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All one has to do to imagine yourself enjoying reading this book is to recreate the opening scenes of the book in your head. They walk in silence in the heat and the dust.. a family of three, exhausted, thirsty, hungry, each emotionally separated from the other. Alone.
They happen along to a fair, where the man (Henchard) is suddenly possessed of the right to quench his thirst after a long walk along dust filled lanes. They eat a form of gruel and unbeknown to the woman, the man has his food laced with drink to make it more palatable (often the occurrence in those days).. Tempers fray after more and more drink is consumed by Henchard and in a fit of pique, where he is both consumed by jealousy of the mother to daughter relationship and the lack of displayed affection from his wife and the disaffection he feels for them both, he drunkenly stands up and offers his wife and child for sale shouting.. 'who would have ye some of this..am i to be forever tortured by such financially draining constraints in my life or am i to be rid of them and free to be a man who can breathe again?' or words to that effect.. The alcohol he consumes fuels his ambition further to be a 'free man' again and as they eat at sparely set out tables, he eyes his wife and child with growing frustration and when his pleas are ignored he rises once more to plead to his audience to rid him of his burden.
The scene is jaw droppingly good and leaves the reader hungry for more so that you can taste the disillusion of the man and the quiet compliance of the woman.. you feel with shocking violation the strains within their relationship, the tense atmosphere and of how a bet (that could have been so easily resolved) and clearly goes too far. No one cares to stop it.
This is all any reader could possibly need to feel compelled to read this book.. why it isn't a compulsory text for schools and literature reading books worldwide beats me... Hardy does what no one else can do, he makes his hero and heroine victims of their own weaknesses and in that creates a monster of a tale that leaves you tasting the bitterness Henchard feels right to the bitter and ironic end..
The Mayor Of Castorbridge is a book which held which I personally hold in high regard although being a book I read in school which generally leads to me never liking the book with the various in depth reading entailed. Thomas Hardy writes about Michael Henchard who hates his unfortunate life blaming Susan his wife and also his child Elizbeth which leads to the selling of Susan at an auction to a fisherman called Richard Newson.
The setting an cruel ironny involved throughout is brilliant. After Henchards drunken display he longs to hide his identity enabling to keep his shame as his own. Unfortunately that doesnt work out to well with Hardy's many twists in the book. As Susan returns to Henchard after believing Newson has died at sea returning with Henchard and Elizabeths daughter Elizabeth this is key to the story as you will find out through reading the book. Henchard is said to have a hatred towards women yet feels as if he owes first Luccetta a French woman who has been disgraced for entering a relationship with Henchard out of wedlock.
Then upon learning of the return of Susan he believes he owes Susan more for his past life. Basically turning Luccetta away.
The cruel misfortune of characters in The story is represented many time with Elizabeth even being rejected by a man called Donald Farfrae who has become Henchards assistant and also to make matters worse she loses Farfrae to Luccetta who she has befriended and moved in with after Henchards seemingly dismissive attitude towards her. The ironny in this again reinstated when Elizabeth throws Henchard out of her life as he loses his powerful role as Mayor to his assistant. Henchard is quietly mentioned as homosexual as he appears to open up more to Farfrae than he does to his wife Susan and also Luccetta this can be related to the background of the text.
The role of the peasantry is another brilliant addition to the text as it adds humour but also adds a darker side showing how much power they have in turning the wheel of fortune of those at the top. Hardy hs some magnificent characters in the story my favourite is Abel Whittle who gains our sympathy the whole way through yet the different ways he is used to dramatize the fall of Henchard as not even Abel Whittle fears the once powerful Henchard. The ending of the story is generally quite sad with Henchard being drawn up as a character which were not supposed to like for the majority of the text yet we identify with Farfrae in the beginning in the end the connections between both characters are very much reversed. The various parallels along with the grotesque imagery in the book are brilliant and stick in your head while its also easy to identify the similarities and as a reader you never have to fully digress the story to view it any way.
The Mayor of Casterbridge was a very interesting novel. In my opinion Hardy uses too much irony, and this kills the fun of the whole topic. It is true that every day is filled with irony, but it shouldn't be in somthing someone is reading. the novel also shouldn't be too predictable, I guess that's why Hardy likes irony. If you are a reader who likes suspense and tragedy then this book is for you. If you like irony then this is the book for you!!!
Thomas Hardy's books are somewhat difficult to read, but this book, set in an English market town, is well worth reading to obtain a picture of life in rural England during that time period along with a complex tale of an ambitious man's rise and ultimate fall. A man rising from the ranks of farm laborers builds himself up to become a successful grain merchant and leading citizen of the town. Events of his past emerge to place a shadow over his success, and his greed and some bad judgement lead to his ruin. Like most of Hardy's books, it is a tragedy for the main character.
Thomas Hardy in "The Mayor of Casterbridge" succeeds in portraying life in an Olde English farming community with rare realism. The downfall, uprising and subsequent downfall of the main character Henchard is graphically described as is the Spirit of all the chracters against adversity. This book is a "tragedy" but also uplifting reading and gives an insight into rural life of the time and the cultural constraints which were then in force. This is an excellent introduction to the works of Thomas Hardy.