In the view of the fact that the Mayor of Casterbridge was published weekly in 1886 in a serialised form, Thomas Hardy had to keep the attention of his readers and 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 judgement. His shameful faults in action prepared the reader for his downfall because he manages to always make the worst choice which the reader is able to guess will haunt him later.
However Hardy presents a gentler and compassionate side of Henchard toward the end of the novel which allows the reader to be able to be sympathetic towards 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 go t wives and don’t want ’em shouldn’t get rid of ’em “.
This links directly to his downfall because he ends up unknowing of the fact that his daughter died 3 months after the wife sell. 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 the day of the auction exposes him for the kind of person he was. However we do experience the truthful side of Henchard. He being a powerful figure he could have easily denied the accusation and the furmity woman could’ve been classified as a confused mad lady. He lowers himself and says he is “no better than she” and therefore his reputation is destroyed and loses the respect he had earned from most people who considered him as model figure. Again being a secretive man, Henchard keeps his relation ship with Lucetta a secret.
He speaks of her indirectly with Fafrae saying they got naturally intimate and how he “honestly meant to marry her”, When she arrives in Casterbridge she is also keen for their relation ship to be kept quiet. Jopp a revenge seeking former worker of Henchard gets hold 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 on an night when Farfrae, Lucetta 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 realised her reputation is also further lowered. Jealousy is a major part of Henchard character. He feels intimidated by Farfrae because he seems to better him in everyway. Henchard presents the old ways of thinking. He is almost stuck in the past and odes not want to move on to modern life. Farfrae however is in tune with the more mechanised 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 at punishing him for being late by making him work without his trousers. Farfrae finds this extremely cruel and calls it “simple foolishness to do this”. He even says his actions are tyrannical. Henchard is really annoyed by the words of Farfrae and rivalry between them is then created from then by Henchard. He ends up making very poor judgements, which only encourage people to dislike him, in the idea of being better that rival Farfrae who is loved by all for his cleverness. Henchard loses everything to Farfrae from love to money and ends up worthless.
This is as expected because the reader witnesses Henchard being sour and unlikable while trying to be more superior that Farfrae. Henchard is a very 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 pas t the decision with Jopp who He had hired as a manger. Jopp’s advice is for him to “do what he thought best” his information is wrong and therefore experiences a loss. Looking for some one 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 and Henchard is the one to blame because he made the final decision to buy Though Hardy presents Henchard a very negative character in the opening, the reader sees the more considerate and kinder side of him towards the end of the novel. We empathise with him when we see his will after his death in which he puts himself down as a worthless man wishing he be buried in “consecrated ground”. We feel compassion with him and feel he has been given a hasher punishment than he deserves.