The Mayor of Casterbridge

by Thomas Hardy

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Hardy originally subtitled The Mayor of Casterbridge “A Story of a Man of Character.” What is meant by the phrase “a man of character?” Do you think it was an appropriate subtitle for the novel? Explain your answer.

Compare and contrast Michael Henchard and Donald Farfrae. What traits do they have in common, and what differences are there between the two men?

Name a single character trait that you think is the cause of Michael’s downfall and explain why you think that trait, above all others, is Michael’s tragic weakness.

In The Mayor of Casterbridge, Susan allows herself to be “sold” and willingly goes with the man who has “bought” her. What else might Susan have done? What alternatives did she have? Do some research about rural life in England at the time, and list only alternatives that were realistically available to a woman such as Susan. Then explain which alternative you think is the best choice for Susan—one of those you have listed or the action she takes in the novel—and why.

Hardy set all of his novels in the Wessex region of England where he was born. In The Mayor of Casterbridge and other novels, he used real places—towns, roads, bodies of water, and even shops and hotels. He used the real names of some of these places and gave fictional names to others. Imagine that you are going to write a novel set in the region where you live. Draw a map of the region, showing the towns, roads, and other places that will appear in your novel. For each place, decide whether you will use its real name or make up a name and write the names on your map. Finally, write a one-page description of the region shown in your map. Make your description as detailed as possible to give readers a feel for the place; describe the landscape, people, animals, weather, sounds, smells, and so on.

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