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The Character of Michael Henchard in Mayor of Casterbridge

By foxyracer31088 Mar 25, 2007 743 Words
Michael Henchard possibly being the most mysterious character of the novel, "The Mayor of Casterbridge, has a complexity about him. In the beginning of the novel he is obviously an ungreatfull and ignorant young man as he believes that his wife will not actually leave him if he offers her for sale such as a horse would be. At this point in his life he is only the tender age of twenty-one which may account for his attitude toward his wife. For example, he says,

"Here-I am waiting to know about this of mine. The woman is no good to me who will have her?" After his wife is actually sold for only five guineas he awakens from a night of drinking which shows he's a bit of a drunkard. It is the alcohol that released his fit of rage to get rid of his wife and child. But we as readers discover after this that he is a determined deeply sorrowed man. There is a passage in which Henchard thinks,

"Yet she knows I am not in my senses when I do that! Well, I must walk about till I find her…Seize her, why didn't she know better than bring me into this disgrace!" He thinks that he should get his young daughter Elizabeth-Jane back. He demonstrates great discipline when he vows not to drink alcohol for as many years as he has been alive because of the great mistake it has made me make. Eighteen years after this occurs, Elizabeth and Susan, his wife, visit Casterbridge where Henchard has become the mayor of the town. He is much more wise but is obviously a very lonely and almost perturbed man. He grasps for any company he can and is civil except when a tint of rage is revealed at a dinner he has. A hidden rage his observable when he is talking business and a sales critic annoys him. However he has still not touched alcohol revealing his strength. When his daughter Elizabeth meets him,(unknowing that it is her father), he is excited to see her and find that her mother is alive. But this is when his pessimism is first shown, he doubts for a moment that this girl is really his daughter but a poser and thinks that his wife and daughter really are dead. He later meets with his wife in secret and asks if she will have a reunion with him under the circumstance that no one know the truth about their past. This makes it obvious that Henchard places great value in good name and definitely reputation.

Mark Twain once said, "Circumstance - which moves by laws of its own, regardless of parties and policies, and whose decrees are final and must be obeyed by all - and will be" The Mayor of Casterbridge can only reinforce this quote. In the novel, it is clearly by chance that there happens to be a sailor that will buy Susan and takes her and her daughter off from the fair to live with him. However it is important to remember that chance and fate may create the situations for the characters, but in the end their personalities determine how they will react. Susan chooses to leave her ungreatfull and rather drunk husband. Eighteen years later, just by chance Susan and Elizabeth return to the same fair she was sold at. She is eventually lead, by chance again(I'm sure there is an obvious pattern by now), to Casterbridge a window looking in on her former husband Michael Henchard as the Mayor. She chooses to seek him out after she overhears the reason why Henchard is the only one not drinking wine. Consequently, a young Scotsman named Donald Farfrae ends up getting a note about how the mayor can improve his business crop to Henchard. He is sent to the Three Mariners for a place to sleep. Overhearing this Susan and Elizabeth decide to go to the Three Mariners as well for rest. Meanwhile Henchard decides to seek out the brilliant Scotsman for a word. He winds up in the room next to Susan's. It is these circumstantial events that lead to the unraveling of the inevitable meeting between Susan, Elizabeth and Henchard. From here, the plot of the mayor trying to reunite with his wife sparks and takes off like a snowball effect.

Hardy, Thomas. "The Mayor of Casterbridge"

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