As the novel’s protagonist, Henchard is the “Man of Character” to whom the subtitle of The Mayor of Casterbridge alludes. When the novel opens, Henchard is a disconsolate twenty-one-year-old hay-trusser who, in a drunken rage, sells his wife and daughter at a county fair. Eighteen years later, Henchard has risen to become the mayor and the most accomplished corn merchant in the town of Casterbridge. Although he tries to atone for his youthful crimes, he focuses too much on his past misdeeds and enters a downward trajectory that embroils him in a fierce competition with a popular Scotchman named Donald Farfrae.
The daughter of Susan and Newson. Elizabeth-Jane bears the same name as the child born to Susan and Henchard, who actually dies shortly after Henchard sells Susan and his daughter. Over the course of the novel, the independent and self-possessed Elizabeth-Jane transforms herself from an unrefined country girl into a cultured young lady. Though she experiences much hardship over the course of the novel, she maintains an even temperament throughout.
The Scotchman who arrives in Casterbridge at the same time as Susan Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane. Farfrae’s business efficiency, good humor, and polish make him extremely popular among the town’s citizens. These same qualities, however, eventually make him Henchard’s rival. Despite this tension in their friendship, Farfrae remains fair-minded, patient, and even kind in his dealings with the ruined Henchard.
A woman whom Henchard meets, courts, and proposes to marry. Lucetta bucks convention, choosing to love whom she pleases when she pleases. Like Henchard, she is guided by her emotions, and her reactions are thus not always rational.
A meek, unassuming woman married to Michael Henchard when the novel opens. Overly concerned with propriety, Susan attempts to keep secrets about Henchard’s and Elizabeth-Jane’s identities in order to give the appearance of perfect family harmony.
The sailor who buys Susan and Elizabeth-Jane from Henchard. Newson is absent for most of the novel; his eventual reappearance contributes to the feeling that Henchard is besieged by fate.
Read an in-depth analysis of Newson.
The man Henchard intends to hire as his assistant before meeting Farfrae.
One of the workers in Henchard’s hay-yard. Whittle is also the source of the first disagreement between Henchard and Farfrae, as Farfrae thinks that Henchard is too rough with Whittle when he is constantly late for work.
One of Henchard’s creditors.
A peasant in Casterbridge. Coney represents the bleak reality of peasant life.
A peasant who is instrumental in planning the skimmity-ride.
A peasant in Casterbridge.
A peasant in Casterbridge.