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    The Mayor of Casterbridge: A character analysis of Michael Henchard

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    In view of the fact that The Mayor of Casterbridge was published weekly in 1886 in serialized form, Thomas Hardy had to keep the attention of his readers. He certainly managed to do so through the character of Michael Henchard. Hardy presents Henchard as a selfish, moody haytrusser whom the reader is able to love hating because of his continuous errors in judgment. His shameful faults in action prepare the reader for his downfall because he always manages to make the worst choice, which the reader is able to guess will haunt him later.

    However, Hardy presents a gentler and more compassionate side of Henchard toward the end of the novel, which allows the reader to sympathize with him. In the beginning of the novel, we are presented with a drunken tyrant, Michael Henchard, who, while intoxicated and therefore not in the right state of mind, sells his wife, Susan, and their young, innocent daughter, Elizabeth Jane, for a mere 5 guineas at an auction. This is the first and probably the cruelest mistake he makes. He proclaims that he fails to see the reason why men who have got wives and don’t want ’em shouldn’t get rid of ’em.”

    This link directly to his downfall because he ends up unknowing of the fact that his daughter died three months after the wife’s sale. When he finds out, he is extremely devastated and broken-hearted as he has already explained to Elizabeth Jane what he thought was the truth and asked her to change her name to Henchard. Ashamed of what he had done, Michael Henchard keeps the selling of his wife a secret. This underlies the beginning of all secrets. The reader can certainly foresee his downfall as he becomes a very well-respected powerful man as a mayor because the secret being so big and shameful is bound to be revealed.

    Ultimately, the woman selling the rum-filled furmity on the day of the auction exposes him for the kind of person he was. However, we do experience the truthful side of Henchard. As a powerful figure, he could have easily denied the accusation, and the furmity woman could have been classified as a confused mad lady. Instead, he lowers himself and says he is no better than she.” Therefore, his reputation is destroyed, and he loses the respect he had earned from most people who considered him a model figure. Again, being a secretive man, Henchard keeps his relationship with Lucetta a secret.

    He speaks of her indirectly, with Fafrae saying that they got naturally intimate and how he honestly meant to marry her.” When she arrives in Casterbridge, she is also keen for their relationship to be kept quiet. Jopp, a revenge-seeking former worker of Henchard, gets hold of letters which reveal the secret between Henchard and Lucetta. A skimmington ride is prepared on a night when Farfrae, Lucetta’s new husband, is out of town. The reader, at this point, is not surprised that the secret is revealed because it seems to always happen.

    The secret leads to the death of Lucetta as she has an epileptic fit when she sees the ride and realizes her reputation is further lowered. Jealousy is a major part of Henchard’s character. He feels intimidated by Farfrae because he seems to better him in every way. Henchard presents the old ways of thinking. He is almost stuck in the past and does not want to move on to modern life. Farfrae, however, is in tune with the more mechanized way of life. He is a much kinder and understanding man compared to Henchard. At one point, they disagree over how to treat Abel Whittle, one of Henchard’s employees.

    Henchard is harsh and stern in punishing him for being late, making him work without his trousers. Farfrae finds this extremely cruel and calls it “simple foolishness.” He even says Henchard’s actions are tyrannical. Henchard is annoyed by Farfrae’s words, and a rivalry is created between them. Henchard makes poor judgments in an attempt to outdo Farfrae, who is loved by all for his cleverness. As a result, Henchard loses everything to Farfrae, from love to money, and ends up worthless.

    This is expected because the reader witnesses Henchard being sour and unlikable while trying to be superior to Farfrae. Henchard is a self-important, unlikable man. He visits the weather prophet who tells him that August is not a good month. Ignoring what he is told, he foolishly buys, running past the decision with Jopp whom he had hired as a manager. Jopp’s advice is for him to do what he thought best.” His information is wrong, and therefore, he experiences a loss. Looking for someone to blame but himself, he fires Jopp, exclaiming that it might have been a fine day if he hadn’t given him his advice.

    The reader can certainly foresee his downfall because he acts without considering Jopp’s feelings. Henchard is to blame because he made the final decision to buy. Though Hardy presents Henchard as a very negative character in the opening, the reader sees a more considerate and kinder side of him towards the end of the novel. We empathize with him when we see his will after his death, in which he puts himself down as a worthless man wishing to be buried in consecrated ground.” We feel compassion for him and believe he has been given a harsher punishment than he deserves.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The Mayor of Casterbridge: A character analysis of Michael Henchard. (2018, May 27). Retrieved from

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