The Mayor of Casterbridge (Annotated)

Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge: Analysis
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by Thomas Hardy

In order to provide Henchard with a respectable reason for visiting her, Lucetta suggests that Elizabeth-Jane move in with her. Henchard tries to force Lucetta to marry him, but she is unwilling. She has fallen in love with Farfrae and soon marries him. The final blow comes when the woman who ran the furmity tent in Weydon-Priors is arrested in Casterbridge. He moves to the poorest section of town. The Scotsman then completes his embarrassment of Henchard by becoming mayor of Casterbridge. Later, Henchard challenges Farfrae to a fight to the death. Henchard is on the verge of winning when he comes to his senses and gives up.

But she fears her secret affair with Henchard, if revealed, might destroy her marriage to Farfrae. She begs Henchard to return the damning letters she had written him years before. Henchard finds the letters in his old house and reads some of them to Farfrae. He intends to reveal their author as well but relents at the last minute. Later, he asks Jopp, a former employee, to deliver the letters to Lucetta.


Forgot your password? But she fears her secret affair with Henchard, if revealed, might destroy her marriage to Farfrae. The Essays of Montaigne, Complete Annotated. The novel takes place mostly in the town of Casterbridge, a fictional town in the fictional county of Wessex in England. A concise biography of Thomas Hardy plus historical and literary context for The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Jopp shares the letters with some of the lowlife of the town. Lucetta sees herself paraded in mimicry, and the shock kills her. Henchard reconciles with Elizabeth-Jane, who continues to believe Henchard is her father. Dollar goes into detail through certain points in Henchard's life as evidence of his conclusion. He discuses the beginning of the novel, where Henchard sells his wife and infant daughter, thus escaping ".. Ingersoll, Earl. Ingersoll analyzes the story and shows his position as a believer that Hardy's characters live in a universe based on hurt and suffering.

Ingersoll goes into depth about each of the characters' individual suffering and then ties them together to represent major themes of the novel. He concludes by comparing and contrasting Henchard, the tragic hero, to many others such as Hamlet and Othello in ways dealing with character and fate. This new Adam, I contend, believes he is a social individual, striving to become a capitalist, his Ideal-I , the phantom which is born out of his desire and, as I will illustrate, his fear of death, and dominates him most of his life.

Under the influence of alcohol, which cancels his capacity to reason, Henchard believes that the ends justify the means and that by repressing his individual development, he is creating the circumstance necessary for his social development as a middle-class man. Although Henchard considers drinking to be the root of his problem, the novel suggests that it is his desire to pursue his imago that leads to his separation from his family and brings about his later fall.

Bernard J. Yet, blinded by desire and having no consideration for others, he fractures his individual development: he rejects fatherhood so as to seek social advancement through the acquisition of wealth and respectability.

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In so doing, he perturbs the sanctioned Victorian order while following a signifier that is not able to satisfy him at the ontological level. Because the inebriated Henchard has no emotions concerning his wife and daughter, he does not experience cognitive dissonance, a mental phenomenon whereby he would ensure that his beliefs and behaviours coexist harmoniously. Nonetheless, his social aspiration, a remedy for his poverty in his view, becomes a poison for him both as a family man and as a social individual.

Having decided to commit himself to materialistic pursuits that will bring him public recognition, he shows no recognition of the vanitas in such a pursuit at the cost of his family life. He foreshadows a character developed four years later, by Oscar Wilde in his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray More importantly, it portrays Henchard as an agent of disorder who pursues his selfish desire by taking the capitalist idea that possessions such as a wife and a child represent money and can be exchanged ad absurdum.

The Mayor of Casterbridge (Annotated)

He regards, as Paris argues, the selling of his wife and daughter as immoral when he is sober Paris In other words, she did not recognize that he was ruled by desire. Neither did she comprehend his desire to succeed in moving up the social ladder since she does not have any such aspirations.

The mayor of casterbridge -notes, summary and analysis

His thoughts reveal his fear of public shame but not of the private shame, since he does not value Susan much as an individual. Breaking himself off from the domestic sphere, he intends to inhabit only the social sphere of class mobility. However, for the Victorians, the family, the basic unit of society, is under the authority of the paterfamilias — husband, father, and master, who is physically absent from the unit to practice his profession in the market place but returns to it and supports it.

Scholars of Victorian culture such as Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall as well as John Seed have shown that family is a central institution of middle-class life. By law, the Victorian woman gave up her name, identity, right to her own body, and legal existence through marriage. Therefore, Henchard legally owns Susan and their daughter.

Literary Devices in The Mayor of Casterbridge

The plot of The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy, can often be confusing and difficult to follow. Michael Henchard, a young hay-trusser looking for work, enters the village with his wife and infant daughter. At the infamous furmity tent, they learn Henchard has moved to. Editorial Reviews. From Library Journal. Hardy's novel gets the red carpet treatment here. the mayor of casterbridge(Annotated) by [Hardy, Thomas ].

As an owner, he has the right to sell his property. As John R. Without Susan, Henchard may pursue his desire to ascend the social scale, but does not receive the help necessary for him to achieve the individual and spiritual wellbeing he needs in to perform well in the marketplace. The significance of the title lies in the fact that it specifies a person of a special sort, a mayor, that is, a leader belonging to a higher class, a man who works for the benefit of and on behalf of others and who represents the views of a group or class.

To have gained his social status, however, Henchard followed his desire, associated with femininity rather than with masculinity.

As a result of such discussions, the Christian God, whose representative in the family is the father, became decentred by money. Sigmund Freud contends that one of the effects of civilization, which we can apply to industrialization and its impact on the Victorians, is that men withdraw from women, constantly associating with men and thus removing themselves from their duties as husbands and fathers Freud , Therefore, by accepting the viewpoint that ousts them from the middle-class, some characters doom themselves to failure; they place themselves in a dilemmatic position in that, because they do not possess middle-class values, they cannot become a part of a middle class community.

For characters who aspire to attain value within the middle-class have to prove that they live according to the values of this class — domestic and public virtues such as chastity, work ethics, cleanliness, religiosity, which in turn enforce the Victorian middle-class norms.

And Henchard gives up drinking on account of his desire to move up the social scale. He appears as though he is making a pact. Abstinence constitutes a necessary change that allows Henchard to dedicate his energy to his work and social advancement. On his knees and with his head on the Bible, he swears to give up drinking not for good but for twenty-one years, the number reflecting his age. And he does so not out of love for himself, which Spinoza associates with reason IVP18, Spinoza , but rather out of repugnance for himself. The truth was that a certain shyness of revealing his conduct prevented Michael Henchard from following up the investigation with the loud hue-and-cry such a pursuit demanded to render it effectual; and it was probably for this reason that he obtained no clue, though everything was done by him that did not involve an explanation of the circumstances under which he had lost her.

Hardy , When he understands that his family may have emigrated with Richard Newson, the sailor who had bought them, he stops the search, choosing to further his social development. Despite the fact that Henchard is not the exceptional hero depicted by Aristotle in his Poetics c. This space calls to mind, significantly, both the fall of an empire and the shape of a ring, the latter being symbolic of union through marriage. Also, as a memento , it intimates the importance of the past for the present. The vestige overturns the idea of progress, an idea with which the Victorians struggled to come to terms but which Henchard overlooks.

Michael Henchard

He seems to recognize his having auctioned his wife and daughter as an act that deems him unfit to lead and serve the community as mayor. The reality of the Ring calls for the Casterbridge individuals to look into the abyss and face death, to learn from their mistakes rather than to perpetuate them. Yet, Henchard appears to be oblivious to the imminence of death. He wants to acquire the position that he had rejected in his youth, i.

Yet, he does not understand what fatherhood entails. From a Darwinian standpoint, fathering ensures the survival of the bloodline through offspring. As John Tosh has noticed, the father has sons who carry forward his name and lineage Tosh 4. In his capacity of father and husband, the man is tied to the domestic sphere.

The depiction of fatherhood in Victorian novels reveals Victorian anxieties concerning the future of the family, its abating cohesiveness. Thus, he arrogates the right of the father to name his child. This type of non-biological paternal bond was established in fiction, mutatis mutandis , by Charles Dickens in Great Expectations over two-and-a-half decades before the publication of The Mayor of Casterbridge.