There is a repeated pattern in the episodic plot of The Mayor of Casterbridge. What is this pattern and what does it mean (its significance)?
The repeated pattern is coincidence, the chance occurrences that explore the nature of fate. Hardy leaves it to the reader to decide if these coincidences suggest the blindness of fate or if they are directed by some supernatural hand leading the characters to their deserved fates. These chance happenings progress the plot of the story. Hardy believed that life is shaped by powerful, uncontrollable forces, such as heredity and God, so that his main character, Henchard, feels that evil universal forces are out to get him.
The novel is filled with coincidence. Susan, the furmity woman, arrives in Casterbridge at just the right time to be able to cause Henchard great harm. The weather changes when Henchard is most vulnerable because of his efforts to destroy Farfrae. These events are believable because the furmity woman travels a lot around the region, and we all know that the weather is still one of the most unpredictable and uncontrollable elements in nature.
Part of this pattern you are seeing is a result of the idea of fate. Sometimes the novel may seem a bit contrived and the coincidences that appear almost become unbelievable.
However, the theme of fate is that each character has a downfall based on his or her fate and nothing can change that. The fate is due to the character and his or her flaws. This is who that person is and the charaters do not change or alter their personalities even when it seems that they should learn their lesson.
This idea of fate is that no matter how much awareness the character might have, he or she ultimately have no control over fate.