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The Mayor of Casterbridge - Discussing Henchard's personality, and the reasons for his success and his deterioration in life.

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The Mayor of Casterbridge Tahsin Pak 26th June 2004 Introduction Michael Henchard begins the novel by entering Casterbridge 'with the walk of a skilled countryman'. He starts his life at badly, as he sells his wife to a young gentle sailor called Newson. His impression changes, as he becomes a wealthy corn merchant and the Mayor of Casterbridge. 25 years later, he ends up with his life in tatters, and eventually dying alone. In this coursework, I will be discussing Henchard's personality, and the reasons for his success and his deterioration in life. Also, I will describe the society which the people live in, emphasising the main reason why the society of 'Weydon-Priors and 'Casterbridge' are so quite and money driven. Main Body The society in 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' is very old-fashioned and stereotypical in certain aspects of the book. The Mayor of Casterbridge begins with Henchard, auctioning off his wife to a sailor. This verifies that in early nineteenth-century England, women of her class in rural districts were regarded as little more than stock to be disposed of at their owners' liking, such sales were not uncommon. ...read more.


The sell of Henchard's wife is highlight of the story, determining Henchard as the central character in events. He stands out in many ways apart from the sale of his wife. Henchard is rejected as an observer in many ways. His harsh personality, his crude arrogance and rudeness collaborate to his rejection in society. Donald Farfrae compensates for his unpopularity and his rejection as he another antagonist to Henchard. His arrival in town changes everything for the protagonist. The two men have many conflicts and clashes, and the competitiveness within their personal lives, both in business and in love, creates the outward conflict in the novel. Farfrae, who outdoes Henchard in everything, does much to hasten Henchard's downfall. This starts when he becomes unpopular among his own work colleagues when he forces Whittle to work in his underpants when he over sleeps, but Farfrae gives an ultimatum to Henchard saying "He either go home, or I leave this yard for good". For once, Farfrae shows authority, making him more popular than Henchard. The peasants show their hatred towards Henchard by organizing a 'skimmity-ride', because of Henchard and Lucetta's love involvement, resulting in Lucetta becoming very shocked, and soon die. ...read more.


The wagons colliding represent an abstract image of the tension in the relationship between Henchard and Farfrae. It also symbolizes the clash between tradition, which Henchard embodies, and the new modern era, which Farfrae personifies. The auctioning of Henchard's wife relates to the horses being sold there, representing Susan as horse who has no worth. I believe Henchard was both, credible and interesting. His believability was mainly in his personality. His harsh mentality, his old-fashioned ways and jealousy made him a central character. Yet, he pitied himself on many occasions, leading him to become more insecure and vulnerable, but at first he wasn't, he was a very strong liable character, but as the accusations built up, and the general public loosing his favour, he lost his reputation and his strong personality. Henchard's caring, loving and good natured side isn't presented as much as his harsh side. I believe, this helps to draw an audience, and keep the audience fixated on the novel. Although Henchard loses even the ability to explain himself-"he did not sufficiently value himself to lessen his sufferings by strenuous appeal or elaborate argument"-he never relinquishes his talent of endurance. Whatever the pain, Henchard bears it. It is this resilience that elevates him to the level of a hero-a man, ironically, whose name deserves to be remembered. ...read more.

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