Hi, my name is Thinkie, welcome to my blog!
I'm a student in cultural studies, a museum enthusiast, a scrapbooker and an art journaler. I love to travel within Europe and I enjoy photography. You can read more about me on my homepage.

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The Mayor of Casterbridge - Thomas Hardy

Years ago Wilma bought me a stack of Penguin Pockets. Amongst them 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and 'Under the Greenwood Tree' by Thomas Hardy. I finally got around to reading them in 2007. They were easier to read than I had expected. Since I had to pick books from different periods for my English booklist I decided to reread 'The Mayor of Casterbridge'.

The book tells about Henchard, who, when drunk, sells his wife to a sailor. She feels this is binding and takes their daughter to live with the sailor. Years later she gets second thoughts. The sailor dies at sea and Susan sets out, with daughter Elizabeth-Jane, to find her first husband Michael Henchard. Henchard, but a haytrusser when they parted, has established himself in the town of Casterbridge (Dorchester), where he has become a businessman of stature and even becomes mayor.
Henchard remarries Susan, they keep their earlier marriage a secret for everyone, including Elizabeth Jane, who thinks she is the sailor's daughter and that Henchard is related to them by marriage. Susan intends to provide a higher status for her daughter. Henchards righthand Donald Farfrae developes an interest for Elizabeth.
Susan dies and Henchard informs Elizabeth that her mother and he have been married before and that he is her real father. That same night he finds out from a letter from Susan that his daughter Elizabeth Jane has died and that Susan and Newton, the sailor, had another daughter by the same name. This chills his feelings for Elizabeth.
Henchard and Farfrae quarrel and part ways, Farfrae becoming his business opponent. Henchard forbids Elizabeth and Farfrae to have further contact.
Before Susan's return Henchard thought her dead and got acqainted to a lady, Lucetta, who gets compromised by this relationship. After Susans death she comes to Casterbridge and Henchard feels he needs to do right by her and marry her. She takes in Elizabeth Jane, as a companion, and Henchard courts her. However she finds out that Henchard has been very unkind to Elizabeth lately and when the story of selling his wife comes out, she changes her mind about Henchard, which is made easy since she has fallen for Donald Farfrae. They elope so Henchard can't claim her and so Farfrae becomes his opponent in love aswell.
By ill fate Henchard goes bankrupt, this destroys the last of his standing in the town and he moves in with a former employée in a humble cottage. Elizabeth finds herself some rooms across the street from his former house, that is now occupied by Farfrae, who now has taken over Henchards life it seems. There are some troubles between the two of them.
Some of the poor people of the town find out about the past of Henchard and Lucetta and organize a 'skimmity ride', where dolls dressed up as Henchard and Lucetta are driven around town, accompanied with a lot of noise. Lucetta is struck ill by the shock, she is afraid Donald might find out about her past. She dies, but not before she gets a chance to speak to Donald.
To make matters worse Newton, the sailor turns op, not death after all, Henchard lies to him and says Elizabeth has died, to make him leave. Henchard and Elizabeth make up and get set up by some of Henchards old friends in a little shop.
After a while Donald and Elizabeth get involved with each other, to Henchards dislike. He finds out Newton has returned and leaves the town and picks up his old profession as a haytrusser. Elizabeth reunites with Newton and marries Donald. At the weddingday Henchard turns up. Elizabeth is angry because he lied to Newton that she was dead. Henchard leaves and when they go look for him shortly after they come to late: he has just died.

The book is full of misunderstandings, secrets and soap-like developements. The writer seems to care a great deal about portraying 'Casterbridge' (Dorchester) several decades before the book was written and it's colour locale and typical inhabitants.

Geplaatst op 15-09-2010.
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Reactie van Annemarie

I was just going to say, "sounds like soap opera." Geez what a story. Thanks for the summary.

Reactie geplaatst op 2010-09-16.

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