different possible outcome of the plot the feeling that the character has free will is strengthened. This is due to two separate, but related reasons. Firstly, a variety of possible plotlines, caused by counterfactual thinking, strengthens the image of a character with the choice to follow another causal line of events. Secondly. by claiming that the characters take part in creating their fate we are in a way making them responsible for their actions. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Thomas Hardy; Tess of the D’Urbervilles; The Mayor of Casterbridge; The Return of the Native; counterfactuality; determinism; free will; causality; coincidence Dannenberg; Dessner.
National Category
Languages and Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-79150OAI: diva2:547716
Humanities, Theology
Available from: 2013-01-12 Created: 2012-08-28 Last updated: 2013-01-12Bibliographically approved

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