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Henchard and farfrae contrast

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 512 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Henchard and Farfrae contrast each other, both by the states of their characters, and by the ideas they evoke. Farfrae is testament to the power of modernity and change and, in Casterbridge, an actual impetus of it. He implements new farming and harvesting techniques. Henchard, however, is representative of tradition and unprogressive stability; while Henchard is Mayor the town merely survives, while under Farfrae it flourishes.

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Unlike the contrast that is presented between Henchard and Farfrae, Henchard and Lucetta are presented as compliments. They are very much alike: inclined to strong, irrational passions, characterized by willful, independent natures, and compelled by love as well as ambition. However, Lucetta is not a “woman of character.” Unlike Henchard, Lucetta’s primarily obligation is to her own happiness, whereas Henchard’s is to a higher sense of interpersonal responsibility and the moral amendment of past mistakes. This commitment to the “right-course” is what both compels Henchard to improve his moral and material condition and what prevents him from taking possession of his happiness.

Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane are also presented as compliments to each other. They are both “emotionally moderate,” not excited into extremes of emotion the way that Henchard and Lucetta are (although Farfrae’s infatuation for Lucetta was rather impulsive). I think that Elizabeth-Jane is truly the most admirable character in the book. She seems to have a subtle, unobtrusive beauty and reserved manner that I find more compelling than Lucetta’s sophisticated prettiness and flirtatious demeanor. Lucetta is not a deep or especially intelligent woman; we get the sense that Elizabeth-Jane is very much is both of those things. She is kind, compassionate, empathetic and beautiful; yet she is not, however, a one-dimensional doormat the way Tamsin is in The Return of the Native. Although Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane are presented as similar characters, I think Elizabeth-Jane is still more admirable. Farfrae is ambitious, smart, successful, and very kind, yet Elizabeth-Jane seems to exude a greater degree of profound empathy, perhaps because she has suffered so much herself.

The tone of this novel is both very much like Hardy’s other novels and somewhat different. There is a strong sense of determinism in the novel; I sense that the lives of these characters are almost predestined- their life-courses are inevitable, it is only the emotions that they feel that are subject to the change. I think that Hardy suggests that the natural world, fate, time, and chance are not antagonist to human life, but rather somewhat indifferent to it- for individual people are so inconsequential amidst the greater profundity of Life itself. This gives the book a somewhat melancholy, but not necessary pessimistic tone. Ultimately, Hardy suggests that the novel is like life itself: ambiguous, neither good nor bad, triumphant or self-defeating.


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