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 The Mayor of Casterbridge Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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The Mayor of Casterbridge: Metaphors

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Five guineas

The five guineas represent the amount that Henchard sells his wife, Susan, and daughter for at Weydon fair. This is also the amount he puts in the envelope for Susan when she comes to Casterbridge.

 

It represents the price he has sold her for and symbolizes the exchange of a wife. By selling her, she has become his human object to trade and it entails that this money represents how the female may be regarded as a possession. Her sale also demonstrates a decidedly unromantic view of marriage and allows the narrative to cut away at the idealism of romantic love.

 

Love letters

Lucetta’s copious letters to Henchard are often central to her thoughts as she sees them as ‘floating evidence’ of her relationship with him. Because they are read out by Jopp in the public house, they also symbolize her ruin. These love letters, which ordinarily and romantically are associated with an idealized state, become the means of her downfall from public grace. In this light, love and romance are once more criticized in the narrative as the pessimistic view of love and its destructive forces holds sway over the idealized version.

 

Position of Mayor

Henchard attains the position of Mayor from the most humble of origins. This role symbolizes his acceptance into the higher ranks of society and marks his distance from his proletariat past. When it is later rumored that Farfrae is to become Mayor, this powerful position comes to represent the final humiliation for Henchard as his rival will then occupy all the positions he once had. It signifies his earlier power and his then complete reversal of fortunes.

 

Skimmity ride

The skimmity ride is the means by which some of the working-class inhabitants of the town take revenge on the higher ranking Lucetta (and Henchard) for supposed immoral behavior. It is a carnivalesque form of punishment that depends on humiliation for its effect as effigies of those under fire are paraded through the town.

 

This ride may be seen to be both a form of a challenge to those who are in power and a ritualized way of controlling female promiscuity. 




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