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Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge.

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Introduction

Rachel Moss L204 Essay #2 3-24-04 Sex is so intertwined in our society that it pervades each facet, including television, books, advertising, and conversation. Movies like The Matrix toss in gratuitous sex because the audience nearly expects it. Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, therefore, is exceptional in its lack of sexual situations. The subject of sexual motivation and its inherent ambiguity with regard to Henchard's actions is a topic that caught my attention from the very first pages of The Mayor of Casterbridge. Continually in the novel there is tension, but it is never described as sexual. Much the same, there are countless marriages during the novel but no related sexual attraction is discussed. The topics of sex and sexuality are simply expected in most literature, because they are such dominant themes in everyday life. Hence, the absence of sex is more noticeable than its inclusion in this novel. The Mayor of Casterbridge opens with what I believe to be the single most important event of the entire novel. Michael Henchard sells his wife and daughter to a passing sailor for five guineas. ...read more.

Middle

Further, this quote shows that Henchard did not even think thoroughly about marrying Susan. He claims that he was a fool because he was eighteen; I say that at this point in the novel, he had not grown emotionally in the least. Likewise, Henchard's relationship with Lucetta seems to be centered on a debt he felt he owed her for nursing him while he was in Jersey, rather than on actual love or lust. Throughout the novel, Henchard continually acts on what he believes to be moral obligations instead of true feelings. It is plausible to suggest that Henchard completely lacks sexuality, which sharply contrasts his energetic, masculine, aggressive nature. Perhaps his sexual energy has been channeled solely into the acquisition of power. Henchard seems to have chosen the pursuit of money and power over the pleasures of sexuality. He later tells Farfrae that he is "by nature something of a woman-hater" and found it "no hardship to keep mostly at a distance from the sex" (61). Between the times of selling his wife and child and when they come back to find him in Casterbridge, Henchard is almost entirely successful at avoiding females, save for his obligation to Lucetta. ...read more.

Conclusion

a whole and almost an absence of it in...Henchard; so that talk of frustrated desire or homosexual desire is not entirely applicable" (116). This is a respectable observation, although I would venture to say that that sexuality is so absent from the novel that it becomes noticeable for this very reason. Even Henchard's sudden affection for Farfrae later in the novel, which suggests homosexuality on Henchard's part, does not develop in a way which supports this hypothesis, for it "quickly turns into male power rivalry once Farfrae breaks out of Henchard's proprietorship" (Langbaum, 119). Ian Gregor notes The Mayor of Casterbridge to be "one of the very few major novels...where sexual relationships are not...the dominant element" (383-84). Hardy's intent to write a tragic novel may explain the emphasis on moral decisions rather than the usual concern with sexual relationships that dominates most other novels. The lack of sexuality and abundance of questioning moral judgment that fills the early chapters of The Mayor of Casterbridge would support this view and set the style for the rest of the novel. Writers distinguish their works through a multitude of methods-a dynamic character like Hamlet or a revolutionary style like the stream of conscious narrative in James Joyce's Ulysses. ...read more.

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