How Far Is Michael Henchard Responsible For His Own Ruin? , Do You Feel He Can Usefully Be Described As A Tragic Hero?

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How Far Is Michael Henchard Responsible For His Own Ruin? , Do

You Feel He Can Usefully Be Described As A Tragic Hero?

Aristotle described a tragic hero as someone who has a fatal flaw that bring about ruin along with matters that are out of their own control. An example of this is Macbeth in the play written by Shakespeare where he gets himself into a position of eminence through sins but cannot stop his fate as it is left out of his control. The same can be said for Michael Henchard. We meet Michael Henchard first as a young hay trusser walking along the road leading to Weydon Priors with his wife and daughter. It soon occurs to the reader that there is some tension between husband and wife, underlined when Hardy describes, “she had no idea of taking his arm, nor he offering it”. I believe that this shows that Michael Henchard sees his wife as obligatory and is holding him back from making something of his life.  

The next significant part in the story is in the ferimity tent of the village fare. This helps underline a drink problem with Henchard that later in life helps catapult Henchard to his downfall. Michael Henchard believes if he did not have to look after his wife and child he would be “worth a thousand pound”. This is merely an observation and many at this part in the story would not have believed him, but as we later find out this observation turns into the truth. Henchard sells his wife to a complete stranger from the back of the tent proving Henchard has no respect for his wife and child. Henchard is so selfish that he will just let his wife and child walk off with a man he has never met in his life before, ironically he did not even believe the stranger would pay the money for his wife and child. These sides of Henchard's character eventually lead to his downfall and yet interestingly he has not even started to ‘make a man of himself’. Michael at first cannot believe what he has done the morning after, but it soon occurs to him the terrible deed he has committed himself to. The oath that Henchard takes before God proves that Michael Henchard was feeling resentful and also showed that deep down without alcohol he could be a good man and makes us feel that he could be described as a tragic hero as we are shown such a contrast in character. Many would feel that this might even be a turning point in Michael’s life, as he will no longer be influenced at all by alcohol.

We next meet Mrs Henchard and Elizabeth Jane searching for and finding Michael through the window of the King’s Arms at a peak of his prosperity, it is interesting to question why Susan has even bothered come to find Michael. Susan may have even forgiven Michael for what he did in his life previously. The observation by Elizabeth Jane that the waiter does not fill the wine glass of Michael Henchard and instead by-passed him shows that Henchard has stuck to his oath and deserved praise that he had kept to his word. Henchard's speech after the meal is noble and honest and showed another side of Michael Henchard, he was willing to dent his profit margin for the good of the people in Casterbridge. The plea to anyone who can help resolve the problem results in his first encounter with Farfrae, the note that is left for Henchard must feel like a god send but may as well be Henchard death warrant. The way Henchard chases down Farfrae once again shows Henchard’s impatience, he can just act on a decision to employ someone like that in a matter of seconds just like the sale of his wife. At that moment he feels it is the right decision so he will just go ahead with the idea no thoughts to the consequences. Henchard eventually persuades Donald Farfrae to come and manage his corn department, this again showed the ambitious and impatient side of Michael, as he cannot let anything go, the important characteristics of a tragic hero. The meeting with Jopp signals the beginning of the end for Michael. The way Michael treats the original applicant to the post is disgraceful and he blatantly points out “I have employed another manager”. Again it proves that Henchard has not thought things through and had Henchard been willing to compromise it may have prevented the bad taste being left in Jopp’s mouth. The revenge for Jopp comes later in the story forcing Michael to wonder why he did not treat him better.

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After his fleeting meeting with Jopp his conversation with Elizabeth Jane forces Henchard to feel that life is treating him well, so well in fact that nothing can possibly go wrong. This helps lead Henchard into a false sense of security. Henchard at first does not seem at all engaged with Elizabeth Jane “Now then what is it” “he said blandly” showing that he had better things to be doing with his time. As the conversation develops Michael becomes more and more interested as Elizabeth reveals her identity. The letter that had enclosed five guineas, I feel shows that ...

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