How is Hardy's sense of waste and frustration involved in human life depicted in "On the Western Circuit"?
Hardy's sense of waste and frustation in life is most aptly captured in the character of Mrs. Harnham, the friend of Anna, who is clearly trapped in a marriage where she has little regard for her husband. The way in which she is swept off her feet by Anna's suitor exposes the frustrations she faces in life and the emptiness of her existence. It is only very soon after meeting Anna's suitor that she finds herself dreaming of him and what life could have been like for her had she married someone similar:
Mrs. Harnham--lonely, impressionable creature that she was--took no further interest in praising the Lord. She wished she had married a London man who knew the subtleties of love-making as they were evidently known to him who had mistakenly caressed her hand.
Mrs. Harnham therefore begins to daydream about being married to a man who "knew the subtleties of love-making" as her husband obviously does not. The fact that this interest seems to have been kindled by an honest mistake on the part of Anna's suitor only identifies the ironic twists in life that causes such events to occur. Mrs. Harnham is therefore shown to be a character who lives a life that is void of meaning and very frustrated, and it is her growing awareness of this that leads the story to conclude in the way that it does.