He advertised about the town, in long posters of a pink colour, that games of all sorts would take place here; and set to work a little battalion of men under his own eye. They erected greasy-poles for climbing, with smoked hams and local cheeses at the top. They placed hurdles in rows for jumping over; across the river they laid a slippery pole, with a live pig of the neighborhood tied at the other end, to become the property of the man who could walk over and get it. There were also provided wheelbarrows for racing, donkeys for the same, a stage for boxing, wrestling, and drawing blood generally; sacks for jumping in.

Several times throughout the novel, Hardy evokes details of a kind of life that was becoming extinct even as he described it. Casterbridge is a town situated between two times: the age of simple, agricultural England and the epoch of modern, industrialized England. The drama enacted between Henchard and Farfrae is, in part, the conflict between tradition and innovation, between the past and the future. Given enough time, the strongest traditions will fade as surely as memories of the past. Thus, Hardy plays the part of the amateur anthropologist, recalling rather fondly the details of rural living that were eclipsed by the advent of modern technologies. In Chapter XVI, he colorfully describes the day of celebration that Henchard plans. It is a world of simple pleasures—smoked hams and local cheeses—a world in which neighbors have not yet succumbed to the brutal competitiveness of industrial capitalism but instead share ownership of livestock. It is essentially a romantic and nostalgic view of a world that, even during Hardy’s time, no longer existed. Nevertheless, Hardy cannot resist including details that confirm his understanding of the brutality of the universe, as in the cruelty inherent in such pastimes as “boxing, wrestling, and drawing blood generally.”