Structure of the Novel The Mayor of the Casterbridge

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Maya Irma, AL85


        It is often said that The Mayor of Casterbridge is the best tragic novel ever written by Thomas Hardy, though not many will agree. The measure of success of a work of fiction relies on how well or poor the author has unified his story and controlled its impact. Hence we will scrutinize on the structure of the novel and how these elements of fiction intertwine and producing its complete unified effect. It is worth to note here that the plot, character, point of view, setting and theme make up the structure of a novel. Furthermore, in discussing its themes, we will need to take the plot, character, point of view and setting into account. Therefore, we will discuss on how these elements generate themes, make a comment on human conditions and thus how they enhance The Mayor of Casterbridge. This essay contains an assessment for the themes: immortality of Fate and evolution of Casterbridge; and a final part analyzing the novel’s dramatic effectiveness.

        Fate is indestructible in Hardy’s opinion and it acts as the motivator of events or actions which bring down the main character Michael Henchard. How Fate works we will look into the author’s manipulation of his characters, perspectives and plot.

 There is one perspective saying that the main plot of the story revolves around the main character and it cannot be mixed with sub-plots that revolve around secondary characters. However, in this novel, Hardy clumps all characters in one place and the plot and the sub-plots intersect with each other, twisting and complicating matters, especially for Henchard. The characters are woven tightly together, with many overlapping relationships: Henchard has a relationship with Lucetta, who also has a relationship with Farfrae. At the time that Lucetta first flirts with Farfrae, Elizabeth-Jane is seeing him. Lucetta is well aware of that fact, because Elizabeth-Jane stays with her. Elizabeth-Jane, of course, is Henchard's stepdaughter, and Farfrae is his rival. The closeness of all the main characters helps to strengthen the conflict within and between Henchard and the people around him. When Lucetta marries Farfrae, Henchard feels betrayed and defeated. When Elizabeth-Jane goes back to her real father (Newson), Henchard feels deprived of love from a child. It is as if Fate has influenced these secondary characters’ free will to run away from Henchard. No matter how hard he tries to pull them back to him, he fails. Thus, Henchard feels dejected and performs self-seclusion and ultimately dies in vain. With these, it is shown that Fate is so overwhelming that it can be shape-shifted into the form of human, determines to bring Henchard down.

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First person’s point of view allows us to get into his mind and know his motives and nature. We find that Henchard is essentially weak through his will at the end of the novel. It is arguable that during his life he is harshly aggressive towards people. He haunts Lucetta, Elizabeth and Abel Whittle, for example. But we must not neglect the significance of the will’s appearance at the end of story which reveals that he wishes that ‘no murners walk behind me’ and ‘no man remember me’. This means Henchard regrets the bad things he did to other people ...

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