The Mayor of Casterbridge
Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Among the rest of the on-lookers were Elizabeth and her mother – the former thoughtful yet much interested, her eyes beaming with a longing lingering light, as if Nature had been advised by Correggio in their creation. (16.23)
Elizabeth-Jane is completely natural, as the narrator keeps assuring us, but she's so beautiful that she looks like she could have been painted by Correggio (a Renaissance Italian painter). Which is it: is she like nature or art?
This, she decided, was the best position after all; and thus she remained till a man's step was heard on the stairs. Whereupon Lucetta, forgetting her curve (for Nature was too strong for Art as yet), jumped up, and ran and hid herself behind one of the window-curtains in a freak of timidity. (22.79)
Unlike Elizabeth, Lucetta isn't so natural. She is like an artist herself, arranging her own body to create the greatest possible effect. But she still has enough "Nature" in her to be embarrassed and shy.
It was an odd sequence that out of all this wronging of social law came that flower of nature, Elizabeth. Part of his wish to wash his hands of life arose from his perceptions of its contrarious inconsistencies – of Nature's jaunty readiness to support bad social principles. (44.8)
The narrator suggests that what Henchard did – selling his wife – wasn't a violation of natural or moral law, but a "wronging of social law." What he did was wrong, but it didn't violate any natural laws. And so "Nature" doesn't punish him, but instead creates Elizabeth, "that flower of nature."