Throughout The Mayorof Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy has represented trade in the dichotomousrelationship between traditionalism and modernization through his charactersHenchard and Farfrae, who represent theseideologies retrospectively. In the first half of the nineteenth century,British society was going through a difficult transition from pre-industrialismto modernist Victorian thinking. The repeal of the corn laws, which allowedforeign grain to be imported into England, altered trade and businessthroughout the country in the years surrounding 1846.
Through The Mayor of Casterbridge, which takesplace during this time, Hardy created a contrast between traditional and modernapproaches to trade through the characters of Henchard and Farfrae. Theseopposing ideologies are used to represent trade during 1846, as well as thesubsequent transition of trade that came with the repeal of the corn laws. The conflict between traditional and modernist thinking isillustrated through Henchard and Farfrae’s differing approaches to trade,business, and modernization. Throughthese two characters and their conflict between traditional and modernapproaches to business and trade, Hardy creates a dichotomous relationship thatrepresents trade within The Mayor ofCasterbridge. Henchard and Farfrae hold starkly differing methods of recordkeeping and employee management in Henchard’s business. Henchard representstraditional approaches to trade and business; he cannot write properly whichresults in unkempt and unorganized records, many of which he keeps inhis head. In contrast, Farfrae represents a modern approach to trade andbusiness, going through Henchard’s records making sure to keep them up to datewhile correcting any mistakes there might be, with no problem staying late todo so. “A light shone from the office window, and there being noblind to screen the interior, Henchard could see Donald Farfrae still seatedwhere he had left him, initiating himself into the managerial work of the houseby overhauling the books.
Henchard entered, merely observing, ‘Don’t let meinterrupt you, if ye will stay so late.’He stood behind Farfrae’s chair, watching his dexterity in clearing up thenumerical fog which had been allowed to grow so thick in Henchard’s books asalmost to baffle even the Scotchman’s perspicacity. The corn-factor’s mien was halfadmiring, and yet it was not without a dash of pity for the tastes of any one who could care to give his mind to suchfinnikin details. Henchard himself was mentally and physically unfit forgrubbing subtleties from solid paper; he had in a modern sense received theeducation of Achilles, and found penmanship a tantalisingart.” (Hardy 58)Hardy represents trade through the conflict betweentraditional and modern approaches to business, and these approaches are shownthrough Henchard and Farfrae’s differing attitudes towards business and trade.Henchard, being an older man who upholds traditional values, is no longerskilled enough to run his business and this can be seen through his inabilityto keep accurate records.
However, Farfrae is much younger and therefore isshown to have the ability and skill to run the business in a modern andefficient way and this can be seen through his late night managerial work. Similarly, Henchard and Farfrae’s differing methods ofemployee management further demonstrate the conflict between traditional andmodern approaches to trade and, like record keeping, Hardy further representstrade through this dichotomous relationship. The altercation between AbleWhittle and Henchard in chapter fifteen is a prime example of these contrasting methods of employee management.Able has arrived late to work, which sends Henchard into a rage. Henchard thendecides to severely punish Able for hisunpunctuality, instilling respect through fear within his employees. “Six o’clock struck, and there was no Whittle. Athalf-past six Henchard entered…Then Henchard swore… and declared with an oaththat this was the last time.’I don’t want to hear it!’ roared Henchard.
‘Tomorrow thewaggons must start at four, and if you’renot here, stand clear. I’ll mortify thy flesh for thee!’… Henchard turned away.’He asked me and he questioned me, and then ‘a wouldn’thear my points!’ said Abel, to the yard in general. ‘Now, I shall twitch like amoment-hand all night tonight for fear o’ him!” (Hardy 75) However, once again Farfrae’s differing approach appearsto improve the business. He admits that Able was in the wrong, but so too wasHenchard. “Get back home, and slip on your breeches, and come to wark like a man! If ye go not, you’ll ha’e yourdeath standing there!…
I don’t care what Mr.Henchard said, nor anybody else! ‘Tis simple foolishness to do this. Go anddress yourself instantly, Whittle.” (Hardy76)Farfrae efficiently resolved the issue between employeeand employer with his modern way of running a business. As Henchard, the traditionalist is shown to be damagingthe business through his inability to keep records and harsh punishment for hisworkers, Farfrae appears to solve these issues through his modernist way ofthinking.
By contrasting this pair so vividly throughout the novel, Hardy hasshown the representation of trade as a dichotomous relationship betweenmodernism and traditionalism, making it easy for readers to see the transitionfrom pre- industrialist trade to modern Victorian trade. Likewise, through Henchard and Farfrae’s opposingideologies of traditionalism and modernization, Hardy introduces readers to thetransition of trade that came after the repeal of the corn laws in 1846. ThroughHenchard and Farfrae, readers can clearly see the conflict between traditional andmodern approaches to trade within Casterbridge society. By introducing arevolutionary piece of machinery in chapter twenty-four, Hardy accurately depictsthe difficult transition of trade that occurred within agricultural communitiesin 1846. This can clearly be seen through Hardy’s initial description of thenew machine. “It was the new-fashioned agricultural implement called ahorse-drill, till then unknown, in its modern shape, in this part of thecountry, where the venerable seed-lip was still used for sowing as in the daysof the Heptarchy.” (Hardy 129-130) We are told that this machine “created about as muchsensation in the corn market as a flying machine would create at Charing Cross”and “The farmers crowded round it, women drew near it, children crept under andinto it.” (Hardy 130) It is clear then from this description that the new, modernhorse-drill was an exciting addition to most members of Casterbridge society.
Thus,illustrating the initial willingness to participate in modernization by Casterbridgesociety. However, the initial willingness is, of course, met withhesitation and anger by Henchard, the traditionalist, who “proceeded to explainit (the machine), and still more forcibly to ridicule it.” (Hardy 130) Henchardsaid, “The thing- why ’tis impossible itshould act. ‘Twas brought here by one of our machinists on the recommendation ofa jumped-up jackanapes of a fellow.” (Hardy 130-131) Henchard, being the mayor of Casterbridge, holds powerover not only his workers but also each member of Casterbridge society. Hislack of enthusiasm towards the horse-drill spreads throughout each person whocame to see this new machine. This can beseen through the character of Miss Templeton, who first describes the machineas “wonderful” but immediately afterwards refers to it as “a stupid thing”, “onthe strength of Henchard’s information”. (Hardy 131) It becomes clear to thereader that Henchard’s traditionalist ideology will be spread among thecommunity so long as he is in power, which will ultimately hurt Casterbridgesociety if they cannot embrace modernization.
Fortunately, Farfrae the modernist, who recommended themachine redeems the credibility of the horse-drill by stating, “Stupid? Oh no!It will revolutionise sowing hereabout!No more sowers flinging their seed about broadcast,so that some falls by the wayside and some among thorns, and all that. Eachgrain will go straight to its intended place, and nowhere else whatever!” (Hardy131) This interaction is a key example of how Hardy represents trade in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Byintroducing a modern invention to Casterbridge society and depicting thesubsequent conflict caused, Hardy has shown how the dichotomous relationshipbetween traditionalism and modernization represents trade within The Mayor of Casterbridge, as well asthe transition of trade from traditionalto modern during the nineteenth century. By analyzing Hardy’srepresentation of trade in The Mayor ofCasterbridge, it becomes clear that the dichotomous relationship between Henchardand Farfrae is reminiscent of a similar contrasting relationship; that oftraditionalism and modernization. This shows that Hardy has represented tradethrough the dichotomous relationship between traditionalism and modernization.
Similarly,Hardy depicts the transition from traditional to modern approaches to tradethrough the rise and fall of both Henchard and Farfrae. Henchard’s fall frompower and loss of his business represents the fall of traditional trade, whileFarfrae’s success in becoming the new mayor and subsequent control of the cornbusiness represents the rise of modernist trade. By deliberately choosing tooppose these ideologies through the protagonist and another main character,Hardy has provided readers with an in-depth and shocking view of the transitionfrom tradition to modernist methods of trade that was occurring all over Britainduring the nineteenth century after the repeal of the corn laws.