In this novel, Hardy embodies the idea that we live in an indifferent universe. He also implies that the universe can be hostile, but he does not use this novel as a vehicle to remind us that "it's a jungle out there." Critics usually refer to Hardy's themes as fatalistic — a view of life that shows human actions being controlled by an impersonal force, perhaps called Destiny or Fate, which is independent of both humanity and its gods. The indifference of the universe, therefore, really describes what we see as we look about us or, perhaps, all that we can find when we are unable any longer to believe in the gods we created. If it is said that we are created in God's image, it may also be argued that we create gods in our own images. The dilemma implied here is, of course, as old as humanity and perpetually without final answer, though historically there have been many attempted answers.
Chance and coincidence are two ways in which this seeming indifference expresses itself in our lives. When we say an event has taken place by chance or coincidence, we are simply expressing our own view of the matter; it is simply all we are able to see at the moment. For Hardy, chance or coincidence is used as a way of showing his theme on the level of events or plot.