What the Mayor of Casterbridge tells us

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What the Mayor of Casterbridge tells us

About 19th Century Wessex

       The narrative of ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ is intricate and complex, making it hard to follow. The pages of this acclaimed novel are filled with scandal, but it provides for an interesting and unique story. Hardy’s personal interest in agriculture and study in architecture enables him to create a great a successful and very visual story. The story is set in one main location, an old village created from Dorchester called Casterbridge and the other; Weydon Priors, a smaller version of the typical market towns. The plot of the story is unusual and certainly a little out of the ordinary but still, it makes results in a compelling story. Thomas Hardy uses an extensive descriptive vocabulary to create images and pictures in the reader’s imagination. Hardy describes the surroundings of Casterbridge as mainly tree plantations and row after row of fields planted with corn.

From the beginning, it is obvious that something is strange about this family. It was one summers evening when the three (Michael, Susan and Elizabeth-Jane) begin the voyage to Weydon-priors. Although the man, woman, and child are not poorly dressed,  “…The thick hoar of dust which accumulated on their shoes and garments from an obviously long journey lent a disadvantageous shabbiness to their appearance just now”. The first scene is works well by establishing the visual appearance of Casterbridge, giving us suggestions of the themes to run throughout the novel and introducing us to the main character(s). In the story the family travel to Weydon Priors, an event takes place where Henchard gets drunk and sells his wife for five guineas. He wakes in the morning and goes in search of her but he can’t find her so returns to the town of Casterbridge. He makes a vow to not drink for 18 years. Around eighteen years pass by and by this time Henchard has built up a good reputation in the corn industry and has become the Mayor of Casterbridge due to his economic success. He meets a man called Farfrae and they get on well so he offers him a job and Farfrae refuses the opportunity and tells him that he is going to the America. Susan returns to the area and realizes that Henchard made a vow. Henchard believes that Elizabeth Jane is his daughter and becomes attached to her, but really she isn’t. Henchard’s quality of life rapidly decreases and soon the election for mayor arrives and Henchard isn’t even a candidate.  

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Casterbridge is a small town and its layout is rather simple, not dissimilar to modern towns. The church in the village represents the heart of the community and is where all businesses and shops are located. The housing seems like it would be that of a rather modernized style as the windows are described as ‘overhanging’. There were general activities that took place in the village, such as: the market and the harvests, which took place every year. The farmers used to go to the church to pray for rain whilst crops were ...

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