Study Guide

The Mayor of Casterbridge Memory and the Past

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Memory and the Past

The events of The Mayor of Casterbridge span more than twenty years – most of Henchard's adult life. In a sense, you can read Henchard's downfall as a commentary on the way the past always comes back to haunt you. There's no way to outrun your past actions. Lucetta's death is likewise caused by past events coming to light. In the world of the novel, history always repeats itself, and your past actions will always come back to bite you.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Which characters try to escape the past, and what are the consequences? What are they trying to escape from, exactly?
  2. What is the role of the ancient, distant past in the novel? Look at the scenes that take place at the Casterbridge Ring, for example. Why is a Roman amphitheater an important location in this novel?
  3. In what ways does the past catch up with Michael Henchard and other characters in the novel? Does it haunt them all equally?
  4. Is it ever possible to escape the past in the world of this novel? Is it even desirable?

Chew on This

In The Mayor of Casterbridge, the past continually comes back to haunt the present.

The Casterbridge Ring represents the tendency for history – even ancient history – to repeat itself.

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