"Discuss how the passage of time is presented in the first chapters of The Mayor of Casterbridge. What effect does it have on the characters?"

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“Discuss how the passage of time is presented in the first chapters of The Mayor of Casterbridge. What effect does it have on the characters?”

  This essay will answer the preceding question by discussing how the key characters and places develop and are affected by the passage of time in the first few chapters of the book. The author of the book is Thomas Hardy, a very descriptive writer, although this is one of his faster paced books. It was written in the 1880’s and is set in the 1830’s.

  The book begins with Michael Henchard walking along a dusty road with his wife Susan. She is carrying a baby called Elizabeth –Jane. After getting to the fair taking place in the village Henchard becomes drunk and sells his wife. The next day he regrets what he has done and consequently swears an oath that he will not touch a drop of liquor for 21 years. At this point in the book (chapters 2-3) there is an 18 year gap in the book.

  The book is set in the summer of around 1830 we know this because “before the 19th century had reached one-third of its span.” As it was set in the 1830’s the landscape would have been very different from today. This is demonstrated from the start of the book.

  Michael and Susan Henchard are “plainly but not ill clad” This tells us that they are not badly off. On the other hand they are covered in a “thick hoar of dust” telling us that the roads are unpaved. This also implies that although the Henchards are not badly off they cannot afford transport indicating that it is still expensive at this time. Henchard is described as “of fine figure, swarthy, and stern in aspect.” His clothing is old fashioned “short jacket of brown corduroy” and a “waistcoat with white horn buttons.” He is described as a “skilled countryman” and a “general labourer.” He seems an old fashioned man who does not welcome change. The couple do not communicate and the book comments on “the perfect silence they preserved.” They do not seem to have a good relationship “but seemed to have no idea of taking his arm, nor he of offering it.” This is portrayed as a normal state as she “appeared to receive it as a natural thing.” Susan Henchard is carrying a baby called Elizabeth-Jane.

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  As the Henchards continue they come across a Turnip-Hoer implying that the residents still live off the land a rural village. The hoer is very pecimistic about the state of the village Weydon-Priors “there were four houses cleared away last year and three this.” This pecimism that trade in the village is dwindling due to the continuingly growing amount of trade going to the bigger towns. There are further signs of decline at the village fair “Which showed standing-places and pens where many hundreds of horses and sheep had been exhibited and sold in the forenoon, but were now ...

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This essay is on the whole written well, but with many GCSE essays, it unnecessarily begins with "This essay will". I would also suggest that some of the paragraphs are merged: in an essay such as this, four or five key paragraphs should be used to show the clear development of time. Yet, with the number of paragraphs used in this essay, it is unclear as to what each adds to the argument.

Although this essay is perceptive in parts, it lacks any real analysis. This essay often retells the story. If I were doing this essay, I would've picked out some short concise quotes which highlight the changing of time, focusing on choice of words and the effects it has on the characters. This is done in places, but it would be nice to see it more thoroughly. Although the reader response isn't directly questioned in the question, it was a common flaw in my class that people neglected this. If the essay had mentioned sympathy, hatred, etc for characters due to the time passing, it would've made the answer stronger.

This essay tends to narrate the changes of characters, but at times it analyses how time is utilised by Hardy to present the development. Most of the introduction is irrelevant - it is a common problem with essays that they introduce an essay by giving some contextual information about the author. Not only does this waste time in an exam, or words in coursework, but it shows that the essay hasn't got a clear focus on the question. I like how the candidate is perceptive in the way Henchard is able hold off time, but it eventually dragged down also.