1886 The Mayor of Casterbridge

by Thomas Hardy 1886
24 June 2009

Last night, I finished The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy.  I read a review on one of Thomas Hardy’s books once, and the person said, “Thomas Hardy continues to spread depression.”  I thought it was funny, but generally, Hardy is known for his less-than-upbeat stories.  Casterbridge is the first Hardy book I have read, and I absolutely loved it.  The author tells a story that has some definite moral lessons, but he never defines what exactly they are.  He leaves that to the reader to decide.  Here are my thoughts:

Michael Henchard is our tragic hero with a great flaw that ultimately is his undoing.  He is not a bad person, but he makes many, many mistakes.  His decision-making process is almost entirely dependant upon his emotional needs at the time.  The reader understands how he is feeling, and why he wants to do what he does, but at the same time, the reader cringes for him.  He is far from a completely selfish person, however.  He wants to do what is right and honorable.  And he does sometimes.  And when he makes his mistakes, he feels it deeply and punishes himself.  He also learns from his mistakes, mostly.  We see him progress quite a bit throughout the book, but he doesn’t quite make it far enough to save himself.

BBC made a television adaptation of this book, and they did an excellent job of it.  Many of the lines come straight from the book.  They condensed and combined a few scenes, and the book definitely gives a better understanding of Henchard and his intentions.  But the adaptation is well worth watching.  As far as the book goes, Hardy’s style of writing is nothing to fear.  He has a very simple and straightforward way of telling the story.  Not overly wordy or linguistic, but modest and elegant.