By Jason Puskar
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That if we knew more about the occurrence we should see it necessitated by its conditions. ”40 Chance is thus not a name for law misapprehended, nor for a real antilaw scrambling the universe from within, but a name we give to a certain vagueness in our own plans and expectations. “Conditions are neither accidental nor necessary, but simply constituting elements,” Dewey says. ”41 In this formulation, which I broadly endorse, chance is a conceptual category shaped through language and employed to make sense of the world, even if—perhaps especially if—we refuse to acknowledge it as an instrument of our own design.
And, finally, these two scratched faces, one by gun and one by ring, turn out to be obscurely related to Christine: Beaton’s scratch is “such as one of Christine’s finger-nails might have left,” and Conrad’s scratch comes from Christine’s intaglio ring, which Jacob happens to be wearing when he strikes his son. This degree of interconnectedness and obvious literariness should make readers positively embarrassed to throw up their hands and consign the two accidental gunshots to pure inscrutable chance.
March sounds like those nineteenth-century ministers who refused to put lightning rods on church steeples, because doing so might defy Providence. Although that kind of imprudent piety was rare by 1890, the lingering sense that some accidents are sacred signs that should not be questioned, let alone thwarted, reemerges in March’s crude attempt to distinguish providential chance from the human-made variety. When accidents are neither controlled by identifiable and culpable agents nor surrendered to the jurisdiction of a superintending deity, they lodge ineradicably in precisely those social and economic dynamics that March detests as secondary, human made, or artificial.