The Mayor of Casterbridge
Thomas Hardy
Contributed by Bobbie Heil
Character Analysis
Michael Henchard

He is the main character of the novel who makes a name for himself in Casterbridge, rising to eventually become its Mayor. He is a moral man of his word at the beginning, pledging to do right by his wife Susan and his mistress Lucetta. However, several bad instances occur which cause Henchard to lose his business standing and his political reputation. His competition with Donald Farfrae marks him the ultimate loser, with Farfrae beating him in both business and love. His coldness to his daughter Elizabeth-Jane drives her from his home, which he regrets dearly in his loneliness. His deception of his daughter’s real father eventually leads to his greatest sorrow. His drinking causes him to undertake many brazen and irrational acts, which demotes him even further in everyone’s perception. Henchard’s ultimate downfall is his bitterness, which he holds tightly, towards Lucetta and Farfrae. Even when he tries to do the moral thing, no one trusts him owing to his past indiscretions. Henchard remains outcast and unloved to his dying day, stating clearly in his will that no one mourn him or remember him due to his unforgivable evil deeds.

Susan Henchard

She is a simple woman, who is sold by Henchard early on when he is drunk at a furmity-booth. Her simplicity causes her to remain with her new husband, not knowing that she has no obligations to him. She also is unable to reveal to Elizabeth-Jane the real nature of her relationship with Henchard, though it is primarily for her sake that she goes in search of Henchard after she presumes the sailor Newson to be dead. She takes ill after marrying Henchard and rights the past wrongs even though she feels unworthy of Henchard now that he is so successful. She reveals that Elizabeth-Jane is not Henchard’s real daughter in a letter written on her deathbed, causing the first of many downturns for Henchard.

Elizabeth-Jane Newson

Henchard assumes that she is the daughter of him and Susan, but he is mistaken, since Elizabeth’s real father is the sailor Newson. She is embarrassed by her uneducated nature in Henchard’s presence and endeavors to refine herself through self-education and cultivation. She is a pretty girl, and while she is noticed by several men in town, her eyes are settled on Donald Farfrae. She is also employed as Lucetta’s companion, causing a conflict when Lucetta eventually marries Farfrae. Elizabeth-Jane appears to be Henchard’s saving grace, especially in his most depressed states, although she is also the cause of his greatest sorrow. She is a strong woman, used to hardship and appears pessimistic in thought, having seen so much tragedy in her young life.

Donald Farfrae

He is Henchard’s greatest competitor, although he never intends to hurt him and even tries to help Henchard when Henchard is preoccupied only with ruining him. He is victim to Henchard’s schemes to put him out of business and humiliate Lucetta, but his golden touch leaves him unmarred, save for the death of his wife. Farfrae finds a solid footing and sets himself up in a fine business and home, paralleling Henchard. He is handsome and well-liked by many, especially young women. His taste for music is also very appealing to the town. Though trusting, he eventually sees the evil in Henchard, although he quickly forgives him even after Henchard makes an attempt at his life. He tries to be a good friend to Henchard, putting up with his erratic and irrational behavior. He weds Elizabeth-Jane after Lucetta’s death.

Lucetta Templeman

She is a fickle woman, initially devoted to Henchard with whom she hopes endlessly to wed. However, once she arrives in Casterbridge, she soon falls for Farfrae. She is madly in love with him and hopes desperately that Henchard will not reveal their past intimacies. After her marriage, she loves her new status as wife of a successful town politician and scorns Henchard for his attempts to belittle her. But she is too weak in spirit to overcome a major humiliation, which reveals her past indiscretions with Henchard. Her determination to keep her secret under wraps is her eventual undoing, since her fear that Farfrae will resent her deception causes her to be gravely ill.

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