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?