In Thomas Hardys The Mayor of Casterbridge, the author devotes a large amount of energy and attention to making the setting of the novel as detailed as possible. The city of Casterbridge can almost serve as a character on its own, having its own personality and affecting other characters in the novel. Hardy uses the setting as a literary device to strengthen the personalities and complexities of characters in the story. Throughout the novel, Hardy uses the setting either to reinforce character development, illustrate the transformations that took place in the novel, or to do both. In the novel, the author uses places such as the Kings Arm, Henchards house, and High Place Hall as status symbols. The descriptions of the Kings Arm and Henchards house are both signs of Henchards rank as a well-respected mayor in the beginning of the novel. Hardy writes,The building before whose doors they had pitched their music stands was the chief hotel in Casterbridgenamely the Kings Arms (29) and Henchards house was one of the best, faced with dull red-and gray old brick(59).
These descriptions directly confirm the financial security that Henchard enjoys after becoming the mayor. Besides Henchards character development, the High Place Hall is a great reflection of Lucettas character. The building is located at the center of Casterbridge and everything seems to occur in front of it. A direct contrast to Henchard, whose house is isolated, the High Place Halls location reflects Lucettas need to be noticed by other people. The window design in the house enables Lucetta to observe everything that happens in town, while avoiding personal involvement in it. Together with the name High Place, the houses description reflects Lucettas strong desire to abandon her shameful past and be an upper class lady who stands above everyone else.
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Besides character development, Hardy utilizes such images to illustrate the transformation of Henchard in the story. Besides the descriptions of the glamour of the Kings Arm and Henchards house, both structures have another feature in common: the openness in their design. At the Kings Arm, A spacious bow-window projected into the street over the main porticothe whole interior of this room could be surveyed from the top of a flight of stone steps to the road-wagon office opposite(29), and at Henchards house, The front door was open, and, as in other houses she could see through the passage to the end of the gardennearly a quarter of a mile off(59).
The solid reputation Henchard enjoys as a mayor is revealed through these descriptions which demonstrate his power and wealth. Being the mayor, Henchard feels he has nothing to hide from the rest of the society. On the other hand, Jopps cottage, where Henchard lives after he loses everything, is built of old stones from the long dismantled Priority, scraps of tracery, molded window-jamb(215).
The transition of Henchards home from clarity to obscurity is a reflection of the mayors changing attitude.
In the early chapters, the mayor tells people exactly what he thinks of them, and his gruffness from time to time makes him a difficult person to live and work with. After his downfall, Henchard hardly looks up at the person to whom he speaks. Where as the first series of illustrations reflect the straightforwardness of Henchard as a character, the later ones illustrate another Henchard after his bankruptcy, without pride. Besides demonstrating the characters individual personalities, the landmarks in the book reflect the relationships between characters. The Ring is a good example. Hardy describes The Ring as the historic circle that was the frequent spot for appointments of a furtive kindBut one kind of appointment seldom had place in the amphitheater: that of happy lovers (67).
The descriptions of Susan entering from the north, and Henchard walking up from the south and their meeting in the middle of the stage is similar to a gladiatorial encounter in a Roman Amphitheater.
In many literary works the author uses contrast to display the difference between good and evil. Most often this contrast is between light and dark images. Dark representing evil and light representing good. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the author uses many different medians to display the contrast between good and evil. The different settings display the changing developments of ...
This tension reminds the reader of the unhappy marriage between the couple and how that remains unchanged after all these times. Hardy not only uses architecture in town to describe the nature of each character, but he also uses fragmented images to portray transformations that took place in the novel as well. The interplay between light and dark images in chapter nineteen is an ideal example that illustrates the quick transition that occurs in Henchards feelings toward Elizabeth Jane. After Susans death, Henchards desire to prove to Elizabeth Jane that he is indeed her father leads him to discover the terrible secret that Elizabeth is not his real daughter. The novel then starts a series of interplay between light and dark images that parallel Henchard’s emotions, which change from bright excitement to dark brooding as the chapter progresses. First, Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane sit by the fire with the candles unlit.
Then “Acrobatic flames” from the fire emphasize Henchards excitement to finally reveal the truth and Elizabeths acceptance of the truth. Later, after reading Susan’s letter, Henchard sadly carries a shaded light into Elizabeth-Jane’s room to study her appearance while she sleeps. He notices that her features are fair and light while his are dark. Afterwards Henchard walks through the darkest regions of Casterbridge, illustrating his disappointment. Even the morning sun brings no light for Henchard; he sees his great plans crumbling into dark “dust and ashes.” The emphasis on the light and dark images and their strong contrast illustrates Henchards mixed feelings toward Elizabeth Jane and his life in general. As the novel progresses, his life is gradually clouded by darker images, symbolizing his downfall. Besides using images to describe the characters and their transformation, Hardy employs the same technique for the town of Casterbridge as well.
In his descriptions of Casterbridge, Hardy emphasizes the old-fashioned, almost primitive, nature of the town. Casterbridge is surrounded by trees and often cloaked in darkness. At the beginning it is a small town unaffected by the massive industrialization that is taking place in England. Then Hardy presents the image of the Three Mariners. The author mentions the deterioration of the sign of the hotel due to the lack of a painter in Casterbridge who would undertake to reproduce the features of men so traditional (38).
An Analysis Of The Mayor Of Casterbridge An Analysis Of The Mayor Of Casterbridge The plot of The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy, can often be confusing and difficult to follow. The pages of this novel are filled with sex, scandal, and alcohol, but it provides for a very interesting and unique story. It all begins one day in the large Wessex village of Weydon-Priors. Michael Henchard, a ...
The conservative inn itself is filled with antique awkwardness, crookedness, and obscurity of the passages, floors, and windows (40).
This deterioration of the setting and the involvement of Henchard, a man who represents the old order and the traditional way of things, with the activity of the inn implies that the old order of Casterbridge is failing and new ones are emerging. Hardys usage of the narrative setting reveals subtle details that enrich the complexity of characters and the story as a whole. The transformation of Casterbridge from a traditional small town to one that is influenced by the industrial revolution reflects the social changes during Hardys time. The deterioration of Casterbridge and the downfall of Henchard represent Hardys reluctant acceptance of the inevitable industrial revolution.