Book Review: The Mayor of Casterbridge By Thomas Hardy
[box] Book Review: The Mayor of Casterbridge By Thomas Hardy [/box]
The “Mayor of Casterbridge” is the masterpiece of the ace novelist and poet Thomas Hardy. Few days ago I read it and I was floored by it. The best thing is that “The Mayor of Casterbridge” is internationally renowned as a literary classic, yet it is fiction. I have read that Thomas Hardy started out by writing stories for Newspapers and Magazines. His stories used to be in serialized form and the readers waited eagerly for the next part and I can believe it because this book is so interesting that I am still under its impact.
The story of “The Mayor of Casterbridge” revolves mainly around four characters namely Michael Henchard, Susan Henchard, Elizabeth Jane and Donald Farfrae. Michael Henchard is the main protagonist of the story, an ordinary hay trusser, who is accompanied by his wife and baby daughter Elizabeth Jane. Henchard in a bout of alcohol sells off his wife and daughter to a sailor named Newson.
After this Henchard repents and pledges not to touch alcohol for 21 years (to repent for every year that he had lived). Susan and Elizabeth (now 18 yrs old) set searching for Henchard though Henchard progresses to “The Mayor of Casterbridge”. Donald Farfrae is Henchard’s Manager who, in the turn of events gains more popularity than Henchard. The story goes to narrate his struggle with his falling popularity, his hatred for Farfrae and his relationship with Susan, Elizabeth and Lucetta (His fiancé who secretly marries Farfrae). Will Henchard be prosperous again or will he bring doom for himself, one can read in this book in a very interesting manner.
The best thing about this book is the narration. Thomas Hardy is known for his narrative abilities of which this story is characteristic. Each scene is described so beautifully that you just feel like watching a blockbuster movie. He gives attention to each and everything in detail. Just consider the opening scene – “One evening of late summer, before the nineteenth century had reached one-third of its span, a young man and woman, the latter carrying a child, were approaching the large village of Weydon-Priors, in Upper Wessex, on foot”. You can almost visualize it. I also liked the way the author handles the character of Elizabeth Jane. She is simple yet beautiful and intelligent.
What people of my generation may not relish is the sad and depressing set –up of this story. Michael Henchard‘s guilt which is always disturbing him, Susan Henchard’s dilemma about how to reveal the truth to her daughter and the introvert and always introspecting Elizabeth Jane give you a very sad feeling. But I think the theme of this novel is brilliant – “Character is destiny”. Thomas Hardy has established this thought very intelligently through the character of Michael Henchard.
It means that your destiny is decided by your own character. Henchard was a hard working hay trusser but because of his own shortcoming he loses his wife and child. He repents the next morning but of no use! Then again he rises to the high position of the Mayor but due to his jealousy and hatred for Donald Farfrae, he loses the trust of the public. He loses everyone, his wife, his most trusted friend Farfrae, Lucetta and his daughter. He is alone with nothing left and in the end you cannot but stop feeling sad for him.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel “The Mayor of Casterbridge”. It is a great read, enjoyable as well as quality. This novel shows what separates the great writers from the ordinary ones. Hats off! Mr. Hardy.