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ENGLISH PRE 1914 PROSE COURSEWORK - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE "There is much in his life to despise, but we are infinitely moved by his death" Show how Hardy shows sympathy for an otherwise unsympathetic character. Michael Henchard, the protagonist of "The Mayor of Casterbridge" is in many ways an obnoxious and unlikeable character, however the author Thomas Hardy wrote the book in such a way that Henchard becomes a character that the reader develops sympathy for. Henchard often makes mistakes which he later regrets and attempts to rectify them, such as when he drunkenly sold his wife and child but later tries to find them. At the beginning of the book Henchard is portrayed as a nasty and unpopular person who the reader despises, however as one reads on one discovers that he has more likeable characteristics, which makes the reader sympathetic. In this essay I will explain some of the unsympathetic and sympathetic actions Henchard undertakes and how this impacts on his character. In the first chapter of the book one discovers Henchard's first bad deed, when he drunkenly sells his wife and child for five guineas and five shillings to a sailor called Mr. Newson. Henchard then blames his wife for letting him sell her, "Yet she knows I am not in my senses when I do that!" This makes the reader believe that Henchard is a thoughtless character. Henchard also feels his wife holds him back from his full potential, which may initially seem unfair but once she left he did make a success of himself by becoming the mayor of Casterbridge. ...read more.


Henchard's dismissal of Farfrae later led to Farfrae starting up his own business. This anger Henchard as he believes he was the one who gave Farfrae a chance in the first instance. Henchard can become jealous easily and one could argue that he always strives to be the best. On the other hand, Henchard realises that it is due to Farfrae's involvement that his business became very successful. Before Susan dies she tells Henchard that Elizabeth Jane is his daughter. Initially, he is very welcoming and protective of her. This shows that he is caring and takes up his responsibilities. As the story progresses, Hardy reveals that Elizabeth Jane is not Henchard's daughter. This makes the reader sympathetic towards Henchard as he was betrayed by his late wife. However, Henchard is angered by this and take his anger out on Elizabeth Jane by insulting her speech and handwriting, "Good God, are you only fit to carry wash to a pig-trough, that ye use such words as those?" Henchard is being nasty to Elizabeth Jane even though it is not her fault. Consequently, one could argue that Henchard is a despicable man. Later, Hardy writes about how Henchard desires to do the right thing by marrying Lucetta. Lucetta is a flighty and indiscreet woman who follows her emotions. In her youth, she met Michael Henchard in her native Jersey. Henchard proposes to Lucetta and she turns him down because she loves Farfrae, although Henchard is oblivious to this. ...read more.


On the other hand, Henchard lies because Elizabeth Jane is all he has left and he does not want to be without her. Without Elizabeth Jane he will be very lonely. This makes the reader very sympathetic towards Henchard. Penultimately, Henchard is very unhappy that Elizabeth Jane is having a relationship with and considering marriage to Farfrae. This seems unfair on Elizabeth Jane. However, Henchard attends the wedding in goodwill. He gives the couple a Goldfinch. Elizabeth Jane finds it dead a month later. This saddens her, "the sadness of the incident had made an impression on her", and it makes her think of Henchard. She tried to find Henchard and regain contact however she is too late as he is already dead. This makes the reader feel very sympathetic towards Henchard because he died lonely and did try to mend the rift with Elizabeth Jane. In conclusion, from the examples listed above one can see how Hardy makes the reader feel sympathetic for an otherwise unsympathetic character. Henchard has made several mistakes but he attempts to correct them. Due to him having two sides to his character, the reader is moved by his death. On the one hand, there is his harsh, nasty and unsympathetic character as well as a soft, caring and sympathetic character. The way in which he died, not on speaking terms with Elizabeth Jane, makes the reader feel very sympathetic towards him at the time of his death. As the story unfolds, Hardy reveals how Henchard undertakes unsympathetic actions and attempts to correct them with numerous sympathetic actions. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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