Saturday, July 7, 2012

Victorian Gangsterness

The Mayor of Casterbridge. Good book. I like it. Thomas Hardy. Good author.

I read this book a couple of months ago, and I've always wanted to discuss it here in my blog. The Mayor of Casterbridge is essentially a book about the consequences of gangsterness. The main character, Michael Henchard, is such an inveterate gangster that he ends up ruined and lonely. Early on, the book launches right into the action, when Michael gets drunk on spiked oatmeal in some weird tent at a county fair, and then decides to sell his wife and baby, because he is sick of their nonsense. Some sailor enters the scene and purchases the wife and kid, and Michael passes out in the tent, waking up the next morning to the realization that he might have done something horrible, not because he sold his wife and kid like cattle, but because, by selling them, he might have besmirched his reputation. After deciding that everything is cool because he did not give any witnesses his name, Michael departs and eventually becomes the mayor of a town called Casterbridge.

I didn't know characters in Victorian novels could be so pimplike. Among other gangsterisms, Michael manages to win his wife back nineteen years later (the one that he sold), lie to everyone around him, and fight a Scottish man in a hayloft with one hand tied behind his back. Totally an entertaining character.

Another entertaining character is the hapless Abel Whittle, who works for Michael.  Abel is always late for work, because he always sleeps in. He can't seem to get to work on time. He even tries tying a string to his big toe and hanging it out the window for one of his coworkers to tug on while passing by his home during the morning commute. This works okay, but sometimes his coworker forgets to tug the string, leaving Abel over-sleeping soundly. Anyway, after multiple warnings about his lateness, Abel blows it again and fails to show up on time. So Michael goes to his house, jars him awake, and forces him to go to work with no pants on.

At the end of the story, Michael Henchard wanders off and dies alone in the woods, like a dog.

The book is totally good.

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