‘The mayor of Casterbridge’ presents Henchard as atypical tragic hero in that he suffers and dies through his own character and a concentration of events. Firstly, he was an alcoholic; his relationship with Susan and his relationship with Elizabeth-Jane are three points, which show this.
Another three are that he had an affair with Lucetta, what happened with Farfrae and fate in general.
The first point, which I am going to use to show that he is typical tragic hero, is that he was an alcoholic, this played a big part at the begging of the story. As it was then that he became drunk and sold his wife, Susan and daughter, Elizabeth-Jane. “I’ll sell her for five guineas to any man that will pay me the money,” so he sold her to a sailor called Newson for five guineas in the furmenty tent at Weydon-Priors Fair.
We see that when he gets drunk he does things, which he later regrets. We can tell this as the morning after he sells Susan he wishes that he hadn’t and takes an oath not to drink again for twenty-one years. “I, Michael Henchard…take an oath…to avoid all strong liquors…for…21 years”
He then goes on to complete his oath by not drinking for twenty-one years, which shows that he is a man who sticks to his principles.
The second point that shows that Henchard is a typical tragic hero is his relationship with Susan.
As even though he sells her she still comes back to him once Newson dies as she feels that she now once again belongs to him. We see this when she says, “I thought I owed him faithfulness of one of our lives.” They decide to get re-married as no-one else in Casterbridge knows about their past, not even their own daughter, Elizabeth-Jane. “I meet you, court you, and marry you,” Susan accepts Henchards proposal as she believes that it is the correct thing to do. Henchards farewell words reveal his good intentions; “Judge me by my future works- Good-bye!”
Henchard is not told about Elizabeth-Jane not being his daughter until he read Susan’s will. This shows that there wasn’t a completely truthful relationship between him and Susan, and that Susan was in the wrong all along for not telling him the truth.
My next point is his relationship with Elizabeth-Jane. This relationship fluctuates; it continuously gets stronger then weaker. An example of this is when she gets told that Henchard is her father. “It is I who am your father,” Obviously she is upset to begin with as she has just discovered that her whole life has been a lie, but after the initial shock of it their relationship becomes a lot stronger. Soon after he finds out that he is not her father and this is a great shock for him as Susan has kept this a secret from him for all these years. He decides not to tell Elizabeth-Jane so she is kept under a mis-apprehension once again whilst Henchard knows the truth. This affects Henchard, as he is constantly worrying that she will find out and hate him for not telling her. He keeps the truth from her as he is lonely and is scared that if she knows the truth she will leave him.
Another time that their relationship changes is when Henchard goes to commit suicide but sees his face in the water so does not. After this Elizabeth-Jane moves in with, and looks after him. Once again their relationship becomes stronger. Also because of this Henchard no longer feels lonely. Read also I wish i hadn’t said those hurtful essay word
My next point to prove that Henchard is a typical tragic hero is his friendship with Farfrae. There is often a cooling of friendship, as Henchard is nearly always jealous of Farfrae’s success and popularity. A child says that Farfrae is ‘cleverer than Mr.Henchard,’ and that ‘He’s better tempered’ and also that ‘they wish that he was the mayor instead of Henchard.’
Henchards friendship with Farfrae is a good example of his character. We see that jealously brings most of his unhappiness on him and it pushes him to do things, which he regrets when it is to late:
“Henchard went home, apparently satisfied. But in the morning, when his jealous temper had passed away, his heart sank within him at what he had said and done.”
So form this as I said before Henchard has a self-distructive steek which pushes him in to actions which he regrets when it is too late.
We also see that Henchard can accept his defeat as in chapter sixteen he pits his hatred towards Farfrae and carries on with his plans for entertainment for the town.
My next point that I am going to use is Henchards affair with lucetta.When Lucetta and Henchard met up it rasied simpathy for this proud man who is now so humbled. Lucetta’s reaction demonstates her shallow ness and sense of guilt. Her failure to do anything to help Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane also indicates her lack of sensitivity.
Towards the end of the book Henchard agrees to meet up with Lucetta. Here he sees her for what she really is, a pitiful creature and so he decides to end her fears. This action is very admirable and shows him better than Lucetta who is only intreested in her own happpiness.
After Farfrae becomes mayor Henchard still cannot bring himself to reveal Lucetta’s past to Farfrae. This shows that Henchard is sensitive to Farfraes feelings and that he feels a great deal more for him than he does for Lucetta. We can tell this as he is not telling Farfrae not to save Lucetta but to stop Fafrae from being hurt.
My last point that shows Henchard as a typical tragic hero is the way in which fate interviens.
Firstly, when Farfrae first comes into the story and accepts the role as Henchard’s manager, Henchard feels that fate has decided it.
Another time is when he tells Elizabeth-Jane that he is her father and then later goes on to find out that he is not:
“he could not help thinking that the concentation of eventsthis events that had produced was the scheme of some sinister intelligance bent on punishing him.”
From this we can see that he feels that fate is punishing him for what he did earlier that day.
Another time that fate intervenes is when Henchard goes down to the river to kill himself. When he looks into the water he sees his own face. Even though it was only his model from the skimmity ride looking up at him it is too much of a coincidence that it was in that exact place at the same time that he looked into the water for it not to be fate.
In conclusion the points that he is an alcoholic, his relationships with people and the intervening of fate help me to prove that the statement, In ‘the mayor of casterbridge’ Henchard is presented as a typical tragic hero is correct.