Tony Kytes The Arch Deciver, By Thomas Hardy, Life Choices. Essay, Research Paper
Tony Kytes the Arch Deceiver is a novella which carries the traditional Hardiesque backdrop of malevolence and determination, but here his normally pessimistic approach to life is treated much more lightly . For example, when the women were put in danger by the uncontrolled cart, the situation was controlled with a farcical denouement. Had this been a different Hardy novel, the outcome would probably have been more serious. (i.e. Tess of the Durbyvilles.) On a superficial level, the novella could be seen as only a group of life choices woven into a comedy situation. I believe however, a life choice to be something which has been given deep thought or consideration. It is a path which must be chosen through informed choice, and depth of maturity. None of the above seem to apply to Tony’s situation, and he does not seem to be working in accordance with any life plan or value system. I do not therefore, feel that the choices Tony is making so flippantly, can be defined in the traditional sense of a life choice.
I feel that one is only truly able to make a life choice once they have the ability to see the enormity of the future. Tony is obviously not acting from any depth maturity, and he seems to be blowing with the prevailing wind, and bobbing and floating down the river of life with every wave and eddy taking him in a different direction. It seems he is acted upon rather than acting. During one short journey he commits to 3 people, just because they happen to cross his path.
Tony faces several potentially life changing choices as he drives his wagon home from market. The first is in the form of a temptation, another one of the “shoals” of women who seemingly throw themselves against him. Straight away Tony shows he fickleness as he encourages Unity to flirt with him and even intimates, the possibility of his changing his wedding plans. This flippant presentation of “a loving question” does not seem like it has been considered rationally in Tony’s mind, or even contemplated a a reality. This is the first example in the piece ,of Tony’s disloyal nature, and validates my theory that Tony, acts on impulse on not under the duress of thought or responsibility.
As Unity hides under the tarpaulin, and conceals Tony’s deception, our hero has another important decision to make. Although Tony and Millys talk is “very pleasant” Tony can not stop his eyes wandering to another “dashing” young lady. At this point in the story, one could be accused of thinking ill of Tony. He has made these solemn vows to Milly, he has made his ‘life choice’, and he should stop looking at other women. Nevertheless, I believe that Tony has not really been free to make that decision for himself. When Hardy chooses the term ” fixed down” to refer to Tony’s relationship status, it seems to imply a sort of weary compliance, and not a passionate desire.
Hannah Jolliver, now in Tony’s presence has the monopoly over his promises and emotions, as it would seem that Tony is incapable of thinking about two things all at once. Each time he is presented with a new face and thinks he has made a choice he presents, to himself a new rational for each. The longer he rides with Hannah the more he “warms up” to her till he cant think why “he had ever said a word about marriage to Milly”. This sudden change of heart epitomises his view on life. He loves whom he is with, and he loves them in “shoals”.
Now in a ludicrous predicament, manufactured of his own weakness, vacillation and fickleness, Tony does a very foolish and immature thing. He runs off to his father and puts all of his so called ‘loves’ in danger. Tony’s adolescent response to his fathers advice shows again that he is still incapable of making sensible mature choices on his own.
The final denouement is filled with a spiral of decisions and refusals for Tony. This section of the story is not based on choice. He is immediately drawn to Hannah , as she was the last thing on his mind, and thus his one dimensional mentality has drawn a simple conclusion, and has not made a life choice. His second choice is Unity, not for any reason deeper than the fact she is not Milly, and she is not what his father advised. After the first two refusals Tony is left with Milly, no choice has been made on his part.
The girls choices are limited by necessity, and they are merely responding to the circumstances. For example after the crash, although Hannah would , in reality have quite liked to marry Tony when he asked her, she refused, partly because “her father was there…because of the tantrum of the discovery…and because of the scratch on her face”, this again highlights the chance nature of their decision making.
In my traditional sense of values, Tony does not seem to have a fixed purpose in life yet, therefore, his life choices must be yet to come. He does not seem capable of truly making life choices yet. For Tony however, the son of a field worker and an apparently uncultured, uneducated and UN-evolved man my definition of a life-choice may not apply. The story is told very simply and Tony’s life is very simple, therefore his mind set, and beliefs may follow suit. Tony’s life choice crux is one of women and marriage. He wants a wife and the women want a husband. The ensuing drama, may seem a little petty, even farcical, but is probably based on the one life choice that Tony will have made for himself. Tony is a weak character who, in the ‘dimy sweat’ of his panic has responded to the moment without weighing up the implications of times consequences.
On a large scale the story is quite sad but the tragicomic nature of the ludicrous situation Tony finds himself in, through his own foolishness makes the story funny. What Tony does not realise, as he makes what I think he believes to be mature life choices, is that once something is said, a script has been written and an important moment has been sealed in memory.