The Mayor of Casterbridge

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The Mayor of Casterbridge

1.Discuss the ways in which Hardy has raised awareness of social issues in the readers of The Mayor of Casterbridge.

The Mayor of Casterbridge written by Thomas Hardy in 1884/85 reflects upon the Progression of Modernism during the first half of the 19th century English society that was progressing in a difficult transition from a pre-industrial Britain to “modern” Victorian times. Much of the action and plot in Hardy’s novel The Mayor of Casterbridge takes place during the years surrounding 1846. These were the years in which traditionalists took their last stand before being defeated in the name of progress. Hardy undoubtedly and repeatedly illustrates in his novel the problems of everyday life and noticeably raises the awareness of social issues in the readers. The Mayor of Casterbride deals with social issues such as the industrialization, social classes within societies and communities, the self-destruction of individuals and portrays mankind’s flaws and the view upon woman.

The foremost contrast right through the novel is between the protagonist Michael Henchard, a man relying on the traditional way of life and the antagonist Donald Farfrae, a man intrigued by modern ideas. This illustrates the inevitability that progress and modernization will overcome tradition. The conflict of tradition versus modernization is highly visible through Henchard and Farfrae’s dissimilar approaches to business, their contrasting attitudes toward modernization and also their changing roles in the society of Casterbridge. The two men take extremely different approaches to bookkeeping, accounting, managing the employees and so forth of Henchard’s business. Henchard being a man of old-fashioned attitude and methods towards business; he is unable to write properly, thus leading to poor and unorganised kept financial records and relying upon his memory. Farfrae, however, is a young and bright chap who approaches business methodically and with modern visions. He keeps his business account books in perfect order; willing to work late in doing so. “A light shone from the office window, and there being no blind to screen the interior Henchard could see Donald Farfrae still seated where he had left him, initiating himself into the managerial work of the house by overhauling the books. Henchard entered, merely observing, “Don't let me interrupt you, if ye will stay so late.” He stood behind Farfrae's chair, watching his dexterity in clearing up the numerical fogs which had been allowed to grow so thick in Henchard's books as almost to baffle even the Scotchman's perspicacity. The corn-factor's mien was half admiring, and yet it was not without a dash of pity for the taste of anyone who could care to give his mind to such finikin details. Henchard himself was mentally and physically unfit for grabbing subtleties from solid paper; he had in a modern sense received the education of Achilles, and found penmanship a tantalizing art”.

The conflicts between modern and traditional approaches to business are demonstrated through the contrasting business ethics of Henchard and Farfrae. Henchard belonging to the older generations may not be as skilled at penmanship or mathematics; due to this his bookkeeping skills represent an older and more traditional method of maintaining business accountancy. Farfrae on the other hand being a younger generation manages business in a modern way by keeping the financial records as accurate and up to date as possible, by going through old records and rectifying any mistakes made by Henchard previously. Michael’s methods of business represents skills that are no longer in continual use and Farfrae being an example of how to the advance of technology causes the loss of traditional, yet valuable skills in society.

In the same way, the conflict between traditional and modern approaches to business in society is demonstrated through their contrasting perspectives on how to manage...
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