Although Thomas Hardy's novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge presents predetermination as a major role in the characters lives, the novel should also be seen as a platform for free will. If not for free will Michael Henchard would not have been able to make choices such as selling his wife, that lead to his demise. Chance controls all outcome and not all actions set us on a predetermined path. In The Mayor of Casterbridge, despite the workings of blind fate, the occurrences of chance, and the vagaries of a hostile natural environment, Michael Henchard is still responsible for his on fate. "This probability threw Henchard into a defensive attitude, and instead of considering how best to right the wrong, and acquaint Elizabeth's father with the truth at once, he bethought himself of ways to keep the position he had accidentally won."" (222 ch. 12). Accidents like this one and many more included in this novel show not fate, but chance is the dominating force in Henchard's life. .
Many great authors have critiqued Hardy's work and indeed his pessimism. Some may disagree with Hardy's views but all see his work as greatness. Virginia Woolf states "Hardy makes us feel that we are backing human nature in an unequal contest. There is no pessimism here.""(325)."" He expresses a pessimism not produced by modern causes, but timeless and congenital .
. . . Hardy's idea of tragedy is simple and medieval."" (Schweik 4) Joseph Conrad, another admirer of, Hardy says, 'they are all Elizabethans, the English. Hardy is Victorian, also' (Ray 7).
Thomas Hardy was considered a fatalist. Fatalism is a view of life which insists that all action every where is controlled by nature of things or by a power superior to things. It grants the existence of Fate, a great impersonal, primitive force, existing from all eternity, absolutely independent of human wills, superior even to any god whom humanity may have invented.