How does the setting of the Mayor of Casterbridge important?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of Thomas Hardy's "Wessex" novels, set in a fictional county of Wessex that mirrors southwest England (especially Dorset). Hardy, who considered his novels mainly potboilers to support his work as a poet, uses the setting to evoke nostalgia for a rural England of the past, with "ye olde England" values of thrift, connection to the land, and harmony with nature. This idyllic rural vision is often realized in extended description of the appearances of old churches and other buildings in villages and landscape descriptions. Always, though, life in Wessex has a corrupt underside -- rape, cruelty, inequality, greed -- which is tearing communities apart from the inside as external connections such as the railroad and migration of labor destroy Wessex from the outside.