, Research Paper
How Thomas Hardy manipulates several places in The Mayor of Casterbridge to his advantage The Mayor of Casterbridge is set in Dorchester, according to its geographical location, and many significant events occur in the public houses of the town and its historical earthwork – the Ring. It is easily perceptible that each of these places has the purpose that Hardy indicates. The Ring is called the Maumbury Ring; it was used locally as an amphitheater and an execution ground. It is ridges and ditches of earthwork; Hardy describes, ‘The amphitheater was a huge circular enclosure, with a notch at opposite extremities of its diameter north and south’, which is referred to abruptly as ’spittoon of Jotuns’. A reference book on Dorchester’s Ring says, ‘The site of the town gallows, giving huge crowds a good view of hangings from its circular banks.’ Another implacable description of the ambiance around the Ring is ‘The sun was resting on the hill like a drop of blood on an eyelid…’ Here two important meetings of Henchard took place – with Susan and Lucetta. They end happily; yet they are the onset of tragedies: the ones responsible for further progression of the novel. The description of its rigor seems like a prediction into the future. Hardy chooses this location for these meetings because they are tentative meetings; thus its solemnity is almost as if eerie spirits are watching over them – hence the fact that it is an amphitheater and an execution ground. From these meetings, all Henchard’s intentions go wrong. Elizabeth-Jane is not his genuine daughter and his letters from Lucetta are not successfully delivered – all resolved to doom, hypercritically. There are four inns in this novel – the Antelope, the King’s Arm, the Three Mariners’, and Peter’s Finger. The most important ones are the second, third and fourth, yet all four still play important parts in the novel. The Antelope, although least mentioned, possesses certain a degree of significance. It actually exists in the town itself. Hardy uses this inn as the connection to the outside world – as a coach stop – and this is where Lucetta first arranges to meet Henchard for the return of the letters. ‘I shall be in the coach which changes houses at the Antelope…’ And indeed this was the actual place where the coach from London to Bristol used to stop. The significance here is that if Lucetta had been present, the story would not advance like this and the Triangle between Henchard, Farfrae and Lucetta would not have been established. This is one inconspicuous turning point of the novel. The other three inns are related: they all have connections. Different kinds of events occur in each inn, and certainly causing vital changes. The King’s Arms is the place where the upper class people would go, Peter’s Finger vice versa, and the There Mariners’ being intermediate. Hence Henchard is only found in the King’s Arm and the Three Mariners’, not in Peter’s Finger, when the other towns folks are found vice versa In King’s Arms, ‘the chief hotel in Casterbridge’, the events are focussed on Henchard. The first time this inn is mentioned, Henchard is having a party with his colleagues in the Town Council, he being the Mayor himself. ‘That’s Mr. Henchard the mayor at the end of the table, a facing ye; and that’s the councilmen right and left…’This suggests that this hotel is not of a kind that ordinary people would go to. Here a picture of Henchard’s success and prosperity is displayed, but the bankruptcy evaluation also takes place here. ‘One day Elizabeth-Jane was passing through the King’s Arms … it was meeting of the commissioners under Mr. Henchard’s bankruptcy.’ This hotel is thus portrayed to be a place that reflects Henchard’s fate, and it possesses formality as its nature. Here Henchard is seen risen and fallen through the formal meetings both concerning him. The Three Mariners’ is more intermediate. Many types of people would come here. It is not such a formal and extravagant place like the King’s Arms – Henchard, Farfrae, Elizabeth-Jane and Susan, all have come here throughout the novel. It is like a place of prophecy; all that is said becomes symbolic and vital as the time in the novel elapses. This is where things start and end. Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae first meet here; it is when she is working as a maid in exchange for accommodation. She becomes both physically and emotionally attracted to him. She has spoken of herself and Farfrae symbolically. ‘For myself, I didn’t at all mind waiting a little upon him. He’s so respectable, and educated – far above the rest of them in the inn.’ And this ambition becomes true in the end, after the death of Lucetta, his former wife. Farfrae has initially gained his popularity here. ‘…And now the Scotchman had made himself so soon at home that at the request of some of the master-tradesmen, he too was favoring the room with ditty.’ ‘By this time he had completely taken possession of the hearts of the Three Mariners’ inmates…’ And later on, his popularity becomes evident when Doctor Chacksfield, the mayor after Henchard, dies; Farfrae is appointed the next mayor without an election. ‘If I should nominate thee to succeed him, and there should be no particular opposition, will thee accept the chair?’ This is also another prognostication of the future. Between Farfrae and Henchard, this is where they commenced and terminated their friendship. But the sentence are of Henchard which prophesizes a summary of future. This is when Farfrae has saved Henchard’s corn from the contaminated state, restoring his reputation. Henchard wanted to thank Farfrae and said, ‘you have saved my credit, stranger though you be. What shall I pay you for this knowledge?’ Henchard persuaded Farfrae to stay in town as his manager. After they have fallen out, he stayed and started a business in the town. The irony is that Farfrae eventually assimilates all that had previously belonged to Henchard, so this is the payment for his help. Later on when Henchard has already become bankrupt and his vow not to drink becomes obsolete, he gets drunk here. In his drunkenness, he maliciously provokes Farfrae by singing the hundred-and-ninth Psalm in such manner to insult him. He sang, ‘A swift destruction soon shall seize On his unhappy race; And the next age his hated name Shall utterly deface.’ He repeated the last two lines in the way as if to curse Farfrae. The consequence is different. It becomes hypocritical as it actually applies for him. His position in the town is not as before; his status recesses day by day and becomes contemptible eventually. Thus it is correct to say that the Three Mariners’ is the place of ‘prophecy’, where what was said becomes vital in the course of the novel. Peter’s Finger’s location, in Mixen Lane, is given furtive descriptions. The vicinity is almost equivalent to a slum area. It is said to be ‘idle’ of local mechanics and local women are given the expression of ‘having their knuckles on their hips’ and ‘attitude of two-handled mugs’. It is not an area where the main characters of the novel would come about, yet the most acute event originated here. Peter’s Finger is described by Hardy to be the ‘Church of Mixen Lane’: where folks would come and congregate, share their ideas. But it is another ironical that the significance of this public house is the fact is that it is more sinful and pagan – it instigated the Skimmington Ride, causing the death of Lucetta. ‘What’s the object of your meditation, sir?’ ‘This is the love letters that I’ve got here.’ ‘I say – what a good foundation for a skimmity-ride!’ This is the only time that this public house is mentioned in the novel, yet it has summoned forth another turning point of the novel – from this pagan, underworld place by the mistake of Jopp who failed to deliver the trifles intact. Hardy has selectively used the available places in Dorchester to his advantage as it can be seen categorized throughout the novel. This concealed device rouses different sentiments as he guides through the whole progression. They are all real locations, despite the fact that there is not evidence for the existence of Peter’s Finger, and that has also added another tint to the sense of discovery in this novel. He has cleverly used all the places to maximum efficiency regarding their authentic profile in tangible world.