The Mayor of Casterbridge
One of Thomas Hardy’s more famous Wessex novels is The Mayor of Casterbridge, which was first published in 1886. Subtitled “The Life and Death of a Man of Character,” the novel is set in the fictitious town of Casterbridge, which is based on the real town of Dorchester. There are many real-life locations mentioned in the book, as well as two characters from another Hardy novel, Far from the Madding Crowd.
The story of The Mayor of Casterbridge begins with Michael Henchard, who gets drunk at a county fair and sells his wife and daughter to a sailor. The next day, he swears to never touch alcohol again. Eighteen years later, he is the Mayor of Casterbridge, known for his sobriety, but keeping the details of the loss of his wife secret. After Henchard falls in love with Lucrette, his wife and grown daughter return, sparking a decline in Henchard’s fortunes.
Donald Farfrae, a Scotsman, enters the picture and is the exact opposite of Henchard. Farfrae takes an interest in Henchard’s daughter, but winds up marrying Lucrette. Farfrae buys Henchard’s business and becomes the new mayor of Casterbridge. When Lucrette dies, he marries Henchard’s daughter. After twenty-one years of sobriety, Henchard begins drinking again, when his daughter comes to forgive him, she finds him dead. Henchard’s will requests no funeral so that no one will ever remember him.