Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), native to Dorchester, England, was a novelist and poet that spent the majority of his life as a career writer. His crowning achievement was The Mayor of Casterbridge, which he wrote in 1886; it highlighted his signature style of tragedy and indifference towards its main characters. He spent the entirety of his childhood and most of his adulthood in his private study because of recurring unknown illnesses. As a result, he observed the countryside that surrounded him and implanted it into the geography of his novels and poems. Most scholars believe that the setting of The Mayor of Casterbridge was a recreation of his hometown Dorchester. Hardy also had an exclusive ...view middle of the document...
No longer a child, he started working as a traveling apprentice architect, only to be stricken by illness and house-ridden once again in his hometown of Dorchester (May). Unfortunately, he became a hypochondriac and began to write The Mayor of Casterbridge, which expressed the somber, distant tone that his own life had taken on (May). His ardent use of imagery throughout The Mayor of Casterbridge was evidence to the fact that he spent his sick days observing the natives of Dorchester throughout their daily routines. Candyce Norvell, who wrote a literary criticism of the novel, says, “Hardy’s specific details and historical accuracy earn him so much credibility that it is easy for readers to believe that his narrator is relating a story from memory, not from imagination, that is, that Michael Henchard’s life is history, not story.” Hardy’s “memory” of Dorchester is blatantly apparent numerous times in the novel; for example:
Originally the mask had exhibited a comic leer, as could still be discerned; but generations of Casterbridge boys had thrown stones at the mask, aiming at its open mouth; and the blows thereon had chipped off the lips and jaws as if they had been eaten away by disease. (146)
Nothing seemed to escape Hardy’s knack for observation. His illness was a curse that, in the end, became a necessity to creating authenticity in his literary works. Not only was Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge influenced by his sickness, he was also influenced by the people he lived with.
Hardy, while writing The Mayor of Casterbridge, was especially influenced by his closest friends and family because they were crucial to his ability to create realistic characters. In her literary criticism, Candyce Norvell admires his attention to detail by stating that, “The story that contains such minute and peculiar detail must certainly be a true story, and the people in it must, therefore, be real people.” His father was a humble mason from a very low-class family; nevertheless, his mother, Jemima Hardy, made him realize that education and social mobility were important (May). She educated him until the age of eight and sent him to the best schools available (May). His formal education ended there, but his path to becoming one of the English literary elite was set in stone when he met Horace Moule, a classically educated Cambridge scholar (May). Moule encouraged Hardy to read Essays and Reviews, which challenged many of his traditional views of religion (May). Hardy’s eyes had been opened to a vastly different world than the traditional, God-fearing one (May). At the end of The Mayor of Casterbridge, Hardy writes:
And in being forced to class herself among the fortunate she did not cease to wonder at the persistence of the unforeseen, when the one to whom such unbroken tranquility had been accorded in the adult stage was she whose youth had seemed to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain. (306)
This was Hardy’s...