New Historian

Karma in the Mayor of Casterbridge

<![CDATA[Thomas Hardy’s novel The Mayor Of Caster Bridge amply demonstrates the power of karma. The most blatant idea or memory of the novel by readers is that the main character, Michael Henchard, sold his wife Susan, for five guineas. Though his act of sheer stupidity and selfishness is blamed on being intoxicated, his stance towards sobriety in the novel is greatly overshadowed by his lack of kindness, brutish dealings when it comes to business and his overall selfish demeanor. Henchard gains a somewhat prosperous life after his wife and child departed from his life. The fact that they were auctioned is kept hidden in his heart for years, and the townspeople create their own assumptions which he never admits or denies. Nonetheless he gains more prosperity and eventually becomes the mayor of Casterbride. Henchard on his success trail however keeps forgetting little people on the way, and deliberately tries to keep parts of his life secret (including an affair with Lucetta Le Sueur), all of which eventually catches up with him in the end. Throughout the novel we can adequately see where a number of opportunities present themselves to him to do good deeds, but he chooses the opposite. He leaves Lucetta to face society on her own after she is ruined by her associations with him. She desperately wants to set things right by marrying him but he still does not reveal that he is already married nor does he come clean about the past happenings with his wife. In a similar stance of selfishness, his business partner Donald Farfrae was only hired because he thinks he was better than Jopp who had already been chosen for the job. Jopp was immediately bumped from his position and immediately replaced by Farfrae Sadly, all his bad decisions will eventually come back to haunt him as Susan returns with Elizabeth Jane (his presumed daughter all grown up). Unlike Henchard, they have fallen on hard times and before long, Susan is reunited with Henchard and marries soon after to keep up with appearances so that the truth will remain hidden. The town is still unaware that Susan and Henchman had previously known each other. Like Lucetta, Susan is kept a secret as he aims to protect his reputation. The death of Susan brings a kind of closure to the novel and eventually leads to the revelation of a number of Henchard’s secrets. The discovery that Elizabeth Jane is not his biological child brings him to a point of hatred for her. The very man whom he had so hastily dismissed to be replaced by Farfrae was asked to take love letters Lucetta had wrote Henchard back to her. She, Lucetta, had been smitten with Farfrae and had married him earlier even though his eyes were already set on Henchard’s daughter Elizabeth Jane. She finds the revelation of her affairs with Henchard hard to bear and it leads to her death. Farfare’s good nature and overall demeanor has gained him popularity in the town however and Henchard does not seem to digest it well. He schemes against him and makes bad decisions in hopes that Farfrae’s business will crumble while his see progress but all his plans backfire. While Henchard continues on his own downfall, Farfrae continues to rise, eventually purchasing Henchard’s business and employing him. To say that it was the return of his wife and child that causes the downfall of Henchard would be ludicrous, as his overall attitude towards society is the only true contributor to his fall. Though the timing was close, Henchard’s earlier deeds and the subsequent attitude towards people in general caused him to be his own worst enemy. Hardy keeps one character to demonstrate the way in which Henchard’s life could have turned had he been more amicable. Farfrae is portrayed as Henchard’s opposite. He is well balanced, friendly, level headed, educated and far more rational than Henchard. When Henchard falls from grace, Farfrae gracefully picks him up and put him back together. While he seethes with anger, Farfrae reaps the benefit of Henchard’s anger and dilemma. Farfrae unknowingly marries the woman Henchard had also wanted to marry, owns businesses he wanted to own and is viewed as a man of good leadership quality in the eyes of the townspeople. A good example of how good deeds can easily follow people if that is what they continuously do. Hardy demonstrates that karma does not necessarily mean bad luck, but rather, reaping exactly what you sow. Reviewed Book The Mayor of Casterbridge Book The Mayor of Casterbridge A Story of a Man of Character by Thomas Hardy PIBN:1000229356 [gap height="20"]]]>

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