The title of The Mayor of Casterbridge is particularly significant because in no other of Hardy’s novels are the social and the personal so interlocked. The hero is both the individual man Michael Henchard whose violence and bouts of irresponsibility lead to the failure of all his relationships, and the leading citizen of the actual community Casterbridge whose energy brings about a meteoric rise and a spectacular fall. These two roles are inseparable; Henchard’s public ruin goes along with his alienation from all those who were close to him, and this is not a coincidence but a fusion. The novel is about individuals struggling to express themselves through their social roles, about ‘bettering oneself’, rising in the world. The opposite way can be terrible; extremes of destitution and degradation are shown here more clearly than in any of the earlier books. The less ambitious characters try to avoid both extremes and are glad to be allowed to live respectably and in peace.
KeywordsEarly Book Carrion Crow Roman Settlement Peasant Woman Meteoric Rise
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- 1.Saturday Review, 29 May 1886, repr. in Lerner and Holm-strom.Google Scholar
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