The Mayor of Casterbridge is an intriguing novel by Thomas Hardy setup in the background of Europe. The novel gives the readers a taste of the countryside owing to its language and dialect. Set in the early nineteenth century,the story does not revolve around any particular character. It involves Michael Henchard, who in a spite of rage and effect of alcohol sells his wife and child to a sailor. The wife, Susan, leaves with her daughter, Elizabeth-Jane, in hope of a better future with the sailor, Newson. The eventful and astonishing scene with which the book starts enraptures the fascination of the reader.
Michael, soon realizing his folly sets out to find his kin, but in vain. Sir Thomas Hardy then takes us directly to the time where Michael is the mayor of Casterbridge and how his ex-wife, an effete character, starts out to find him with her daughter. Followed by a family reunion through not the simplest of means, the story appears to be at peace with Donald Farfrae joining Michael in his business.
As expected, brimming feelings of love are depicted between Elizabeth and Farfrae, which is done so in a very subtle way. Donald is described as a righteous and hardworking partner. But soon things fall apart between the partners owing to the proud, insecure and obsessed ways of the former. A rift occurs which takes down with it the budding love. In this scenario, the entry of Lucette, once the lover of Michael, upsets things after Susan’s death. Followed by it are sudden twists and turns which weren’t thought of. Donald Fafrae falls for Lucette and they marry, in a situation when Elizabeth has left her home and accompanies Lucette. The writer rallies in his story all the characters together, and so at the same time Michael Henchard reduces to a bitter downfall, broken and his integrity shaken.
How the story changes with yet many swirls, like Lucette’s death, return of supposedly dead Mr. Newson and the revelation that he indeed is Elizabeth-Jane’s biological father, Farfrae’s engagement to Elizabeth, is surely a splendor. All guessing work falls flat in between when the reader expects an easy end to it. Appearing a little long-winded towards the end, Sir Thomas Hardy ends it with beautiful lines-“to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in general drama of pain.”
A lot of emphasis has been given on trying to give a glimpse of the surroundings, throughout the novel. The beautiful representation of nature, weather and human moods is personifying. The story is basically based upon rekindling lost love and journeys through nooks of human relationships. The depiction of all the characters is quite appropriate, but the comprehension of some of the side characters is to an extent confusing. Concluding the same, the author is able to keep the reader very much engrossed, and gives a good reading experience. The novel is a living proof of why the author is known for his tragic writings.