Thomas Hardy is one of the most widely read and prominent tragic novelists in English literature. Thus he is a quite influential figure. Most of his novels have his native place Dorset as their setting, which are categorized as his famous ‘Wessex novels’. In these novels Hardy describes the tragic fate of the rural life in England in quite a morbid mood and expressed his pessimistic view on human life at large. His The Mayor of Casterbridge is a most controversial novel reviled and revered. This thesis intends to make a comprehensive exploration of the tragic fate of the hero Henchard. As the mayor of Casterbridge, Henchard never stopped the fight against his fate throughout his whole life, however, he never succeeded, and moreover, he was beat down by fate. His character determined his tragic fate. His impulse and crankiness caused him to sell his wife after he got drunk, which is the beginning of his tragic fate; He was unwilling to adjust himself to the custom of Casterbridge, so he lost his battle in the competition with Farfrae. He tried so hard to expiate his past, but he was frustrated by kinship, friendship and love; the deficiency in his .character made him unfit to the changeable world, eventually, he was eliminated by history. This thesis mainly shows the character of tragic hero Henchard by analyzing the text. Part one introduces the philosophical and world view of Hardy, focusing on the understanding of Hardy’s Fatalism and Determinism. Part two will analyze the hard life of Henchard, with the view to find out the reason of his failure from his relationship with his wife and daughter and lover, and gets the conclusion that ‘Character is fate’. Part three analyzes the rivalry between Henchard and Farfrae, and looks into the reason why Henchard is eliminated by history, and it strengthens the conclusion that ‘Character is fate’.
Key words：character , environment, fate, tragic
1.1 Thomas Hardy and His Novels
Born June 2, 1840, in the village of Upper Bockhampton, about three miles from the town of Dorchester in southwestern England, Thomas Hardy lived well into the twentieth century, dying in 1928 at the age of 88. Hardy remained a Victorian to the end. This is particularly true of his career as a novelist. All of his major novels were written before the turn of the century. He was the last important novelist of the Victorian age. In his Wessex novels, he vividly and truthfully described the tragic lives of the peasants in the last decade of the 19th century.
As the child of a builder, Hardy was apprenticed to John Hicks, an architect who lived in the city of Dorchester, and Dorchester is the model of Hardy’s fictional Casterbridge. “Although Hardy gives serious thought to attending university and entering the church, a struggle he would dramatize in his 1895 novel Jude the Obscure, his declining religious faith and lack of money encouraged him to pursue a career in writing instead”. Hardy spent nearly a dozen years on writing. In the end, he became a successful novelist and poet.
Far From the Madding Crowd was published in 1874, which is the turning point of Hardy’s literary life. The novel was an overwhelming success, and from then on, hardy was able to support himself only by writing. From 1878 to 1895, Hardy achieved a lot as a novelist. During this period Hardy published The Return of Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, with which He consciously experiments with the idea and form of tragedy. “In these books, Hardy’s persevering pessimism---based on his conception of the ‘Immanent Will’ --and his sense of the inevitable tragedy of human life are continually apparent”. When he stayed in familiar rural setting, used classic form, and focused on a concern with the drama of basic human passions, his novels took on a unique tragic power different from other English novelists....
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