LUCETTA LE SUEUR / MISS TEMPLEMAN

(critical analysis: character and function)

Appears in chapters 12 18 22 25 26 27 28 29 34 35 40

Lucetta is the sole representation of gentry in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Ate first, she is a shadowy figure appearing in Henchard’s confession to Farfrae and is like a wraith (153).  She embodies the sexuality which Elizabeth-Jane lacks and is her alter ego who is judged and then casually killed off.  Those women who are not passive subjects to the male meet with Hardy’s censure.  Casterbridge wreaks vengeance on the image-conscious ‘cherry-coloured’ woman (191), who had earlier dared to out-rival the ‘green, yellow and red’ seed-drill’. (167/191).  When she leaves the house to meet Henchard and beg return of her letters, ‘the sun was resting on the hill like a drop of blood on an eyelid’ (288) but she wears very plain clothes.

Hardy’s description of Lucetta is full of dress and appearance – to Jopp, she is a ‘proud piece of silk and waxwork’ (257/297). Her house symbolises her character (160) and her room is a ‘boudoir’ (172).  Hardy insists on her obsession with appearance – on deciding on a dress, she says ‘you are that totally different person’ (191) – she is given no inner life and her sexual energy is trapped within, and exposed by, obsession with the elegance of her dress.  She decides on being ‘the cherry-coloured person at all hazards’ (191) and has no life between Market Days ‘in an emotional sense’ (190).  Lucetta also values Henchard’s public features of ‘man’, ‘merchant’ and ‘mayor’.

Lucetta acknowledges that she is ‘flighty and unsettled’ (152/173) and Hardy shows her to be driven towards hysteria, which finally kills her.  Consider the vignette of her posture which is followed by concealment behind the curtain – showing a symbolic lack of consistent ‘self’. She flourishes through artifice and poses ‘somewhat’ like one in a Titian painting (172) and arranges herself ‘picturesquely’ (178). At one point, Elizabeth-Jane says, ‘with a critic’s eyes’, she appears ‘a little worn’ like a ‘doubtful painting’ (198). There is the burlesque depiction of the tea party where Lucetta has the position of Jesus and Elizabeth-Jane the role of recording angel (208).  Her entire life is a succession of theatrical appearances and is even an appearance herself to such an extent that the skimmitv ride elicits the cry ‘she’s me – she’s me – even to the parasol – my green parasol.’ (321).

The moment she is able to speak her passion is also the moment of final collapse. ‘It’s of no use?’ she shrieked out. ‘He will see it. won’t he? Donald will see it.’  As Donald is away, Lucetta is referring to her, now exposed, sexuality.  The heroine, Elizabeth-Jane, wishes to shut this sexuality because, as her subsequent passionless relationship with Farfrae shows, she accepts the patriarchal system which seeks to suppress it.  Lucetta, however, had determined not to be a ‘slave to the past’ (204).  The penetration of female domestic space leads to her loss of independence.  She is crushed by her final sentence, exacted by the moral order (322).

—oOo—

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