|About the Book|
this is hardys most perfectly-constructed novel. there are others that are more appealing, to me, (am i allowed to say that?), but this one is such a perfect cause-and-effect, every-action-has-a-reaction kind of book, that it should really be his most popular and successful, instead of tess, which by comparison, is pure melodrama.mayor is full of the trappings of melodrama - convenient and inexplicable deaths, characters long out of the picture returning at the least opportune times, overheard conversations and love triangles and deathbed confessions, and yet it is so much more than that - it is the long, drawn-out punishment of a man who makes an impulsive mistake, tries to redeem himself, and finds that when thomas hardy is writing your life, it just isnt going to work out for you, sorry.this book has more psychological insight than tess, and henchard is a much more complex and nuanced character than any found in tess world. tess punishments result from her gender, her innocence, the hypocrisy of society, and a mismanaged letter. henchard is no ingenue.nor is this like jude, where a basically good but misguided man falls victim to circumstances - michael henchard is an unlikeable character through and through. but the fact that he tries to be a better man, and even pulls it off for a while, should be enough, right? even though he is arrogant and hot-tempered, even though he sold his wife and baby in a drunken impulse? is he not even a candidate for redemption? he regrets his mistakes, and even though he continues to make more, his awareness of his character flaws should be enough to avoid his fate, right?nope. this is hardyland. hardy doesnt take kindly to people trying to rise above their circumstances, nor does he take kindly to people getting off scot-free from their mistakes, good intentions or not. tess and angel pay, jude and sue pay, and michael henchard will pay.along with the very hardy-esque theme of stay put and be good, this book is another shining example of hardys facility with descriptive prose involving pastoral settings, and the idea of progress, and its effect on the working man.coincidences abound, but always acting as an agent of fate, which was hardys god. fate is capricious, but determined, and there is no escaping it.is why i love thomas hardy.