For such a long novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge has relatively few main characters: two men (Henchard and Farfrae) and three women (Susan, Lucetta, and Elizabeth-Jane). Their great differences of character make it difficult to generalize about gender roles in the novel. The characters themselves, though, often make sexist generalizations.
The Mayor of Casterbridge presents several contrasting versions of masculinity and femininity to show how difficult it is to define or maintain hard-and-fast gender roles.
Although Elizabeth-Jane is naturally very feminine, she lacks the more superficial, artificial markers of femininity that are taught by society, such as feminine handwriting, fashionable dress, and accomplishments like dancing and singing.