An analysis of "The Major of Casterbridge" by Thomas Hardy

Essay by James WhitesideHigh School, 12th grade December 1996

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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 young hay-trusser looking for work, enters

the village with his wife and infant daughter. What follows next, is certainly a little out of

the ordinary, and this book provides and interesting plot, that is sure to brighten up any

boring day.

Michael Henchard, looking for something to drink, enters into a tent where an old

woman is selling furmity, a liquid pudding made of boiled wheat, eggs, sugar, and spices.

Henchard consumes too many bowls of furmity spiked with rum. Feeling trapped by his

marriage and under the influence, Henchard threatens to auction his family.

The auction

begins as a kind of cruel joke, but Susan Henchard in anger retaliates by leaving with a

sailor who makes the highest bid. Henchard regrets his decision the next day, but he is

unable to find his family.

Exactly eighteen years pass. Susan and her daughter Elizabeth-Jane come back to

the fair, seeking news about Henchard. The sailor has been lost at sea, and Susan is

returning to her 'rightful' husband. At the infamous furmity tent, they learn Henchard has

moved to Casterbridge, where he has become a prosperous grain merchant and even mayor.

When Henchard learns that his family has returned, he is determined to right his old wrong.

He devises a plan for courting and marrying Susan again, and for adopting her daughter.

A young Scotsman named Donald Farfrae enters Casterbridge on the same day as

Susan and Elizabeth-Jane. Henchard takes an instant...