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This novel is, in its essence, a story about one central character and the various vicissitudes that befall him in his life. Michael Henchard is this character, and we follow his life from his first drunken act of selling his wife and their daughter to a sailor. The majority of the novel occurs abotu twenty years after this youthful indiscretion, when this sailor is lost at sea and Henchard's original wife and daughter re-find Michael and enter his life once more. In the interim, Henchard has become a successful businessman and the mayor of Casterbridge. However, this success is only shown to be temporary, as the arrival of Donald Farfrae, who becomes Henchard's business manager, shows. Farfrae favours a very different methodology of doing business, which stands in complete contrast to Henchard's reliance on traditional methods. It is a curious combination of bad luck and Henchard's own character failings that result in his fall from grace and power, as Farfrae replaces him in power and stature, and, to add insult to injury, courts Elizabeth-Jane, Henchard's daughter. At the end of the novel, Henchard loses everything, even the affection of Elizabeth-Jane, who, in a cruel twist of fate is shown not to be his daughter after all. He dies alone and poor.
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