---- An Appreciation ----
Chauvinism has no greater portrayal than Thomas Hardy’s Michael Henchard, for better or for worse. Lying among ruins in the last stages of his life, with nothing but screaming silence for company, the once mighty mayor didn’t settle for a compromise. His will - which is a fitting prop to the bitter tale of rise and fall of a man - sums up the volatile emotions which only a man in his state was capable of spitting.
‘Anti-Climax’ or ‘Bathos’ is what distinguishes Hardy from his contemporaries. The novel is teeming with conversations and scenarios which consists in a sudden fall from great to mean thoughts, and serves to excite a sense of the ludicrous. The noble act of Michael Henchard in returning the love letters and the disgrace brought about by Jopp by the public reading of Lucetta’s emotion, which ultimately resulted in the shattering of their high society aura and eventually in her death, is a classic example of the aforementioned figure of speech.
Also, Hardy’s remarkable ability in creating a clear distinction amongst the characters is praiseworthy. These people, these men and women, so different in their composure and entity, yet all comfortably woven into the plot. Hence, Michael Henchard and Donald Farfrae are as integral to the plot as the Furmity-Woman or the rowdy crowd of Peter’s Finger.
The title, “The Mayor of Casterbridge” itself serves as the greatest example of ‘burlesque’ and ‘mock-heroic’ at the same time. The reader is never given a moment to condense his thoughts into a lofty treatment of the protagonist suiting the title or a prosaic one condemning the Mayor. Hence, it’s Michael Henchard himself who makes and mars the title.
This novel also shows traces of ‘pathetic fallacy’ in various degrees of personification where nature or inanimate objects are represented as echoing the feelings of man, or showing interest in human action. When the games and tea organized by the Mayor in celebration of a national event - which for him was an effort to stamp his authority on the town and diminish Farfrae’s popularity - was washed away by rain, it suggested nature’s silent prediction of the ensuing doom of Michael Henchard.
The success of Hardy as a writer is perhaps best expressed when he is able to evoke a sense of ‘enraged pity’ for the doomed mayor into the minds of the reader, that they would not like the fallen hero to return to the plot in some form, rather possibly be relieved that the great man has found the deserving respect, even if posthumous.