above combination is illustrated in the presentation of Henchard’s
tragic end, which is also a reflection on the perils that depth of
feeling and character seem to bring with them. The description of
Henchard’s end, soaked in symbolic and cryptic language, echoes
Shakespeare’s King Lear when the aged and mad king meets the storm
followed by his loyal “fool” (just as Henchard is followed by
Whittle). Yet, beyond this mythical presentation of his end, lies
the psychological explanation that he died because he had lost all
hope and the will to live. This is reflected in the heart-wrenching,
desperate will with which he makes sure that his punishment will
continue after death.
Hardy’s philosophy on life and character is clearly
voiced through Elizabeth-Jane and the ending she chose to endure.
The ending of the novel orchestrates some of Hardy’s perennial
themes revolving around the discords of human experience, change,
the death of the individual, and the survival of the species.
The mayor had tried to create his own destiny by
producing a character that is fixed and permanent. However, the
world, as Elizabeth-Jane acknowledges, is one of evolution and
change, and so Henchard can no longer survive in this world, as he
is non-adaptable. Elizabeth-Jane, on the other hand, develops a
philosophy of endurance, quiet pessimism, and making “limited
opportunities endurable”, which is presented as the key to
Reading “The Mayor of Casterbridge” is an
experience; it just has so much to teach the perceptive reader:
life, death, love, hate, tragedy, character, illusions, happiness.
The ultimate message, I suppose, is that as long as people go on
believing in things like romantic love and happiness, tragedy is