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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Friday, April 24, 2015

What to anticipate in the 2nd half of The Mayor of Casterbridge

I admit that not only was the eponymous Mayor of Casterbridge surprised but I, too, was surprised when he opened the "do not open until Elizabeth's wedding day" letter for his late wife and he learns that Elizabeth is not really his daughter - that the original Eliz. (his daughter) died at 3 months and the 2nd Eliz. was the daughter of the sailor, Newsom, who literally bought the wife at auction in the stunning first scene of the novel. OK, got that? In any event, Mayor Henchard, learning that Eliz is not his daughter, begins treating her in the most nasty manner - and, as she notes, even worse thn mean and hypercritical is when he ignores her altogether. Such a horrible person - and one doomed to a tragic life, we anticipate (although maybe with some redemption at the end, we shall see). In one of those ridiculous coincidences or more accurately forced hands that that are the bane of Victorian fiction, the woman whom Henchard had been courting before his long-lost ex-wife turned up in Casterbridge, Lucette (?), suddenly shows up on the scene and has an elaborate scheme to win Henchard for herself at last. We know she's a schemer because, well, she's French and she spices her language up with a few French bons mots. Her scheme involves hiring Elizabeth to live with her as a companion (she's come into a big inheritance and buys a creepy old but huge house in Casterbridge), thinking that will entice Henchard to visit her - when the opposite is the case. Alors! So as I'm at about the half-way point in this novel, I think what the rest holds in store is the gradual ruination and disintegration of Henchard - the fate one would expect for a narcissist, liar, and drunkard - unless he can be redeemed - by the love of a good woman? filial love? atonement (for a 2nd time) for his sins and misjudgments? Forster had the right advice for people like him: Only connect.

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