Redemption and Reconciliation in The Mayor of Cast Essay

This essay has a total of 1617 words and 7 pages.


Redemption and Reconciliation in The Mayor of Casterbridge





In Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, rejection and reconciliation is a
consistent theme. During the Victorian era, Michael Henchard, a common hat trusser,
becomes Mayor of the town of Casterbridge, Wessex. However, his position does not prevent
him from making a series of mistakes that ultimately lead to his downfall.
Henchard’s daughter, Elizabeth Jane Newson, is affected by her father’s
choices and is not spared any disappointing consequences. In the novel, the characters of
Henchard and Elizabeth Jane both experience the pain of rejection in its different forms
and discover reconciliation from that rejection.

Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane similarly endure rejection from those they have deemed
important figures in their lives. Lucetta loses her feelings for Henchard and he takes
second place to Farfrae. Henchard confronts Lucetta at her home regarding her intention
to marry him. After the encounter, Lucetta rebelliously cries, “[H]e’s
hot-tempered and stern, and it would be madness to bind myself to him knowing that. I
won’t be a slave to the past—I’ll love where I choose!”(Hardy
250). Similarly, Elizabeth-Jane, upon seeing Farfrae in the churchyard, notices that she
has lost his attention. “[W]hether or not he saw her he took no notice, and
disappeared. Unduly depressed by a sense of her own superfluity she thought he probably
scorned her”(207). Through the rejection Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane suffered from
Lucetta and Farfrae, the father and daughter are communally bound in their care for the
happiness of the two lovers but they also feel hurt and rejected by the marriage. More
important than Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane’s rejection by their friends, is their
rejection of each other. When Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae are courting, Henchard foresees
his stepdaughter easily leaving him under the influence of Farfrae. Henchard admits that
“Farfrae would never recognize him more than superciliously; his poverty ensured
that, no less than his past conduct. And so Elizabeth would grow to be a stranger to him,
and the end of his life would be a friendless solitude”(381). However,
Elizabeth-Jane is not influenced negatively by Farfrae. Henchard is rejected only when
Elizabeth-Jane discovers the selfish lie her stepfather had told to keep Newson from her.
Elizabeth-Jane is also rejected by Henchard after he discovers that she is not his real
daughter. Henchard is angered when Elizabeth-Jane thanks the parlour maid for everything
and it is here that she realizes that “[t]he increasing frequency of the latter mood
told her the sad news that he disliked her with a growing dislike”(202). Upon
Newson’s quiet arrival, Henchard announces that he is leaving Casterbridge which
makes Elizabeth-Jane feel rejected all over again. Noticing the treatment she receives
from Henchard compared to the treatment Lucetta receives “she could not help asking
what she had done to be neglected so, after the professions of solicitude he [Henchard]
had made”(250). Elizabeth’s question is a legitimate one. It must be
acknowledged that, when contrasting the two characters, Elizabeth does no wrong to deserve
rejection whereas Henchard wrongs his daughter and deserves the rejection he receives.

Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane feel pain because of rejection by others; however, that pain
isn’t lessened when they do the rejecting. In the opening of the novel, Henchard
rejects Susan and his responsibility to the child. However, this rejection is
unintentional because he is under the influence of alcohol. We can see that Henchard
regrets his actions when he searches for his wife and daughter. Later, Henchard regrets
his actions when he searches for his wife and daughter. Later, Henchard rejects
Elizabeth-Jane because his parental pride is hurt when he finds out, through a letter from
Susan that he was not meant to read until Elizabeth-Jane’s wedding day, that she is
not his real daughter. “It is . . . Henchard’s ignorance and pseudogenteel
hypocrisy that make him subsequently estrange himself from
Elizabeth-Jane”(Seymour-Smith 42). The roles take a turn from Henchard doing the
rejecting to Henchard being the rejected. Elizabeth-Jane rejects Henchard after she
discovers the deceit Henchard put between her and Newson. She is torn between the love
that she has acquired for Henchard and the anger she feels toward him. “I said I
would never forget him. But O! I think I ought to forget him now!”(Hardy 391).
Elizabeth-Jane feels she must reject Henchard but it hurts her to do so. When comparing
the circumstances for rejection, Henchard’s motivation is pride while
Elizabeth-Jane’s motivation is confusion and we see that both characters feel pain
and remorse because of how they have rejected others.
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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