Why is the setting of The Mayor of Casterbridge important?    

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Setting in this novel is incredibly important, because the ancient city of Casterbridge with its easily detected remnants of Roman civilisation act as a physical symbol of Michael Henchard and his past that he seeks to cover up. Note how Casterbridge is described in the following quote:

Casterbridge announced old...

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Setting in this novel is incredibly important, because the ancient city of Casterbridge with its easily detected remnants of Roman civilisation act as a physical symbol of Michael Henchard and his past that he seeks to cover up. Note how Casterbridge is described in the following quote:

Casterbridge announced old Rome in every street, alley, and precinct. It looked Roman, bespoke the art of Rome, concealed dead men of Rome. It was impossible to dig more than a foot or two deep about the town fields and gardens without coming upon some tall soldier or other of the Empire, who had lain there in his silent unobtrusive rest for a space of fifteen hundred years.

Although surely the ubiquitous bodies of dead Romans and artefacts is a slight exaggeration on the part of the narrator, the setting bears many similarities to Henchard's character. The implication is that just as if you dig around in Casterbridge you can uncover its hidden past of a more ancient civilisation, so too Henchard's past, that he strives to keep secret, easily becomes uncovered and is exposed to the world. Just as the past of Casterbridge as a city cannot be escaped, so too Henchard's past is something that cannot be covered up successfully and is something that will be exposed.

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