Study Guide

The Mayor of Casterbridge Man and the Natural World

By Thomas Hardy

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Man and the Natural World

Casterbridge is about as "natural" of a town as you can imagine. It's set in the middle of agricultural fields and doesn't have a lot of the "unnatural" industrial mills and factories that were springing up at the time in towns further north in England. The town's naturalness contrasts sharply with the artifice (fakeness and superficiality) of some of its inhabitants. Lucetta, for example, is always thinking about what she wears and how she carries herself. Elizabeth-Jane, on the other hand, is completely natural – she doesn't think about these things at all.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. The narrator describes Elizabeth-Jane as a "flower of nature" (44.7). What does this suggest about her character?
  2. In contrast to Elizabeth-Jane, the "flower of nature," Lucetta is rather artificial. Is she a sympathetic character in spite of this? Use passages from the novel to support your argument.
  3. Most of The Mayor of Casterbridge takes place in the town, yet natural cycles of harvest and weather play a big role in the plot – for example, when Henchard goes to visit the old man to ask for a weather prediction.
  4. How would you characterize Henchard's relationship with nature? What about Farfrae's? Which of them seems closer to nature? Explain your answer using passages from the novel.

Chew on This

Casterbridge, where most of the novel takes place, represents a kind of compromise between city and country life, and between civilization and nature.

Elizabeth-Jane's natural intelligence and morality form a sharp contrast to Lucetta's artificial, assumed accomplishments and her socially imposed value system.

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