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The Mayor of Casterbridge

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The themes imbedded in Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge are a clear reflection of 19th century attitudes. During the Victorian era there was a strong class emphasis, women were second-class citizens, and there was a culture of prudishness and sexual repression. In this essay I will examine three specific themes and how they reflect the values and attitudes of the 19th century. Firstly I will analyse the importance of reputation, followed by the function and role of females in a patriarchal society. Finally I will look at marriage out of economic necessity and how the novel portrays this. The importance of reputation is a constant theme that stems from the rigid social structure of the 19th century. The structure of the social classes created a large amount of social exclusion and exploitation. This was due to the distinguishable inequalities between the classes - such as wealth, power, authority and working conditions. ...read more.


Henchard asks about his 'name' for fear that it may have lost its power to be publicly recognized for achievement and reliability. The function and role of women in a patriarchal society was primarily to aid a man. In the 19th century males believed that they should aspire to the roles that have highest status in a society. Women, on the contrary, remained submissive and repressed. Without a man, women had very few opportunities. The novel clearly expresses this inequality through Susan's note to Henchard; she writes "I have done it for the best. I shall be in my grave when you read this, and Elizabeth Jane will have a home." The emphasis is that "Elizabeth Jane will have a home". Without a husband (achieved through reputation) Elizabeth Jane could be homeless and never have exceeded a middle class lifestyle. Susan goes to great lengths in the novel to advance Elizabeth-Jane. ...read more.


Both Henchard and Lucetta see marriage as a duty, and finalizing the deal has more financial connotations that loving ones. Marriage is reoccurring in the novel - firstly between Susan and Henchard for the sake of tradition, the second time for reputation. Lucetta and Henchard's arrangements regard money, and Elizabeth's wedding plans seem to revolve around her insecurity. All of which allude to marriage as an act of principle rather than of adoration. After reading The Mayor of Casterbridge we realise that a sudden injection of wealth, and therefore power, into 19th century society created a feeling of insecurity in the lower classes. Classes became distinct and forced people to value reputation above all else. Throughout the novel there is a constant sense of social responsibility, and an attitude of acceptance that prevented women from breaking out of their typical role in a patriarchal society. Marriage was forced upon many people and became an act of economic necessity. The Victoria era was an age of paradox and power, and The Mayer of Casterbridge reinforces the themes of reputation, patriarchal society and marriage as necessity. ...read more.

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