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GCSE: The Mayor of Casterbridge
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- Peer Reviewed essays 1
"Discuss how the passage of time is presented in the first chapters of The Mayor of Casterbridge. What effect does it have on the characters?"3 star(s)
As it was set in the 1830's the landscape would have been very different from today. This is demonstrated from the start of the book. Michael and Susan Henchard are "plainly but not ill clad" This tells us that they are not badly off. On the other hand they are covered in a "thick hoar of dust" telling us that the roads are unpaved. This also implies that although the Henchards are not badly off they cannot afford transport indicating that it is still expensive at this time. Henchard is described as "of fine figure, swarthy, and stern in aspect."
- Word count: 1431
Susan Henchard is carrying a baby called Elizabeth-Jane. As the Henchards continue they come across a Turnip-Hoer implying that the residents still live off the land a rural village. When the couple met the turnip-hoer, Henchard asked about work needed in the village. This is evidence to show, due to the industrial revolution, work in the country was short, and with all these new machines around, many homes were taken down. Although Henchard doesn't approve of all these new ways of life, he eventually will use them showing that he realises people must change.
- Word count: 1453
From this and Henchard's primary reactions, it appears that Henchard's melancholy attitude is due to the fact that he has married young and already fathers a child by the name of Elizabeth Jane. In his resent and attempt to seek revenge at anything he can think of, Henchard salvages himself by drinking to ease his emotions, but this altogether ends up making him more aggressive than before. Once again, Henchard's rash and indecisive manner leads him to "take an oath in this solemn place" (the church)
- Word count: 3512
What would the modern reader think about the vivid descriptions Hardy creates that contribute greatly to the novel? When Casterbridge is first introduced, it is described as being an isolated old-fashioned agricultural town that was cut off from the outside world. "Casterbridge- at that time, recent as it was, untouched by the faintest sprinkle of modernism." There is a great contrast with the surrounding countryside and the town. "The mass became gradually dissected by the vision into towers, gables, chimneys and casements." Hardy creates an in-depth account of Casterbridge to engage the reader so they can connect with the town itself where most if not all the action of the novel takes place.
- Word count: 1635
Until the 6th page, 3rd paragraph, Michael is referred to as, amongst other things, 'the man'. This gives a bit of suspense as the reader wishes to read further to find out who this person is and what his name. He seems an old fashioned man who does not welcome change. The sexual tension is evident both on an emotional level, "perfect silence they preserved...the woman enjoyed no society whatever from his presence", and physically, "sometimes the man's bent elbow almost touched her shoulder, for she kept as close to his side as was possible without actual contact; but she seemed to have no idea of taking his arm, nor he of offering it".
- Word count: 2393
Whom or what is most to blame for Henchards downfall, to what extent do you believe he was right to blame himself
He is at the fair at Weydon Priors with Susan and baby Elizabeth Jane and he is drunk, he hastily sells his wife for 5 guineas to a sailor. However earlier on Hardy indicates that their relationship had always been week. 'The young woman his wife, who has seemed accustomed to such remarks acted as if she did not hear them.' After this point, Henchard realizes his mistake; this is how he lost Susan. Here Henchard has mixed sentiments but he does feel some remorse and guilt for his actions.
- Word count: 1138
Because Farfrae is more organized and methodical than Henchard, the business prospers under his management. Farfrae is ambitious enough to eventually go into business for himself, though, and this enrages Henchard even though Farfrae, in his typically principled way, tries to minimize competition between the two firms. Farfrae courts Elizabeth-Jane and even hints that he would marry her if he were in a financial position to do so, but when he meets the newly wealthy Miss Templeman-Henchard's former lover whom he, too, is again courting-he turns his affections to her and marries her.
- Word count: 2138
The Obi, in war and in farming was among the trappings of success. In both books we also learn about the men's shaded history, especially the events of Michael Henchard. From one profound mistake would base the beginning of his oath, an oath that would drive him to success. After more than just one dose of rum in his fermity, Henchard stood up before a crowded tent and proceeded to sell his wife. Only on the final bid of five Guineas, did the transaction conclude and his wife and newly born child disappear to a new life.
- Word count: 2319
How Far Is Michael Henchard Responsible For His Own Ruin? , Do You Feel He Can Usefully Be Described As A Tragic Hero?
These sides of Henchard's character eventually lead to his downfall and yet interestingly he has not even started to 'make a man of himself'. Michael at first cannot believe what he has done the morning after, but it soon occurs to him the terrible deed he has committed himself to. The oath that Henchard takes before God proves that Michael Henchard was feeling resentful and also showed that deep down without alcohol he could be a good man and makes us feel that he could be described as a tragic hero as we are shown such a contrast in character.
- Word count: 3639
The Mayor of Casterbridge - Discussing Henchard's personality, and the reasons for his success and his deterioration in life.
The importance of a solid reputation and character is rather obvious given Henchard's situation, for Henchard has little else besides his name. He arrives in Casterbridge with nothing more than tools of the hay-trusser's trade, through out the course of the novel, Henchard attempts to earn, or to believe that he has earned his position. He is, however, plagued by feelings of his own worthlessness, and he places himself in situations that can only result in failure. For instance, he revels in petty jealousy of Farfrae, which leads to a drawn-out competition in which Henchard loses his position as mayor, his business, and the women he loves.
- Word count: 2127
It was one summers evening when the three (Michael, Susan and Elizabeth-Jane) begin the voyage to Weydon-priors. Although the man, woman, and child are not poorly dressed, "..... The thick hoar of dust which accumulated on their shoes and garments from an obviously long journey lent a disadvantageous shabbiness to their appearance just now". The first scene is typical of that of any book as it gets directly into action and gives us a brief description of the main character(s).In the story the Family travel to Weydon Priors, an event takes place where Henchard gets drunk and sells his wife for 5 pounds, He wakes up in the morning and goes in search of his wife, he can't find her so returns to the town of Casterbridge.
- Word count: 1547
The Mayor of Casterbridge - 'Michael Henchard's life was a series of disasters that led to self-destruction; we can have no sympathy for him.' Discuss.
What motivated the sale? What frame of mind was he in? Use supporting quotation. You need to explain events, Laura, not just mention that they happened. Analysis is the key to success. The day after, realising what he had done, he made a vow not to drink for as many years as he had lived to that day - twenty-one. Many years later when Susan arrived in Casterbridge she saw him at... 'the great public dinner for gentle people'... where next to each person was a beer glass, apart from Michael whose tumbler contained water.
- Word count: 1010
How does Thomas Hardy control the reader's response to Donald Farfrae in 'The Mayor of Casterbridge?'
Farfrae received "a burst of applause; and a deep silence which was even more eloquent than the applause." The audience was truly moved by his beautiful singing that described his Scottish homelands that seemed so full of passion and emotion. But when asked about his country, he shows that he possesses no real passion for Scotland, and reveals his shallow nature to the audience. Michael Henchard meets Farfrae at the Three Mariners Inn and offers him a job: "... you shall manage the corn branch entirely, and receive a commission in addition to salary".
- Word count: 3201
Later on at the fair, under the influence of alcohol he auctions his wife; this moment had changed his whole life. Now it would have been easier for him to say something like: "I'm sorry I had too much to drink..." but he didn't; because he is aware of his mistake. At the end of the day, selling his wife was his fault. After which he takes a vow never to touch alcohol again for the next twenty years.
- Word count: 591
However, Henchard also has many negative features that are simply part of his personality, which he finds difficult to curb even when he is sober. He is naturally quick to form opinions and agree or object to things, leading to some rash decisions such as the hiring then firing of Farfrae, and the prevention of his courtship with Elizabeth-Jane. A little more thought, consideration and tolerance on Henchard's part could have led to a flourishing relationship with the Scotsman, as both a co-worker and a friend.
- Word count: 2193
This reveals Henchard's unwavering determination that can enable him to do such drastic things. A sign of how drastically Henchard has reformed is when Susan warned her daughter, "He (Henchard) may be in the workhouse or in the stocks for all we know." Susan's presumption of Henchard's lowly status tells us that even his wife did not think him capable of rising to a dignified position. This shows that Henchard's reform was quite remarkable for him to have become Mayor.
- Word count: 4314
Mind, it is a joke no longer." (page 12) Henchard refuses to back down. I think that this is because he is in front of the crowd and greatly emboldened by the illicit rum that he drank in the furmity even though he will greatly regret it later. Another of Henchard's traits also leads to his downfall. This is his objective way of looking at things. He always takes things at face value and never thinks to look beyond the cover of a situation. One example of just such a situation is the twenty-one year vow that he takes to never touch alcohol when he realises that he has sold his wife and child to Newson.
- Word count: 1223
'Short stories can be remarkably effective' this statement is proved very successful by the short story 'One of These Days' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
There is also a very opposite theme of poverty. This theme is questioned when you find out that the dentist is working 'without a degree'. This brings the reader to wonder what kind of community the dentist is living in if he is working as an unqualified dentist. Mystery and tension is added to the story when the dentist 'arranges his instruments in size order as if they were on display' giving the impression that he is a neat, particular and anxious person waiting for something bad to happen.
- Word count: 1056
This is same aspect of Henchard that made him so forbearing and committed to his wedding vows with Susan. This characteristic allowed him to be reliable, something that greatly assisted him to being respected in the town. However, if he would have not been so honourable and turned Susan away, it may have all worked out better. I can speculate, he could have married Lucetta and her money would have been a great asset to him and his business, not to mention depriving Farfrae of the money. This is an example of how Henchard's passions obstructs his goals. There is also evidence to suggest Henchard is impulsive: for example, Henchard, without taking the time to consider his decision, dismisses Farfrae after the party.
- Word count: 616
In ‘The mayor of Casterbridge’ Henchard is presented as atypical tragic hero. How far do you agree with this statement?
We see that when he gets drunk he does things, which he later regrets. We can tell this as the morning after he sells Susan he wishes that he hadn't and takes an oath not to drink again for twenty-one years. "I, Michael Henchard...take an oath...to avoid all strong liquors...for...21 years" He then goes on to complete his oath by not drinking for twenty-one years, which shows that he is a man who sticks to his principles. The second point that shows that Henchard is a typical tragic hero is his relationship with Susan.
- Word count: 1210
So they moved and set out to find a clean healthy town witch would be good for Elizabeth-Jane. On their travels they found a sign post saying the nearest village, it was Waydon. As they were getting closer to the village they came across a man, he asked them if they were heading towards Waydon, "yes" Michael replied. The man told him if he was looking for any work, " It is pointless looking in that village for work, there is nothing" Despite this Henchard and Susan went on to the village to try and find some shelter.
- Word count: 1478
This causes him to get Farfrae to stay in Casterbridge by offering him a job. Henchard is a very impulsive person and is very superstitious, for example, he goes to see a fortune teller who tells him that there is going to be a bad harvest and that he should hold onto the grain and sell it at an inflated price, without asking any questions. The town of Casterbridge then blames him for selling bad grain when the harvest was good.
- Word count: 730