Talking about the theme of The Mayor of Casterbridge it’s all about how choices affect one’s life. Once one commits a sin in his/her life there is no way out to pay for that. Nothing can undo the effect of that. Micheal Henchard the leading character commits the biggest mistake of his Life by selling his wife and daughter in a fair while he was drunk and repent on his shameful act throughout his life. Even after every possible attempt to seek pleasure goes waste.
Summary of the Novel
Michael Henchard, a young, unemployed man sells his wife Susan and his infant daughter Elizabeth Jane to a sailor during a fair in the village of Weydon-Priors. Newson a sailor buys both of them at a cost of few pennies. Newson marries Susan. The little Elizabeth Jane dies due to some unknown cause. Meanwhile God blesses Newson and Susan with a baby girl whom Susan named as Elizabeth Jane. Newson during his trip disappears and is thought to be dead. Susan and Elizabeth Jane return to seek Henchard out but are told by the furmity woman whose concoction had made Henchard drunk at the fair that he has moved to the distant town of Casterbridge.
Susan and Elizabeth Jane reach Casterbridge where they discover that Henchard has become the mayor and one of the wealthiest businessmen in the area. Henchard just to show out his sense of guilt courts Susan in a respectable manner and soon after remarries her hoping that one day be will be able to acknowledge Elizabeth Jane as his daughter. The time Susan return Henchard hires Donald Farfrae a young Scotsman as his business manager. After a short while Susan dies and Henchard learns the reality that his own daughter had died many years earlier and that Elizabeth Jane is really the daughter of Newson the sailor Susan's second husband.
Lucetta Templeman a young woman from Jersey with whom Henchard has had a romantic involvement comes to Casterbridge with the intention of marrying Henchard. She meets Farfrae however and the two are deeply attracted to each other. Henchard disturbed by Farfraes prestige and status in the town has dismissed him and Farfrae sets up his own rival business. Shortly after Farfrae and Lucetta are married.Henchards hard luck continues its journey while Farfraes good luck advances. When Henchards successor as mayor dies suddenly Farfrae becomes mayor. Henchards destruction
is almost completed when the furmity woman is arrested in Casterbridge and she reveals the secret two decades earlier when Henchard sold his wife. Then by a combination of bad luck and mismanagement Henchard goes bankrupt and is forced to make his living as an employee of Farfraes.
Lucetta now at the height of her fortunes has staked everything on keeping her past relationship with Henchard a secret. Her old love letters to him however find their way into the hands of Henchards ex employee Jopp who reveals them to the worst element in the town. They organize a skimmity-ride in which Henchard and Lucetta are paraded in effigy through the streets. The shock of the scandal kills Lucetta. Now an almost broken man, Henchard moves to the poorest quarters where his life is made tolerable only by the kindness and concern of Elizabeth Jane. Even his comfort in her affection is threatened however when Newson the sailor who mistakenly was reported dead returns in search of his daughter. Henchard lies to Newson that Elizabeth Jane has died. When Elizabeth Jane comes to know this the last source of Henchards comfort turns against him. Farfrae after a period as a widower renews his interest in Elizabeth Jane. They are married and Henchard when he comes to deliver a wedding gift finds Newson enjoying his position as the bride’s father. Heartbroken Henchard leaves and shortly afterwards dies in an abandoned hut. His funeral is attended only by the humblest and simplest of his former workmen. The novel ends when Farfrae and Elizabeth Jane find the place where he has died and read his terrible will of complete renunciation.
I as a reader think that this is the most appropriate ending of the novel. Also the title itself is really significant as the whole story revolves around the mayor of the Casterbridge Henchard.
Qualities of the Novel
Hardys narrative style is that of the omniscient or ubiquitous narrator. This gives him a point of view that allows him to comment upon the vagaries of nature to place him in the mind of a character in order to give us reasons and motives and to philosophize or describe the background to clarify whatever point he wishes to make. In short Hardy knows all and is everywhere in The Mayor of Casterbridge although we learn only what he wants us to know. When we have finished the novel, our thoughts about it are to some extent what Hardy wants us to think.
This is Hardys most perfectly constructed novel. There are others that are more appealing to me but this one is such a perfect cause and effect every-action has a reaction kind of book that it should really be his most popular and successful instead of Tess which by comparison is a pure melodrama.
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