The women in The Mayor of Casterbridge live in a patriarchal society The female experience of courtship and marriage is given sympathetically whilst the plotting and authorial comment often reveal an anti-feminine basis: there is ‘a radical split in women’s consciousness between self-perception and perception by others.’ (Penny Boumelha). There is also ‘a predisposition towards intense physical response to natural or emotional conflict’ (Penny Boumelha) e.g. Lucetta.
Many of Hardy’s women lack a father (including Elizabeth-Jane in some respects) and this absence allows them to choose another man to whom they will be subjugated in the patriarchal structure. Perhaps partly as a result of this, a question of identity hangs over the women in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Each of the main female characters are known by different names: Elizabeth-Jane and Susan are Henchard and Newson, and Lucetta is Templeman and Le Sueur. Susan and Elizabeth-Jane show the stock, passive virtue of stoicism, which is often attributed to women. In Susan, the silent woman undermines the self-creating will of the man.
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Boumelha, Penny. Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual ideology and Narrative Form. Brighton: Harvester 1982
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