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Penguin Classics Mayor Of Casterbridge [Mass Market Paperback]

Thomas Hardy , Keith Wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 29 1997 0140435131 978-0140435139 New edition
Thomas Hardy's fascination with the dualities inherent in human nature is at the root of The Mayor of Casterbridge, now in a brand-new edition. In a drunken fit Michael Henchard sells his wife and infant daughter to a sailor at a country fair; when sobriety returns the following day, he is unable to find and reclaim his family. Vowing to transform his life, he settles in the town of Casterbridge, where he eventually rises to the position of mayor. Henchard is a man whose impulses are at war with one another, and when his wife and daughter, now a young woman, appear in Casterbridge, these internal contradictions drive him to commit acts that spell his final destruction. Employing the elements of classic tragedy Hardy took the English novel in a new direction, emerging as both the last Victorian novelist and the first modern one, and defines themes that would occupy such twentieth-century writers as Conrad and Lawrence.

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From Library Journal

Hardy's 1866 novel gets the red carpet treatment here. Like Broadview's recent edition of Dracula (Classic Returns, LJ 1/98), this includes a scholarly preface and introduction, a chronicle of Hardy's life, and several appendixes. All that for $9.95 makes this an absolute steal.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


The Mayor of Casterbridge is a novel about Henchard’s ‘struggle into love and the struggle with love’ . . . Hardy is clearly an expert in moods and maps out the terrain . . . like a writer who knows the emotional landscape intimately.” –from the Introduction by Craig Raine --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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One evening of late summer, before the present century had reached its thirtieth year, a young man and woman, the latter carrying a child, were approaching the large village of Wevdon-Priors on foot. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the Perfect Tragic Character May 31 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
When Thomas Hardy penned The Mayor of Casterbridge, he brought to life a very authentic character in Michael Henchard. He is possibly the perfect tragic character. The only other character I can think of to compare him to as I struggle to describe him and the story - for he is so much the story - is King Lear. But where Lear was a King who was foolish, Michael is the common man, a simple hay trusser, with several character flaws ... most notably shortsightedness and a desire to "be on top". He at no point feels something that most people don't but where we restrain our first rash and selfish actions (most of the time), he goes full out until he has cost himself everything and too late finds redemption. His flaw is insidious and all too common, so we relate easily even through his most outrageous misadventures.
In a fit of drunken despondency, feeling that he is being pulled down by the responsibility of being a twenty-one year old husband and father, he jests that he would gladly part with his wife and daughter for the sum of five pounds. After having sworn this so vehemently for the entire evening, he has little recourse when someone takes him up on it and his wife, in shame and anger, agrees to go with the purchaser, taking their daughter with her. When sobriety brings full realization, it also brings a vow of temperance from Michael who in the following fifteen years builds himself up to a position respectability and public admiration in the nearby town of Casterbridge.
Though he seems to have learned his lesson, we are only on chapter two and his story is just beginning as his wife and child return and his friendship with a trusted friend and critical advisor becomes a bitter rivalry. Time and again he demands allegiance when he need only ask it and return it in kind.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Casting a long shadow Feb. 15 2004
I was nearly put off reading this by friends who termed it "depressing". This trivialises it, for it is, to my mind, truly tragic. In a shockingly irresponsible drunken act, protagonist Michael Henchard sells his wife at a local fair. The consequences, stretching over a couple of decades, sweep away both him and other characters.
The plot teems with journeys, coincidences, long-lost people showing up, and a strong vein of morality. In typical Hardyesque style, Henchard moves from the height of civic success to bankruptcy and alienation. A quasi-Greek-tragedy air of fate prevails, but Hardy manages to keep suspense alive. Protagonist and antagonist (Farfrae) are pitted against each other on civic and domestic fronts. There is not one Mayor of Casterbridge, but two, and success, failure and rivalry play a large part. There is also competition among the males as lovers, husbands and fathers.
This novel gives an insight into civic life, the worthy burgesses of Casterbridge networking in their council-rooms and taverns. But the animal instincts of the wife-sale, the gutter-press viciousness of the locals' "skimmity-ride", and the proximity of the countryside, where so many Victorian characters wander to survive and to lay bare their feelings, reveal the fragility of civilisation and our urban constructs.
Great stuff.
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I'm re-reading this book that thrilled me years ago and thrills me today. Now, however, I realize just how "modern" it is, even more so than the works of Dickens, whom I also revere, but whose writing had a quaint quality that actually makes him the lesser artist, in my opinion. Hardy's writing is spare but nothing is left out. You feel it, you taste it, you live it. It has the firm, sure quality of a minimalist work of art, and yet the twists and turns of its plot are dizzying. I detect its influence on novelist Toni Morrison, I might add. I'd be willing to bet she's a Hardy scholar. I read many passages, many scenes, that reminded me of her "folksy" conceits. And I was amazed at Hardy's contemporary understanding of addiction, in this case alcoholism. In fact, Henchard is a "dry drunk." He abstains from liquor for 21 years, but his character defects and lack of spiritual awareness catapault him right back into his disease when he begins drinking again. In fact, his life spirals out of control faster and faster with his first return to drink, showing that alcoholism, like all addictions, is a progressive disease. A reviewer here said the book was depressing, and that Hardy is dark. However, the "light" in Hardy comes with his wisdom, not unlike Faulkner's, of human nature. There are so many themes of the enduring truths that one is uplifted just by the reading. Sometimes I mourn for the writers I will never meet, the ones who have passed on. Their teaching is so important to my own spiritual and artistic growth, that I have experienced a great love from them and for them. Hardy is one of those for me. Wherever he dwells now, I send him my appreciation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The link between Dickens and James March 31 2003
When one finisheds "Casterbridge," one is immediately struck by its place in the development of the novel. Hardy came after Dickens and before James, and his style intrigues as you connect parts of it to the former, parts to the latter.
His plotting is sort of Dickens "lite." There are mysterious benefactors, sudden tragic deaths, reversals of fortune, paternity mysteries, ect. His prose is cleaner and easier to read than both Dickens and James; "Casterbridge" scans better than "Bleak House" or "The Wings of the Dove."
The story begins when a pastoral laborer, in a drunken rage, sells his wife and child one evening. When he wakes the next morning, abhorred at what he has done, he swears off liquor and decides to make something of his life. The novel truly begins eighteen years later, when his wife and daughter come back to present themselves to him. In the course of the rest of the novel, we witness the fall of the now Mayor of Casterbridge, brought about by his own character flaws and the interventions of fate.
Henchard, the main character, is a facinating combination of hot-spirited volition and turn-on-a-dime repentance. He is quick to do things which damn him but just as quick to admit his guilt. He is a wonderful character and a precursor to the later "psychological" novels of James and Forster. The satellite characters remind one of Dickens, but they are not nearly as startling and interesting, but of course, a character such as Henchard never existed in all of Dickens.
The novel proceeds to its forgone conclusion inexorably, albiet with a few melodromatic touches, yet it sustains its tone and readibility due mostly to Henchard, and the dramatic situations Hardy puts him through.
Well worth a look.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful human interest story for all times. Picture of every day life in an English small town.
Published 3 months ago by Sally
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story, no pictures?
there were no pictures!!! In my hard copy i have pictures but my kindle was showing me any. it was a good story though
Published 21 months ago by Maryum
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tragedy!
Everything starts off well, then goes down hill from there. This story is depressing but it does teach a lesson: that your past will eventually catch up to you. Read more
Published on March 15 2008 by Sam
1.0 out of 5 stars All cynicism, no realism, no insight
Modern novels can be so pretentious, with their needless philosophizing and conscious experimentation with the language. Read more
Published on April 29 2004 by vampsandtramps
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest beginnings ever in a book.
Mayor of Casterbridge is a tale about a man named Michael Henchard and the mistakes he makes in life. It is really well written, Hardy has a skill for great storytelling. Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2004 by "illusionator"
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. Not bad for senior reading.
I had to read this book for my honors English class. The book will seem like worthless description if you don't look up biographical notes on Thomas Hardy. Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2004 by K. Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly Talented Writing
I greatly enjoyed The Mayor of Casterbridge, not only for its clear and concise explanations, dialogue and emotional energy, but also for its themes. Read more
Published on Dec 11 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great ironic tragedies in the English Language
One of my favorites works of English literature. The opening "wife selling" chapter is one of the best in all literate, setting the major tone and themes for the entire book. Read more
Published on April 14 2003 by D. N. Goldman
5.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting Tale of Past Recrimminations and Regrets
This story STILL haunts me since first reading it in college, 20 years ago. It is about a man so destitute and desperate he sells his wife and baby daughter. Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2002 by HarryChrishop-CPC
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