The Mayor of Casterbridge
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. The Mayor of Casterbridge tells the story of one man’s fall and another’s rise. Indeed, Henchard’s fortune seems inversely proportional to Farfrae’s: whatever Henchard loses, Farfrae gains. Is this a believable exchange? If not, is there something more important than realism suggested by Henchard’s relationship with Farfrae?
2. Discuss the role of coincidence in the novel. Many critics of Hardy have argued that the astonishing coincidences throughout The Mayor of Casterbridge make the story improbable and unbelievable. Do you think this is the case?
3. Discuss the role of the peasants of Casterbridge, such as Christopher Coney, Solomon Longways, Nance Mockridge, and Mother Cuxsom.
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Hardy described himself as a determinist—in other words, he believed that the course of human life was shaped by forces, internal or external, beyond human control. Does this philosophy hold true in The Mayor of Casterbridge? What forces are responsible for shaping Henchard’s life?
2. Is Henchard a tragic character? Why or why not? Does he possess a tragic flaw that leads to his downfall? If so, what is it?
3. Discuss the similarities between Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae, as well as those between Henchard and Lucetta. What effects does Hardy achieve through these pairings?
4. Is Henchard a sympathetic character? Should we pity him at the end of the novel, or does he seem to get exactly what he deserves?
by atleastimnotaprincess, March 23, 2013
All of the characters (besides the troubled Henchard) are almost completely shallow and almost petty. Isn't it odd how Frafaer had no difficulty getting back together with Elizabeth-Jane after he hurt her so terribly by going for Lucetta? And how Lucetta practically refuses to own up to her own actions by claiming it was a misfortune she fell into? Although it is almost annoying how Henchard never learns from his mistakes, he truly does seem like the only "deep" character in this book.