In physics, maths and the natural sciences, the first law of thermodynamics is simple, concise andeffective. It states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can simply be transformed from one forminto another. The second law, however, is less tangible and more ambiguous. It is an expression of theuniversal law of increasing entropy, or disorder, which states that the entropy of an isolated system which isnot in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium. Simply put,order descends into chaos, what is warm becomes cool, what is high becomes low.In
the second law of thermodynamics is an artery that nourishes the heart of the play,appearing in various guises and playing various roles. It serves as the pivot point for the contrast between theolder Enlightenment ideals of order and determinism and the newer Romantic ideals of chaos and disorder,which it also represents. As a plot device, Thomasina's discovery of the second law of thermodynamicsserves to highlight her genius, and subsequently drives the events of the present day, as Hannah, the feministscholar, pushes Valentine into truly investigating Thomasina's scribblings. It is also a prominent theme – theloss of historical information, the wearing out of objects, death and decay, and the strange closed system of Sidley Park. The temporal consequences of the second law are inevitable and we take them for granted, butdue to the time-switching nature of the play, these consequences are made prominent to highlight thedifference between past and present. As imagery, it is also present – the candles burned, the burning of Byron's letter, the stirring of the rice pudding. Entropy as a postmodern concept is also present. This essaywill attempt to discuss the role of the second law of thermodynamics in the above points, and in
ingeneral.The clearly-delineated contrast between Enlightenment and Romanticism thinking in the play is akey literary theme. Along with chaos theory, the second law of thermodynamics represents Romanticism in
. The contrast between Romanticism and Enlightenment depends on the presence of the second lawof thermodynamics, which, as both a plot element and a theme, supersedes the older, classical, enlightened Newtonian mechanics, ushers them out and ushers in the chaotic ideals of the Romantic.
The remodelling of the gardens, which are converted from a typically English, Enlightenment style to a brooding, gothicRomantic style, and the divide in opinion between the Coverleys and their guests [both past and present]highlight that the two ideals are more than just historical phases, they are also fundamentally different modesof operation.In the past, Noakes is an agent of disorder and the second law's increasing entropy, and moves Lady Croomto exclaim "[he] ... is to a garden what a bull is to a china shop" as he digs up the garden to make it look “natural”. He is abetted by Thomasina, who approves of his plans for the garden, and herself rails against the perfect classical geometry which Septimus is teaching her, complaining that “...armed thus, God could onlymake a cabinet”. She argues that classical geometry does not represent mountains or leaves, and seeks her own Romantic geometry of natural forms. Her realisation that his steam pump will not pay back on its input