The Mayor of Casterbridge

by Thomas Hardy

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

Exploring Elizabeth-Jane's character and role in The Mayor of Casterbridge


Elizabeth-Jane in The Mayor of Casterbridge is characterized by her resilience, modesty, and adaptability. Despite facing numerous personal challenges, she remains compassionate and dutiful. Her role is pivotal as she provides emotional support to key characters and represents the theme of personal growth and moral integrity amidst adversity.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How can you analyze Elizabeth-Jane's character from her quotes in The Mayor of Casterbridge?

Elizabeth Jane is a strong character. She is both level-headed and beautiful. Her character develops as the novel progresses. She becomes a well-read, sophisticated young woman, well-liked by all. She is practical and has learned to live happily whether she has money or does not. She makes the best of the hard things that have come her way in life, and she endures. She easily discerns what has transpired between Lucetta and her father, even though Lucetta has told her some "vague" story about a past lover, never imagining that Elizabeth Jane would figure out that it was Henchard.

There is a conversation between Elizabeth Jane and Lucetta in Chapter 30 of the novel that has some quotes you could use. In this chapter, Lucetta has just married Farfrae and she naively asks him if it is OK if Elizabeth Jane moves in with them. Lucetta tells Farfrae she must explain to Elizabeth Jane what has occured, so the two women meet. Elizabeth Jane maintains a calm demeanor as she lets Lucetta know she has figured things out about Lucetta's past. Lucetta starts out asking Elizabeth Jane to recall what she has told her in the past about a man she was going to marry. She tries to explain why she has not married him. Thinking they are talking about Henchard, Elizabeth Jane tells Lucetta that she must marry the secret lover or stay single:

Lucetta's countenance lost its sparkle.  "He turned out to be a man I should be afraid to marry," she pleaded.  "Really afraid!  And it was not till after my renewed promise that I
knew it."

"Then there is only one course left to honesty.  You must
remain a single woman." [Elizabeth Jane's response]

Lucetta is taken aback by this advice, but Elizabeth Jane continues:

"I am certain," interrupted her companion hardily.  "I have guessed very well who the man is.  My father; and I say it is him or nobody for you."

When Lucetta tells Elizabeth Jane that she has been married, Elizabeth Jane happily believes at first that Lucetta has married her father. When she learns it is Farfrae, the man that she, too, loves, she is shocked, but she maintains control. She tells Lucetta:

"Let me think of it alone," the girl quickly replied,
corking up the turmoil of her feeling with grand control.

Read about the novel here on enotes. We don't have the etext, but you can read this chapter at the link below.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some important aspects of Elizabeth-Jane's character in The Mayor of Casterbridge?

Elizabeth-Jane has natural assets like good-nature, loving attitude and beauty but has no education or breeding to enable her natural abilities to stand out to notice. She's self-effacing and diffident meaning she doesn't seek attention and is reserved and lacking confidence. This is especially shown by her behavior when Farfrae rejects her for Miss Templeman. She is ready to forgive and quick to accept. Both of these traits are shown in her attitudes and behaviors toward Henchard, such as when he breaks the news of his paternity and at his death. Finally, she is devoted as her watchfulness at her mother's bedside during her last illness shows. Questions that might help you get an even deeper understanding of Elizabeth-Jane follow.

What are Elizabeth-Jane's thoughts on the night between the news that Henchard is her father and the morning when she embraces his arm and first addresses him as "father"? We pretty clearly know her feelings, she weeps beside the fire, but what is her process of thought that leads her from one circumstance to the next? Is Elizabeth-Jane actually something of a simpleton or is she really a magnanimous soul that naturally accepts and forgives in the extreme? How would Elizabeth-Jane's character traits have been different had she been properly educated? Would her character be materially different or essentially the same?

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is Elizabeth-Jane's role in The Mayor of Casterbridge?

What is interesting about Elizabeth-Jane in this brilliant novel is the way that she is depicted as undergoing a massive transformation in terms of her character. When she first enters the novel, returning with her mother to seek the help of a relative sh ehas never met, she is presented as being uneducated, kind and unsophisticated. However, when she arrives at Casterbridge, she improves her character thanks to the position in society that her mother's (re)marriage to Henchard gives her. She reads an incredible amount of books and learns how to dress and deport herself as a lady of that time should. She therefore changes intellectually and socially and her manner of speaking as she exchanges rustic dialogue more more refined city-speak reflects this. This change of course occurs at a challenging time for her, as her mother has jsut died and she has learnt that the man who is now responsible for her is not really her father.

Elizabeth-Jane is a character who suffers, just as Lucetta and Henchard suffer. What is different with her, however, is the way that Elizabeth-Jane confronts this suffering of life. She possesses a tremendous amount of resolve and natural dignity that she exhibits throughout her life. She is able to accept the vicissitudes of life and move on without bemoaning them in a way that Lucetta and Henchard are not able to. One of her purposes then is to act as a foil to these two characters in terms of the way that they face sufferings and disappointments. Henchard, for example, cannot relinquish his unrequited desires and failures and clings onto the past, whereas Elizabeth-Jane is a character who is able to roll with the punches of fate and move on in life.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on