The Mayor of Casterbridge

by Thomas Hardy

Start Free Trial

What is an important quote from The Mayor of Casterbridge and its significance?

Expert Answers

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

You might like to analyse the following quote as part of your discussion of how Henchard and Farfrae are used as foils for each other in their profound difference and how each represents different extremes. Consider this quote from Chapter 17:

Character is Fate, said Novalis, and Farfrae’s character was just the reverse of Henchard’s, who might not inaptly be described as Faust has been described—as a vehement gloomy being who had quitted the ways of vulgar men without light to guide him on a better way.

This quote comes at the novel after Farfrae has stopped working for Henchard after he was asked by Henchard to leave his job and to stop paying his addresses to Elizabeth-Jane. The allusion that this quote begins with comes from Novalis, a German poet and novelist from the 18th century, and acts as a kind of motto or thematic statement that allows us to understand the struggle that Henchard has throughout the rest of the novel. Although Henchard seems to cast the blame for his bad luck on fate and other impersonal forces, this quote reminds us that much of his bad fortune is down to his own character and shortcomings. Consider the way that this chapter reminds us that "there was still the same unruly volcanic stuff beneath the rind of Michael Henchard as when he had sold his wife at Weydon Fair." Even though his appearance and social standing has changed, he is still shown to be the same raw, passionate and intemperate individual beneath this appearance. It is this weakness of feeling and expressing his emotions powerfully that is at least a significant part of his downfall.

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
Approved by eNotes Editorial