Mayor Of Casterbridge Essay, Research Paper
Mayor of Casterbridge
In the beginning of the novel, Michael Henchard sells his wife Susan and their baby daughter Elizabeth-Jane to a sailor for five guineas after drinking a great deal of rum-laced furmity–a sort of gruel made of wheat, milk, sugar, and spices. In the morning, Henchard regrets what he has done and searches the town for his wife and daughter. Unable to find them, he goes into a church and swears an oath that he will not drink any alcohol for twenty-one years, the same number of years he has been alive.
After the sailor’s death twenty years later, Susan and Elizabeth-Jane seek Henchard, the girl believing he is a long-lost relation. They arrive in Casterbridge and learn that he is now the mayor. The couple meet and decide that, in order to prevent Elizabeth from learning of her parents’ disgrace, Henchard will court and remarry Susan as Newson’s widow, and not as his own long-lost wife.
Meanwhile, Henchard has hired Donald Farfrae, a young Scotchman, as the new manager of his corn business. Elizabeth is intrigued by Farfrae and the two begin to spend time together. However, Henchard soon becomes alienated from Farfrae as the younger man constantly outdoes Henchard in every respect. Finally, he asks Farfrae to leave his business and to stop courting Elizabeth.
Susan Henchard falls ill and dies not long after her remarriage to Henchard, and Henchard is increasingly cold towards Elizabeth until she decides to leave his house and live with a lady who has just arrived in town. This lady turns out to be Lucetta, a woman with whom Henchard was involved during Susan’s absence; now that she has learned of his wife’s death, she has come to Casterbridge to marry him.
However, while Lucetta is waiting for Henchard to call on her, she meets Farfrae when he comes to call on Elizabeth. The two hit it off and are eventually married. Lucetta asks Henchard to return to her all the letters she had previously sent him. The messenger, Jopp, stops at an inn on his way to deliver the letters and is convinced to open and read them to the peasants there. They decide to hold a “skimmity-ride” portraying Lucetta and Henchard together, and this event takes place one afternoon when Farfrae is away. Lucetta faints upon seeing the ride, and never recovers; she becomes very ill and soon dies.
While Henchard has grown to hate Farfrae more and more, he has grown closer to Elizabeth. The morning after Lucetta’s death, Newson, who is still alive, arrives at his door and asks for Elizabeth. Henchard tells him that she is dead, and the sailor leaves in sorrow. Elizabeth stays with Henchard and also begins to spend more time with Farfrae. One day, Henchard learns that Newson has returned to town, and he decides to leave rather than risk another confrontation. Elizabeth is reunited with Newson and learns of Henchard’s deceit, and Newson and Farfrae start planning the wedding between Elizabeth and Farfrae.
Henchard comes back to Casterbridge on the night of the wedding to see Elizabeth, but she snubs him and he leaves again, telling her he will not return. She soon regrets her coldness and she and her husband go looking for Henchard so she can make her peace. Unfortunately, they find him just too late, and the book ends with their discovery of Henchard’s death alone in the countryside.