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What are three symbols from The Mayor of Casterbridge?

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basketball10249 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted October 26, 2011 at 8:47 PM via web

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What are three symbols from The Mayor of Casterbridge?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 27, 2011 at 1:28 AM (Answer #1)

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Consider thecaged goldfinch and how it operates in this masterful novel. This is the gift that Henchard brings to Elizabeth-Jane on the day of her wedding and shows his guilt and sadness about what has happened to their relationship. He leaves it in a corner and forgets it when he is sent away. A few days later, a servant finds this starved bird, which in turn causes Elizabeth-Jane to look for Henchard, whom she finds dead. The fate of the bird and of Henchard are explicitly linked as both faded away, and both lived and died in a prison. For Henchard, of course, this prison was his past actions and his inability to outlive them or forget them.

Another deeply significant moment in the novel comes when Henchard's wagon collides with Farfrae's wagon in the main street. The violent accident clearly relates to the character clash between these two figures and the way that in their collision and opposition to each other, one set of ideas is colliding violently with another set of ideas, and that these ideas stand in opposition to each other. Henchard of course symbolises tradition and the "old ways" and Farfrae stands for the new modern era.

Lastly, consider the bull that pursues Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta. This is clearly a symbol of the impersonal and brute forces that stand opposed to human life. The bull is described as being determined to destroy and kill and is a malignant force. This leads us to relate it symbolically to the impersonal forces of fate and destiny that Henchard so often blames for his downfall and bad luck.

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