The Importance of Secrets in The Mayor of Casterbridge
Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge is a novel that revolves around the concealment and divulging of secrets. Henchard, Susan, Newson and Lucetta all keep secrets, which are revealed throughout the course of the novel. Although Susan is a minor character, she plays a major role in the novel through the concealment of her secret. She hides her daughter Elizabeth Jane’s true identity from Henchard, thus allowing him to think she is his daughter. She also keeps the information about her prior relationship with Henchard from Elizabeth Jane, as well as the fact that she had a half-sister that died. The lack of information strangles the relationship between Henchard and Elizabeth Jane. Although Susan keeps these secrets to protect her daughter, her lack of candor results in the consequences she fears most – her daughter’s emotional upheaval. While Susan herself does not reveal the secret, it is disclosed through a letter before the planned time, thus causing Elizabeth Jane’s alienation from Henchard. The reader is oblivious to Susan’s secret until it is revealed in her letter to Henchard. Susan chooses to keep Elizabeth Jane’s identity a secret because she is afraid of disappointing Henchard. A quiet, unassuming woman, Susan is scared of disappointing others and how they will react when she upsets them. She believes that in order to restore order between her and Henchard she must conceal the truth about Elizabeth Jane. It is hard enough for her to reunite with Henchard and when she is alone in the ring with him, she admits meekly, "I am quite in your hands, Michael…if you tell me to leave again to-morrow morning, and never come near you more, I am content to go" (63). Susan’s speech is reflective of her timid and submissive personality. In addition, when Henchard asks Susan if she forgives him, “she murmured something; but seemed to find it difficult to frame her answer” (64). Susan is unable to show her...
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