(Structure and Form)

The narrative pattern of ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ reveals the prevailing structures of ownership and production, of work and social relations, within the Victorian countryside.  Hardy’s writing is ‘rooted in a definable historical process.. not historical reality’ (George Wotton).  This is the reality of ideology.

It has been said the novel was written and recklessly damaged to suit weekly, short episode, serialisation in The Graphic and later Harpers Weekly – magazines whose readers steered away from recognising sexual components in relationships and who required eventful instalments. Changes were made for book publication e.g.

Elizabeth Jane is given more insight, her dialect reduced

‘a hole in a sovereign’ is added.

Lucetta’s pregnancy is foregrounded

A greater tragic tone is added to the final chapters.  As a result of prevalent literary considerations and, one presumes, notions of tragedy, Hardy was aware that close attention needed to be paid to unity of plot – which is referred to as ‘that rapid movement, that quick sequence of cause and effect.’ (Kenneth Graham).  Note that Unity of Action is said to be a feature of classical tragedy.  Each scene had to have a direct relation with the whole novel – which itself had to be like a puzzle. This led to Hardy dispensing with the sub-plot – ‘a story should be like an organism’ (Hardy).  Here then is an instance of Form (tragedy) being inextricably linked to Narrative Structure.

Some further distinctive narrative features:

Dramatic irony occurs when the development of the plot allows the reader to possess more information about what is happening than some of the characters themselves.

Elisions of narrative include e.g. Susan’s secretiveness: Henchard’s and Farfrae’s lack of family history:

Hardy uses circumstance to purify & chasten character.

Third person omniscient narrator.


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