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The Mayor of Casterbridge, Essential Revision Notes

© 2016.

All revision notes have been produced by mockness ltd for

Table of Contents

Context 5

Summary 6

Characters 8

Michael Henchard 8

Elizabeth-Jane Newson 8

Donald Farfrae 9

Lucetta Templeman 10

Susan Henchard 10

Newson 10

Joshua Jopp 10

Abel Whittle 10

Benjamin Grower 11

Christopher Coney 11

Nance Mockridge 11

Mother Cuxsom 11

Solomon Longways 11

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols 12

Themes 12

The Importance of Character 12

The Value of a Good Name 12

The Indelibility of the Past 13

Motifs 13

Coincidence 13

The Tension between Tradition and Innovation 13

The Tension between Public Life and Private Life 14

Symbols 14

The Caged Goldfinch 14

The Bull 14

The Collision of the Wagons 14

Important Quotations Explained 15

1. 15

2. 15

3. 16

4. 16

5. 17

Sample Answers 18

The Mayor of Casterbridge tells the story of one man’s fall and another’s rise. Indeed, Henchard’s fortune seems inversely proportional to Farfrae’s: whatever Henchard loses, Farfrae gains. Is this a believable exchange? If not, is there something more important than realism suggested by Henchard’s relationship with Farfrae? 18

Discuss the role of coincidence in the novel. Many critics of Hardy have argued that the astonishing coincidences throughout The Mayor of Casterbridge make the story improbable and unbelievable. Do you think this is the case? 19

Discuss the role of the peasants of Casterbridge, such as Christopher Coney, Solomon Longways, Nance Mockridge, and Mother Cuxsom. 20


Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in Higher Bockhampton in Dorset, a rural region of southwestern England that was to become the focus of his fiction. The child of a builder, Hardy was apprenticed at the age of sixteen to John Hicks, an architect who lived in the city of Dorchester. The location would later serve as the model for Hardy’s fictional Casterbridge. Although Hardy gave serious thought to attending university and entering the church, a struggle he would dramatize in his 1895 novel Jude the Obscure, his declining religious fa...

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