Characters similarities in The Mayor of Casterbridge

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Maya Irma, AL85

Discuss the similarities between EJ and Donald Farfrae, as well as those between Michael Henchard and Lucetta. What effects does Hardy achieve through these pairings?

        The Mayor of Casterbridge has stimulated the emotions and perspectives of many of its readers with its relentless tragic atmosphere. In creating a successful tragedy such as this novel, Thomas Hardy has used a score of dualisms. Incorporating two different entities in a novel – traditional values or modern, changing or changeless characters, to name a few; greatly adds intensity to the tragedy of a novel. Furthermore, by pairing distinctive characters Hardy generates a moral value for this novel; though he denied he is a moralist. The model characters are Michael Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane Newson, Donald Farfrae and Lucetta Templeman; and they can be categorized into two parts. Therefore this essay will look into the similarities between Henchard and Lucetta, with those between Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae and finally the effects of these two pairings towards the value of this novel.

        Henchard and Lucetta are similar in the sense that they are aggressive in fulfilling their wants or needs, and that they ultimately suffer as the result of their greed. For example, both of these characters act strictly according to their instincts. Henchard is initially presented as an itinerant hay-trusser who feels burdened by his content wife and daughter. However, unlike his wife Susan, he tries to fight back against his fate with his bullish nature, thus he sells her off. This act is greatly regretted by him later. Similarly, Lucetta is a flighty and indiscreet woman who follows her emotions. In her youth, she met Henchard in her native Jersey. Like Henchard, Lucetta lives recklessly according to her passions and suffers for it. Before arriving in Casterbridge, Lucetta becomes involved in a scandalously indiscreet affair with Henchard that makes her the pariah of Jersey. Apart from that, Hardy unites these two characters with their hubris, which is their excessive pride. Henchard tragically falls with his excessive pride, his impulsive nature and his ambition to succeed. Throughout the novel, Henchard makes many mistakes: he fails to maintain his wealth, his social position and his relationships with those who care for him. Yet when he believes he is crossed, he becomes extremely angry and will stop at nothing to ruin his rival. His jealousy of Farfrae causes "him to lose both a faithful employee and a good friend" (Kramer 86). Henchard’s pride cannot accept the fact that Farfrae has become more popular then he among the townspeople of Casterbridge. Furthermore, he feels threatened by Farfrae's sudden success; thus, he dismisses Farfrae. Henchard’s excessive pride not only destroys his relationship with Farfrae, but it also causes him to alienate Elizabeth-Jane. Henchard’s discovery that Elizabeth-Jane is not his daughter wounds his fatherly pride; as a consequence of this knowledge, his treatment of Elizabeth-Jane changes dramatically. Consequently, Elizabeth-Jane moves in with Lucetta and this separation further weakens Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane's already strained relationship. Lucetta, quite similar to Henchard, has an extreme pride of her own. She moves to High-Place Hall in Casterbridge as it is her obsessive nature to keep an eye on Henchard. Besides, Lucetta is so worried that her ‘currency’ is nearly expended and that she is no longer ‘marketable’. She is concerned that her “cheeks appear worn” and her “once bright eyes dim”:

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"How many years more do you think I shall last before I get hopelessly plain?" she asks … Elizabeth-Jane” (Ch. 24)

While staying in High-Place Hall however, Lucetta quickly becomes enamored with Henchard's archrival, Farfrae. Lucetta’s pride wants it all – long-term beauty and passionate romance – and she wishes to choose without regard for social constraints:

"I will love him!" she cried passionately; "as for [Henchard] – he’s hot-tempered and stern, and it would be madness to bind myself to him knowing that. I won't be a slave to the past – I'll love where I choose!" (Ch. 25) ...

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