Caitlin's Reviews > The Mayor of Casterbridge
The Mayor of Casterbridge
by Thomas Hardy, Keith Wilson
by Thomas Hardy, Keith Wilson
Sep 24, 11
Read from September 16 to 23, 2011, read count: 1
I love Thomas Hardy! This book is a great read. The tone of "Casterbridge" is not as heavy handed as "Tess of the D'urbervilles" or "Jude the Obscure." The story is of a young drunkard, Michael Henchard, who sells his wife and child in a fit of pique. He feels that they are holding him back in life and that he married too young. A stranger sailor takes pity on Susan and her daughter and purchases them. Apparently in the Victorian age this was not unheard of. The morning after, Henchard is wracked with guilt and looks in vain for his wife and daughter. I didn't get a sense that he was looking for them out of love, but rather a sense of duty. 18 years later Susan and her daughter Elizabeth-Jane catch up with Henchard who has worked industrially to pull himself out of poverty and worked his way up to being Mayor of Casterbridge (a fictional depiction of Dorchester.)Part of his success was his kept vow to not drink for 21 years to make up for his behavior. Although it seems as though he got away with his heinous behavior, there is a darkness and a volatility inside Michael still. When Susan shows up again he remarries her after pretending that they just met and he takes his daughter to be his step-daughter. The plot then has some twists and turns that I will not get into. But the most intriguing part of the book is Henchard himself. He confides in his friend about his immoral act, and although Donald never mentions it Henchard becomes convinced that Donald is holding it over his head as a threat. Henchard becomes more and more paranoid and the dark moodyness begins to overwhelm him. Henchard is not an unsympathetic character, but the readers' feeling toward him are those of pity rather than affection. The light of the story is his daughter Elizabeth-Jane. She is smart, intuitive and forgiving and she reaches out to her father even after his cruel rejection of her. Donald is not the rival that Henchard believes him to be and though they experience a role reversal that leaves Henchard out in the cold, it is all due to Henchard's unraveling. It is a sort of self-fullfilled prophecy. The question of fate appears in all of Hardy's works and this book artfully challenges the reader to think on Henchard's situation. Did his wife come back and spark his undoing as a matter of fate,as if it was meant to be as punishment for his misconduct so many years previous? That all of his successes are meaningless? Or was it something in the very fabric of Henchard's being that caused the events of the story? It is a provoking quandary that we can all relate to. Is the misfortune and fortune of our lives conducted by chance and our own decisions, or was it fated to be that way?
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