• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To what extent do you believe that there is a fateful inevitability to Henchard’s tragedy and to what extent is it Henchard’s temperament that causes his downfall? How does Hardy gain the reader’s sympathy towards Henchard?

Extracts from this document...


Sarah Emily Titchmarsh "The Mayor of Casterbridge" Thomas Hardy "Character is fate," writes Hardy, yet Henchard believes that some power is "working against him" and is "bent on punishing him." To what extent do you believe that there is a fateful inevitability to Henchard's tragedy and to what extent is it Henchard's temperament that causes his downfall? How does Hardy gain the reader's sympathy towards Henchard? "The Mayor of Casterbridge," a novel set in the early 1800s tells the story of the rise and subsequent decline of Michael Henchard, a self made man. The novel is mostly set in Casterbridge a typical, busy, country, farming town. Fate plays a large part in "The Mayor of Casterbridge." For example the plot of the novel relies on a number of coincidences. Many of these are to do with timing. The key initial event in the novel is the arrival of Newson at the furmity tent as Henchard sells his wife. Farfrae "who might possibly have passed by without stopping" arrives in Casterbridge, just as Henchard is being criticised for the quality of his corn. Henchard brings his fate upon himself for after much persuasion he convinces Farfrae to stay and employs him (an ironic twist of fate as one day it will be Farfrae who employs Henchard.) ...read more.


When he loses his temper because Farfrae's business is succeeding, whereas Henchard's is declining, Henchard then says, we'll "grind him into the ground - starve him out ... snuff him out". Henchard is also a very proud man. It is because of this that he refuses to take a room in Farfrae's house or to claim back his furniture. In many ways he is almost too proud and stubborn. This makes his own downfall seem much worse to him. Henchard is extremely jealous of Farfrae. Farfrae seems to make Henchard feel subordinate. Perhaps because Henchard is a self made man, he suffers from a lack of security and feelings of inferiority that Farfrae makes emerge. Farfrae undermines Henchard's authority by overruling him in their treatment of Abel Whittle. This is a major turning point in the novel and from here on Henchard's life begins its demise. When he is losing Henchard gives up easily, with a dumb-helplessness, "misery taught him nothing more than a defiant endurance." When things are going wrong for Henchard he does not act, he accepts the situation resignedly, "I am to suffer I perceive." He is also quite melodramatic which cause him to descend into deep periods of depression causing him in one case to become suicidal. ...read more.


After a long search Farfrae and Elizabeth Jane trace Henchard too late to his deathbed. The starkest words in Henchard's will is "that no man remember me." It would be a hardhearted reader who would forget such an unfortunate man. Hardy himself worried that he would not be understood. His main character in this novel is a flawed man. Hardy wrote "The Mayor of Casterbridge" at a time when he himself was feeling insecure. Hardy lost his faith in religion and came to see human beings as victims of fate and chance. He felt lonely, gloomy and misunderstood as his diary testifies. Hardy's life is perhaps in some ways mirrored in that of Michael Henchard's. It's a fine distinction between fate and character and they are very often subtly intertwined. Fate and character coexist in the novel. They are dependent on each other. I believe that it is a combination of character and destiny that cause Henchard's downfall. After twenty-one years Henchard walks back along the same path he travelled many years before. Still alone and with nothing to show for all his pain and suffering. He dies a lonely isolated man, a warning to us all, of character flaws and turbulent fate. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Thomas Hardy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Thomas Hardy essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Tess says, Once victim, always victim thats the law. In the light ...

    3 star(s)

    They were able to express autonomy and individuality and to reject conventional ways in favour of more modern choices. Tess was aware that she was not entirely at fault for the tragedy that occurred to her and she holds on to the belief that she will not be condemned by

  2. Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge.

    lead to his downfall when he cannot properly focus this excess energy. Susan is also a non-sexual character. Irving Howe describes her as a woman of "maddening passivity" (366). The comments by other women in the furmity tent lead us to believe that most women, even during that time period, would not stand for such treatment.

  1. To what extent do you think Michael Henchard is responsible for his own downfall? ...

    "...his wife, who seemed accustomed to such remarks, acted as if she did not hear them..." The scene is set for a foreboding novel when Hardy expresses his feelings about nature and mankind in the first part of the novel.

  2. How The Mayor of Casterbridge reflects the social, historical and cultural influences of the ...

    selection, if any at all, so it was still the custom to brew ale in the pubs themselves. It was also known that people brewed their own beer at home and a favourite breakfast was freshly brewed ale and pigeon pie!

  1. The attitudes and beliefs which influence the outcome of the story 'The Withered Arm' ...

    would be help for Rhoda, better medicine for Gertrude and not such obvious class divisions. With three of the main characters dead at the end it is hard to blame one person for their deaths as they all had a part to play in it, except maybe for Rhoda's son.

  2. Thomas Hardy - 'Isolated figures denied the fulfilment they crave by forces that appears ...

    This is an apt comparison, as the piece itself will eventually turn into a tragedy full of mistaken judgements, well-intentioned actions and undeserved misfortune. The wall is a metaphor for the boundary between them; it is described as being in disrepair, which indicates the unstable base for their romance and the lack of unity.

  1. Analysing The First Two Chapters of 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and How They Act ...

    and later takes a serious oath, for such an alcoholic as Henchard especially. Michael then travels around the Fair in search of Susan. Later, around page 17, we discover Henchard to be making a vow as to not drink spirits for 21 years, as spirit was the reason why he

  2. Michael Henchard possesses all the features of a tragic hero. Discuss.

    the identity of the love letters, which were from Lucetta, to Farfrae; ?Such a wrecking of hearts appalled even [Henchard]?, and concludes that ?to accomplish the deed by oral poison was beyond the nerve of his enmity.? This shows that he restrained from animosity and showed his moral conscience, and that his actions abstained from cruelty.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work