Since the nature of language is linear, one word following another, literary texts must inescapably have beginnings and endings. In an obvious sense, however, no story (as opposed to narrative) ever really begins or ends: it is always possible to think of something that happened before the beginning and something that may happen after the end. As a result the decisions that novelists make as to where to start and conclude their narratives are often of considerable interest, and Hardy’s solutions to these problems are worth careful examination.
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