The Mayor of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy

The Mayor of Casterbridge - Thomas Hardy

The Mayor of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy

I read this at school. I think it was one of the reasons I never read Hardy again (until late last year) or it could be because of my very creepy english teacher.

I vaguely remember waffling on in an essay about how an event can be like a stone in a pond – the ripples just keep moving outwards (very metaphorical).

I was much more sympathetic this time round to all of the characters, but Henchard in particular.

Here is the blurb …

In a fit of drunken anger, Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter for five guineas at a country fair. Over the course of the following years, he manages to establish himself as a respected and prosperous pillar of the community of Casterbridge, but behind his success there always lurk the shameful secret of his past and a personality prone to self-destructive pride and temper. Subtitled ‘A Story of a Man of Character’, Hardy’s powerful and sympathetic study of the heroic but deeply flawed Henchard is also an intensely dramatic work, tragically played out against the vivid backdrop of a close-knit Dorsetshire town.

And here is the Wikipedia plot summary.

This was different from the previous Hardy novels that I have read. First, there wasn’t a main female protagonist (no Fancy Day or Bathsheba Everdene). It was all about Henchard and how his character flaws bring about his downfall – although the poor man couldn’t get a break (even the bird is sacrificed!). Hardy can be cruel to his characters.

You could also argue that it is a fight between the old ways (Henchard) and the new (Farfrae) and the passing away of a way of life in rural England, but ultimately it is a tragedy –  Henchard is brought low by his own impulsive actions; selling his wife, trying to keep that a secret and rash business decisions.

Here is the cliff notes on The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Thomas Hardy page at Victoria Web and The Mayor of Casterbridge page.

I am really glad we (my Victorian group and I) have embarked on this Thomas Hardy marathon – just Tess to go.

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