Casterbridge critical essay mayor


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The letters and her bantering with Farfrae show a certain sophisticated ability to play with words in a teasing manner. To Hardy — though not to us today — this is enough to characterize Lucetta with what was to the English mind French sensuality or even licentiousness.


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The following passages from Chapter 23 catch her character brilliantly. We common people are all one way or the other — warm or cold, passionate or frigid. You have both temperatures going on in you at the same time.

The Mayor of Casterbridge Summary & Study Guide Description

Oh, if I had my wish, I'd let people live and love at their pleasure! Do make the same resolve! Through her speech, Hardy shows the gradual change that takes place in Elizabeth-Jane through the years. At first she has a somewhat natural bent toward good times and playfulness, although she never appears giddy.

An Analysis of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge Essay

As her sorrows increase, she turns more and more to study and reflection. At the end of the novel the reader finds Elizabeth-Jane characterized somewhat as a melancholy, kind, matronly woman whose speech seems highly studied and affected, even when her words are deeply emotional:. She flushed up, and gently drew her hand away. You persuaded me that my father was not my father — allowed me to live on in ignorance of the truth for years; and then when he, my warmhearted real father, came to find me, cruelly sent him away with a wicked invention of my death, which nearly broke his heart.

O how can I love as I once did a man who has served us like this! As far as the lower-class types are concerned, Hardy has characterized them as mischievous knaves who often speak in vulgar terms. Yet, they have a vigorous life of their own, and Hardy has revealed with enormous skill the picturesque qualities that can only be found in authentic folk dialect. Another aspect of Hardy's overall style is his fondness for Gothic atmosphere — that is, secret meetings or plots or incidents occurring in gloomy or melancholy surroundings. The opening chapter of the book has this quality to it, as does Henchard's meeting with Susan at the Ring, and his discovery of the "skimmity-ride" figure in the water.

With little difficulty the student can probably recall at least two more incidents or surroundings that indicate a Gothic treatment. In its wealth of realistic detail, Hardy's descriptive style created his Wessex world with such conviction and thoroughness that he became the model for dozens of other regional novelists.

His realism is not now appreciated as much as his more tragic, universal qualities, but it contributes substantially in The Mayor of Casterbridge to the total tragic effect. Henchard is considered by at least one critic to be the only genuinely successful attempt at a tragic hero in the modern novel.

But Henchard is so embedded in the real world of grain dealing, furmity, seed lips, stout breakfasts, and hay bales as to have for the modern reader an affinity with his own experience that other romantic heroes, enveloped in myth and legend, do not. As tragic hero he is of a stature comparable with theirs, but he comes to us, as it were, in the homely corduroy of a hay-trusser rather than in cape or toga. Farfrae's note has told Henchard that Farfrae knows a way to make the bad wheat usable, and Farfrae shares the method with Henchard.

Henchard tries to persuade Farfrae to come to work for him, but Farfrae says that he is bound for America.

REVIEW: The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

Susan overhears Henchard say that he does not drink alcohol because of something shameful that he did when he was young. This gives Susan hope that Henchard might be willing to help Elizabeth-Jane. Later in the evening, Farfrae enthralls the crowd at the inn's bar with his singing. Elizabeth-Jane, who witnesses this because she is helping to pay for her room by serving in the bar, develops an attraction to Farfrae.

The next morning, Susan sends Elizabeth-Jane to Henchard's house with a note asking him to meet her. When Elizabeth-Jane arrives, she is shocked to see Farfrae working in Henchard's office. Farfrae and Henchard had met again early that morning, and Farfrae agreed to work for Henchard after all. While Elizabeth-Jane is waiting for Henchard, a man named Jopp appears. Henchard had promised this man the job he has now given to Farfrae, but he sends Jopp away without apology.

Michael reads Susan's note and asks Elizabeth-Jane some questions. He then writes a response to Susan, setting a meeting, and encloses five guineas—the exact amount for which he sold her. The implication is that he is agreeing to take her back, although she has not asked this. Michael and Susan meet secretly outside the town. Michael proposes to Susan that he will court her as if he has never met her before and marry her. Susan agrees.

He offers to begin supporting Susan and Elizabeth-Jane immediately and asks Susan's forgiveness. Henchard returns home and tells Farfrae, whom he likes and trusts, the whole story of his past, which he has until now kept secret.


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  • Henchard tells Farfrae that there is one thing that stands in the way of his now making things right with Susan: There is a woman in another town whom Henchard has offered to marry, thinking that Susan was probably dead. Henchard had an affair with this other woman, by which she was disgraced, and he offered to marry her to repair her reputation. He now asks Farfrae to write to the woman and explain why Henchard cannot marry her after all, and Farfrae agrees.

    Henchard provides a house and servant for Susan and Elizabeth-Jane and begins courting Susan. They are married in November of the same year. The townspeople wonder why Henchard has married beneath him. Henchard moves his wife and "stepdaughter" into his house and treats them kindly. Farfrae improves Henchard's business, and Henchard learns that the townspeople now have more respect and affection for Farfrae than for himself. Henchard humiliates a habitually tardy employee by making him go to work without his britches, but Farfrae reverses Henchard and lets the man go home and finish dressing.

    This causes Henchard and Farfrae to argue. On a holiday, Henchard and Farfrae plan competing celebrations for the townspeople. Henchard's festivities are rained out, while Farfrae's dance under a tent is a huge success. At Farfrae's dance, Henchard angrily declares that Farfrae's term as his manager is almost over, and Farfrae agrees. In a scene that recalls the morning after Henchard sold Susan, Henchard later regrets what he said and realizes that Farfrae really plans to leave his employ.

    Farfrae hints to Elizabeth-Jane that he would marry her if he had more money. He then goes into business for himself but makes a point not to compete with Henchard.

    The Mayor of Casterbridge

    Henchard, however, treats Farfrae as an enemy and forbids Elizabeth-Jane to see him. Susan becomes ill. Before she dies, she writes a letter addressed to Henchard, which he is not to open until Elizabeth-Jane's wedding day. Soon after Susan's death, Henchard reveals to Elizabeth-Jane that he is her father. In looking for proof of his original marriage to Susan he needs this to prove that he is her father and have her name legally changed to his , he finds the letter that Susan has left and reads it.

    It reveals that Elizabeth-Jane is not Henchard's daughter; that child died a few months after Henchard sold Susan, and the Elizabeth-Jane he knows is Newson's daughter.

    The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

    Henchard is distraught and decides not to tell Elizabeth-Jane. His behavior toward her changes, though; he criticizes her and increasingly avoids her.

    The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886): Library Resources

    She feels unhappy and bereft. Visiting her mother's grave, Elizabeth-Jane encounters a woman she has never seen before and tells the woman her life story. The woman says that she is moving to Casterbridge and invites Elizabeth-Jane to live with her as her companion.

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    Elizabeth-Jane agrees.

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