An Analysis of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge

Better Essays
An Analysis of The Mayor of Casterbridge

The plot of The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy, can often be confusing and difficult to follow. The pages of this novel are filled with sex, scandal, and alcohol, but it provides for a very interesting and unique story.
It all begins one day in the large Wessex village of Weydon-Priors. Michael
Henchard, a young hay-trusser looking for work, enters the village with his wife and infant daughter. What follows next, is certainly a little out of the ordinary, and this book provides and interesting plot, that is sure to brighten up any boring day.
Michael Henchard, looking for something to drink, enters into a tent where an old woman is selling furmity, a liquid pudding made of boiled wheat, eggs, sugar, and spices. Henchard consumes too many bowls of furmity spiked with rum. Feeling trapped by his marriage and under the influence, Henchard threatens to auction his family. The auction begins as a kind of cruel joke, but Susan
Henchard in anger retaliates by leaving with a sailor who makes the highest bid.
Henchard regrets his decision the next day, but he is unable to find his family.
Exactly eighteen years pass. Susan and her daughter Elizabeth-Jane come back to the fair, seeking news about Henchard. The sailor has been lost at sea, and Susan is returning to her "rightful" husband. At the infamous furmity tent, they learn Henchard has moved to Casterbridge, where he has become a prosperous grain merchant and even mayor. When Henchard learns that his family has returned, he is determined to right his old wrong. He devises a plan for courting and marrying Susan again, and for adopting her daughter.
A young Scotsman named Donald Farfrae enters Casterbridge on the same day as Susan and Elizabeth-Jane. Henchard takes an instant liking to the total stranger and convinces Farfrae to stay on in Casterbridge as his right-hand man.
Henchard even tells Farfrae the two greatest secrets of his life: the sale of his wife and the affair he has had with a Jersey woman, Lucetta. Henchard is confused as to how to make good on his bad acts.
Henchard remarries Susan, who dies soon afterward, leaving behind a letter to be opened on Elizabeth-Jane's wedding day. Henchard read...

... middle of paper ...

... Henchard appears at Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae's wedding to deliver a present. Elizabeth-Jane spurns him, and Henchard sees that Newson has taken over as father of the bride--a role Henchard can never play. He leaves Casterbridge broken-hearted. A few days later, Elizabeth-Jane discovers Henchard's present, a bird in a cage. The unattended bird has died of starvation. Touched, she and
Farfrae go in search of Henchard. Too late, they learn he has just died in the hovel where he had been living with the humblest of his former employees. The young couple read Henchard's pitiful will, in which Henchard asks that no one remember him.
As one can see, to often scandal can end in tragedy, as in the case of poor Michael Henchard. He lived a risky life, and paid for his mistakes in the end. The Mayor of Casterbridge proves to be an interesting novel, that provides everything modern day critics hope to keep out of the hands of children.
The book proved to be at times, quite exegesis, but the plot is presented well, and the settings described beautifully. Thomas Hardy creates a masterpiece in describing the rise and fall of one Michael Henchard.
Get Access