“Michael Henchard possesses all the features of a tragic hero”
With reference to appropriately selected parts of the novel, and relevant external and contextual information on the nature of the tragic hero, give your response to the above view.
Aristotle’s poetics defined a tragic hero as “tragedy [that] depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine, usually through some combination of hubris, fate, and the will of the gods.” It starts with a person of noble, elevated status with many admirable qualities, but in spite of his qualities he possesses a flaw (hubris) and then does something that includes his flaw (hamactia) and the consequence of this act(s) lead to his downfall and/or demise (peripeteia). But during the persons downfall, they achieve insight/wisdom over the situation; an epiphany (anagnorisis). After this, the audience/reader who witnesses the spectacle experiences purgation in their emotions (catharsis). 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' presents Henchard as a typical tragic hero in that he rises, suffers and dies through his own character and a concentration of events.
Michael Henchard contains admirable qualities and a status of nobility, as he is a working class skilled labourer who rises to eminent status in his rural town as the Mayor. Casterbridge is a town which is of meritocracy society; power can be entrusted in individuals according to merit. Henchard comes to this town and rises within it with his noble qualities, which are shown from the start of the novel to the end of it. Henchard wants to better himself, for what he lacks in education, as shown in his will by misspelling ‘mourners’ and ‘flowers’, he makes up for with his willpower, for after he becomes drunk and sells his wife, Susan and daughter, Elizabeth-Jane; "I'll sell her for five guineas to any man that will pay me the money," to a sailor called Newson for five guineas in the furmenty tent at Weydon-Priors fair, he swears an oath against alcohol for twenty one years: “"I, Michael Henchard...do take an oath...that I will avoid all strong liquors for the space of twenty-one years to come" 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.