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The Mayor of Casterbridge (Penguin Classics)
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The Mayor of Casterbridge displays the influence of Hardy’s upbringing, rural background, and architectural studies. His characters are primitive and exhibit all the passions, hates, loves and jealousies that rustic life seems to inspire. Yet these characters are at all times real because they are based on people he had grown up with, people he had heart about in legends and ballads, people whose tragic histories he had unearthed during his early architectural apprenticeship. In this novel Hardy dramatizes human condition as a struggle between man and man, and between man and his fate. Usually it is fate that wins. Yet the victim of fate, Henchard, is also the greatest offender against morality, which would indicate purpose in the suffering he endures. The novel ends on a note of hope because of Henchard’s strength of will and his determination to undergo suffering and deprivation in order to expiate his sins.