Abhijeet Pratap

Dec 31, 2019

7 min read

Cause of Henchard’s Fall in Mayor of Casterbridge

Henchard’s poor fate or his personal weaknesses

Mayor of Casterbridge; Image Source: Wikipedia

Henchard’s Wife

Henchard and his wife Susan are a poor match which becomes clear right in the initial part of the novel. The poor hay trusser drags her around like an extra load. He is searching for work when he reaches Weyden Priors with his family. His wife appears meek and passive woman who does not fit with her husband. She is carrying a young child; their daughter Elizabeth Jane who later dies. The poor worker is feeling frustrated for he is unable to find work. His frustration pours out in the furmity woman’s tent. He gets drunk and proposes to sell his wife and daughter for just five guineas. His wife does not react when he is auctioning her and the child as if lamenting being married to Henchard. A young sailor returns his proposal and pays five pounds to have his wife and daughter. Michael Henchard’s wife warns him just once before she leaves with the sailor. “Now,” said the woman, breaking the silence, so that her low dry voice sounded quite loud, “before you go further, Michael, listen to me. If you touch that money, I and this girl go with the man. Mind, it is a joke no longer.” (Chapter 1) Henchard was trying to tease his wife but she lost her patience. Being auctioned before so many people like a commodity made her lose patience and respect for her husband. She cannot bear to remain with a man who is auctioning her like a harlot. Susan was sobbing when she left and Henchard was too drunk to understand the gravity of his sin. When he rises in the morning, his family is gone leaving him alone to deal with his stubbornness.

Henchard’s Personal Weaknesses

To understand Henchard’s situation, it would be proper to analyze his behavior. In the initial scenes, he is frustrated at his poverty. In a state of frustration, he ends up messing his situation by selling his wife and daughter. They are the only support he has in his life. Till they are with him, they are a burden and when they have left he feels lost and alone. All does not appear to be caused by fate. Had Henchard been less stubborn and complicated, life could have been easier for him and his family. It is not just him who is bearing all the difficulties but also his family. His daughter dies a few months after his wife has left. The sailor who has bought them gives them a better life and more care but is unable to save his daughter who falls ill and dies.