The Girls of Casterbridge

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Tessa Fraser
Composition one
Ms. Dundas
1/31/13
The Halot, Elizabeth-Jane and Their Gender Roles
“Don't be the girl who fell. Be the girl who got back up.”-Jeanette Stanley. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy introduces the readers to Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta, two girls of both different means personalities. The comparison by Thomas Hardy of Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta reveals two different sides of the gender barriers that faced young women in the 1800’s. This comparison shows that Hardy is an early feminist. This is shown through examining each girl’s respective personality, their friendship, how each handles it, and the gender role side that each are portraying. Elizabeth-Jane is the book’s heroine. She is the daughter of Susan and Henchard. Elizabeth- Jane is quiet and shy. Elizabeth-Jane also cares a large amount about doing what’s proper. She worries about her friend Lucetta’s reputation, and how to fix it. Elizabeth- Jane is an all-out good person. She seeks to better herself by studying, “Knowledge-the result of great natural incite- she did not lack; learning, accomplishments-those, alas, she had not” (Hardy 82). Elizabeth-Jane has this passion to learn more that the reader does come to admire about her. She is not too concerned about finding a man to marry. Elizabeth- Jane seems content to just learn and be alone. However, when it comes to Elizabeth-Jane and men, the reader see an entirely new side of her. When Lucetta effectively replaces her in Farfrae’s mind, she just lets it go and goes on with her life. Yes she’s miffed for about five seconds but in the end she just leaves and moves on. It is this fact that makes it hard to root for Elizabeth-Jane in the end. On the entirely other side the reader encounters Lucetta. Lucetta is Elizabeth-Jane’s only friend in the world. She is vain and petty. Lucetta is Henchard’s former lover. She was young and naive. She blabbed her mouth everywhere and with the help of Michael Henchard ruined her reputation. This left her in ruin and she wrote a ton of love notes to him. All of this happens because he promises to marry her. The most important thing to know about Lucetta is that she is a manipulator. She will cry in order to get what she wants from men. In this regard she is brilliant and the reader looks upon her with both disgust and admiration. The reader see’s Lucetta for one of her more human qualities as follows, “‘Bring me a looking glass. How do I appear to people?’ She asks languidly. ‘Well- a little worn’, answered Elizabeth-Jane” (161). Lucetta is well aware that once her beauty is gone, she will never be able to find another man to marry her. She also knows that she has two choices if she wants to remain proper, she can stay single because she has been ruined or she can marry again and hope that her past never comes back to haunt her. This then leads the reader to the realization that she will not only do anything to get a man but she also will do anything to keep her scandal in the past. This includes stepping on her friend in order to accomplish this. This form of her personality is not surprising, given the time period. Now there’s the friendship between Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta. This unlikely friendship starts out in a grave yard, specifically at Elizabeth-Jane’s mothers grave. Both of these young women are there for very different reasons; Elizabeth-Jane is having a pity party because Henchard was mean to her, and Lucetta is finding out if Susan is really dead because she is still after Henchard at this point in the book. From this meeting Elizabeth-Jane gets both a friend and a new place to live. As this friendship grows, it becomes clear how differently both of these young women approach friendship. Elizabeth-Jane listens to Lucetta vent about her affair, “ ‘This person- a lady- once admired a man much- very much’, she said tentatively. ‘Ah’, said Elizabeth-Jane” (160). Elizabeth-Jane doesn’t judge her; she listens to her and tries to...
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