Essay on Setting and Symbols in The Mayor of Casterbridge

Essay on Setting and Symbols in The Mayor of Casterbridge

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Setting and Symbols in The Mayor of Casterbridge

Modern critics consider Hardy a great writer and they consider The Mayor of Casterbridge one of Hardy¡¯s two great novels. Of all the Wessex¡¯s novels, however, this is the least typical. Although it makes much less use of the physical environment than do the others, we still cannot ignore the frequently use of symbols and setting in the novel. In my essay, I¡®ll analyze the function of the symbols and the setting in The Mayor of Casterbridge.

The setting place of this novel is Casterbridge (England), a fictional town based on the city of Dorchester. Unlike the other Wessex novels, the action does not revolve from place to place, but instead; everything is centered on the town, which characters leaving or entering Caseterbridge. as they are mentioned in the tale. At this extent, the town does have some features, which are important to the novel.

Definitely, it would not at all surprising us that Hardy gives a perfect description of the Wessex countryside, the detailed accounts of the daily goings in Casterbridge, even the dialects of the natives. By doing so, Hardy made us feel that ¡°we¡± ----the readers, are living in Casterbridge, we¡¯re undergoing all the events with the tragic hero ---Henchard. I think the settings here act as the symbolic reflections of impressions and get readers more involved in the novel.

For instance, in the first few chapters, Hardy goes out of his way to describe the very atmosphere of Casterbridge, its Roman ruins, its market place, its inns, its¡± grizzled church¡±, its High Street with its timber houses, its old gardens full of ¡±bloody warriors¡± and snapdragons, its disputable Mixen-Lane, its two bridges towards which¡± gravitated all failures of the town¡±. All these remind us that Casterbridge is dull and forbidden, full of age-old traditions and very much dependent upon agriculture for its subsistence. No wonder that Henchard has the stubborn, hardy, rude and instinctive sprit of the old-time country. With this kind of impression in our mind, we even can foresee the struggles between Henchard and Farfrae. With different living backgrounds, or to be more specific, the different living settings, when they clash, it is not only a disagreement between two men, but a conflict between age and youth, tradition and innovation, and emotion and reason. Henchard, for exam...


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...des it, there are such powerful, uncontrollable forces as heredity and God. Henchard rails against such forces throughout the novel, lamenting that the world seems designed to bring about his demise. In such an environment, coincidence seems less like a product of poor plot structure than an inevitable consequence of malicious universal forces.
At this extent, with the believe that ¡° both character and uncontrollable super nature force determined the fate, therefore the function of the using of setting and symbols in this novel is definitely clear, the setting present the mood and impressions of the story and the symbols reflect abstract ideas and concept. By using setting and symbols in the novel The Mayor of Casterbridge, the coincidences and the uncommon behaviors became acceptable and believable.


THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE MAYOR OF THE CASTERBRIDGE
By Thomas Hardy
Macmillan and Co., Limited ST. Martin¡¯s Street, London 1947

REFRENCE:
Vivian, De Sola Pinto The Wessex Novels University College,
Southampton, 1947

Holloway , John The Victorian Sage: Studies in Argument, London, 1958.

Sobol, ken Thomas Hardy¡¯s The Mayor of Casterbridge,
Simon&Schuster, 1964

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