The Mayor of Casterbridge: Top Ten Quotations

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  1. When she plodded on in the shade of the hedge, silently thinking, she had the hard, half-apathetic expression of one who deems anything possible at the hands of Time and Chance except, perhaps fair play. The first phase was the work of Nature, the second probably of civilization.p. 2 This quotation introduces Susan to the readers and it is made clear at this early stage that she has little or no control over her destiny. This lack of power becomes transparent a short time later when she is sold by her husband.
  2. They had lived so long ago, their time was so unlike the present, their hopes and motives were so widely removed from ours, that between them and the living there seemed to stretch a gulf too wide for even a spirit to pass.p. 80 This is a reference to how the present day citizens of Casterbridge are largely unconcerned or unmoved by the past relics and bodies that are found (from the time of Roman colonization). This point may be juxtaposed with how some of its citizens judge Lucetta’s past behavior and condemn her for it. It is also at odds with how Henchard hopes to keep his own past dead and buried.

  3. No, he thought, Farfrae would be suggesting such improvements in his damned luminous way that in spite of himself he, Henchard, would sink to the position of second fiddle, and only scrape harmonies to his manager’s talents.p. 118 Henchard’s sense of rivalry towards Farfrae is exemplified here as he imagines Farfrae being seen as preferable. This demonstrates Henchard’s pettiness, insecurity and jealousy (which are all factors in his later fall from grace).

  4. These tones showed that, though under a long reign of self-control he had become Mayor and churchwarden and what not, there was still the same unruly volcanic stuff beneath the rind of Michael Henchard as when he had sold his wife at Weydon Fair.p. 129 Henchard is incensed to learn that Farfrae has set himself up in business in Casterbridge after asking him to leave his employ. His ‘tones’ reveal that he is not so different from when he first acted impulsively in the novel despite the new respectable veneer.

  5. Henchard’s wife was disserved from him by death; his friend and helper Farfrae by estrangement; Elizabeth-Jane by ignorance. p.140 At this moment, Henchard feels alone in the world and this depicts both his lonely position and his capacity for selfishness and self-pity.

  6.  He was the kind of man to whom some human object for pouring out his heart upon – were it emotive or were it choleric – was almost a necessity.p. 142 This quotation epitomizes Henchard’s need for another human ‘object’ to release his emotions upon. This, therefore, also reinforces the selfishness that characterizes him.

  7. Then who so pleasing, thrifty, and satisfactory in every way as Elizabeth-Jane? Apart from her personal recommendations a reconciliation with his former friend Henchard would, in the natural course of things, flow from such a union.p. 181 Farfrae thoughts on the idea of marriage with Elizabeth-Jane are seen to also be encouraged by considerations such as his friendship with Henchard. Bearing this reference in mind, it is evident that it is not just Henchard that is able to be self-serving when making apparently altruistic decisions.

  8. Her heart longed for some ark into which it could fly and be at rest. Rough or smooth she did not care so long as it was warm.p. 187 Lucetta’s attraction for Farfrae is seen to be unconcerned with his social standing. Although wealthy, she does not care that he is in ‘trade’ so long as he is able to offer her warmth.

  9. Any suspicion of impropriety was to Elizabeth-Jane like a red rag to a bull. Her craving for correctness of procedure was, indeed, almost vicious.p. 248 Elizabeth-Jane’s sense of morality is demonstrated to be strict and ‘almost vicious’ as she judges Lucetta on her conduct. By having such a strict outlook it is apparent that her morality lacks compassion in this instance.

  10. Over this repentant sinner, at least, there was to be no joy in heaven. He cursed himself like a less scrupulous Job, as a vehement man will do when he loses self-respect, the last mental prop under poverty.p. 329 In this instance, Henchard has met Farfrae to ask him to return home to his ailing wife, Lucetta. Because of Henchard’s earlier violent behaviour, Farfrae is unable to believe him. This reference to Henchard as ‘a less scrupulous Job’ is apt as it describes with economy how his repentance counts for little as his misfortunes increase.

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