Character Makes The Man Essay, Research Paper
Character Makes the Man
One of the questions Thomas Hardy poses in his masterwork novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge, is the relationship between character and chance in destiny. Destiny in this novel most closely relates to the idea of destiny put forth in Robert Frost s poem The Road Not Taken, where chance defines the paths for a person to take, but it is the person s character itself, which decides the path he or she takes in the end. Through Hardy s tale of the rise and fall of Michael Henchard, the reader gets a clear example of this all-important idea Hardy wants to convey: that character indeed is fate.
Throughout the reader s experience with Michael Henchard, one can see the harsh qualities that led to his downfall and the endearing qualities that led to his rise in the first place. It was his tenacity, his dedication to his sacred oath against liquor that allowed him to move up from a lowly hay-trusser to mayor of the town, throughout every social level, in such a short time. His romantic qualities, such as the indescribable bond he feels toward Donald Farfrae, play a part in his destiny also, giving Farfrae the position to outshine Henchard and take over as his successor. His stubbornness prevents him from revealing the truth about Elizabeth-Jane s father s death sets up her disavowal of him at the end of the novel, establishing him as a truly unloved and tragic character.
One cannot deny that luck plays a hand in this game of chance, however. It was not Henchard that caused Richard Newson to return from the dead, but, going back to The Road Not Taken, luck and chance merely set up the paths to be taken, and it is Henchard s character who will decide which path to take. Henchard may not have caused Richard Newson to return from the grave, but it was Henchard s overbearing sense of possession of Elizabeth-Jane that caused him to lie to Newson, which would only exacerbate Elizabeth-Jane s hatred of him at the end. One cannot deny luck s role in the chain of events, but, in the end, Henchard s character merely overshadowed the power of chance.
Character indeed is fate, as most readers will pick up from this novel. In the end, every road on the path to Henchard s downfall is bypassed by his own character. He was never an evil man, just a man who acted wrongly and rashly at times, a character of strengths and weakness, a person with whom the reader could relate and feel the intenseness of his grief. Like any classically tragic figure, Henchard was responsible for his own downfall.