In ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ the opening two chapters are a good indicator of Hardy’s style and act as a prologue to the rest of the novel. Hardy’s style places considerable focus on imagery and the scene around the characters. He used the writing techniques at this scene setting to help you understand the context in which the characters act. During the first chapter, Hardy describes Henchard as a ‘fine figure, swarthy, and stern in aspect’ however he is not named at first.
It symbolises that this could be any man, or could relate to the reader in someway and makes the reader look at this character from a different angle as if we might know him rather then seeing him as Henchard. Susan Henchard, Henchard’s wife, is described to be so faint as to be almost invisible; she becomes a less important part as the plot thickens. Another character mentioned is Elizabeth-Jane the first. The reader is given very few descriptions towards her because she is only a small child.
We call her the first because beyond chapter 2 the reader is told that this Elizabeth-Jane died 3 months after the auction and the second child of Susan Henchard is called Elizabeth-Jane but is the sailor’s daughter not Henchard’s. Elizabeth the second is much like a father in a way but at her meeting with Henchard, she gives him her name and Henchard believes her to be his daughter. In the second chapter the reader only knows Elizabeth as Susan’s grown up daughter not Elizabeth-Jane.
The reader is given other characters, the furmity lady who offered Henchard the rum that got him drunk leading to the auction, the country people who were in the tent who egged on and teased Henchard to sell his wife and Newton, Susan Henchard’s second husband, who bought Susan. They represent the country people of the time. Hardy draws the reader’s imagination away from the business of the cities and into the openness of the countryside. This gives the effect of a close village, that everyone knows everyone else’s name, age and business round the community and that a large event like an auction of a wife would be unforgettable.
They are used to the quiet and simple way of life rather than the complex ways of the cities. Hardy illustrates the characters act in their setting by using lots of imagery. He uses nature’s harmony to show human’s disharmony. The description of the characters and their surroundings is excellently detailed, with use of a broad vocabulary. He uses description effectively. He draws the reader’s attention to the characters by using strong imagery, showing nature’s harmony, to represent the tension and strain on the marriage of the Henchard’s, human’s disharmony.
The characters are similarly of their time period with their language, they use dialectal English as well as their regional accents. Henchard was very open about his marriage life while he was in his drunken state. He seemed to feel that marriage is the biggest mistake a man can make and that it is for fools. When the couple met the turnip-hoer, Henchard asked about work needed in the village. This is evidence to show, due to the industrial revolution, work in the country was short, and with all these new machines around, many homes were taken down.
Although Henchard doesn’t approve of all these new ways of life, he eventually will use them showing that he realises people must change. Another theme present is the concept of is fate. If the auctioneer had not got involved and shouted what was up for auction, the sailor may not have bought her, had the furmity lady not had the rum, Henchard would never have got the idea to sell Susan. Hardy changes Henchard from a poor, unknown man to a respected and powerful member to the society.
The auction had turned him in to a new man because it forced him to reconsider his life. Hardy uses third person narration for this story. He obviously likes to be the narrator of the story rather than be involved. He encourages readers to carry on reading by only giving us certain information about he’s characters for example he says ” a young man and woman” but he does not give us their names. His language gives a great contribution to the opening of the novel. He uses varied sentences structure to keep the writing interesting.
He continues this with a great variety of vocabulary making use of his education. The opening chapters are probably the most important parts of the story. By the terrible action of the wife sale, Henchard goes on to make himself a better man by vowing never to touch another drink the years he had lived. As he grows older, he has achieved himself a high position in life and his community. Susan did not change; she was still the same person, quiet, faint still she was almost invisible. This makes it her most crucial part to the novel.
The time lapse seems interesting, as the setting changes but not the personality of the characters, excluding Henchard. This is where we met Elizabeth-Jane as a young adult but not Henchard’s daughter but the sailor’s, Newton. This novel and its opening chapters are a typical Hardy style. From looking closely at Chapters 1 and 2, it is clear that this is an unusual way to start a book but yet it is interesting. It encourages you to read on and find out more about the man the woman and the latter they carried with them as they walked into Weydon-Priars.