Michael Henchard’s life is a series of terrible disasters, which leads to self destruction. However, deciding whether Michael Henchard is responsible for his own downfall and to what extent is something which needs a lot of deliberation before getting an answer. There are different factors which need to be looked at before deciding this, such as whether it was Henchard’s fault, or whether he could have stopped the disaster from happening. The only way to determine whether or not Henchard is totally responsible for his own downfall is to look at each disaster which occurs in the novel and then see whether he could have prevented it or not.
Starting directly from the beginning, the novel begins with Michael Henchard travelling with his wife and daughter and then stopping at a furmity tent for some food. Michael straight away decided that he wanted some rum in his furmity. “He winked to her, and passed up his basin in reply to her nod; when she took a bottle from under the table, slily measured out a quantity of its contents, and tipped the same into the man’s furmity.
The liquor poured in was rum. ” He soon got drunk after several helpings of it and when his wife tried to quieten him a little.
He then began to ramble about how better off he would be without her. “I married at eighteen, like the fool that I was; and this is the consequence o’t. ” It is clear to the audience that Henchard is a rude and careless character. Henchard’s attitude and behaviour is influenced by alcohol, and it appears to the audience that his wife, Susan is aware of this. “… his wife, who seemed accustomed to such remarks, acted as if she did not hear them… ” The scene is set for a foreboding novel when Hardy expresses his feelings about nature and mankind in the first part of the novel. He compares nature and mankind.
“In contrast with the harshness of the act just ended within the tent was the sight of several horses crossing necks and rubbing each other lovingly, as they waited in patience to be harnessed… ” After Michael spending his evening drinking rum, he began auctioning his wife to anybody who would buy her. A sailor offered Michael Henchard 5 guineas for both hi wife and daughter. Michael would not sell them for any less. Susan gave Henchard one last chance to say he didn’t mean it before she left with the sailor as it wasn’t a joke no more. “A joke? Of course it is not a joke! ” Shouted her husband.
With this his wife and daughter left with the successful bidder. Michael Henchard losing his wife and child was the first disaster. This disaster was without a doubt Michael’s fault. He had decided to have rum with his furmity, even though he had had it before, knowing that he makes him drunk, and he knew he had tried to sell his wife before. He should have known not to have too much, if any liquor, and because he chose to do so in the knowledge that he has a bit of a drinking problem, this makes the whole disaster hid fault. I do not think that any blame can be passed onto his wife.
Susan felt the contempt that Michael had for her. Henchard shows he has integrity once sober, when he later regrets selling his wife and daughter and goes to search for her. “Well I must walk about till I find her… ” This shows a positive side to Henchard, for taking the time to recover the mistake he made. He also made an oath not to drink for 21 years, due to his hideous behaviour the previous night. In contrast to this, he later blames Susan for his atrocious attitude and behaviour and appears very angry at her. “… seize her, why didn’t she know better than being me into this disgrace!
” He roared out. ” In the next part of the novel, Susan finds Henchard as a successful businessman as mayor of a small town called Castorbridge. “Mr. Henchard- now habited no longer as a great personage, but as a thriving business man. ” Henchard has worked hard and had a lot of determination to get to where he is now. He needs to continue being successful and hard working in order to prevent his own downfall, as Henchard has much more to lose now. Henchard meets a Scottish man called Donald Farfrae by accident but takes a liking to him and employs him in order to increase his wealth.
Farfrae has inventive machines which are useful to trade. “… it is true that I am in the corn trade… I have some inventions useful to the trade… ” Farfrae appears to be a helpful, kind, gentleman, who is willing to help and is a good citizen. Hardy describes how the town of Castorbridge have already taken a liking to Farfrae. The audience can view Henchard’s jealousy of Farfrae. “By this time he had completely taken possession of the hearts of the Three Mariner’s inmates. ” After 19 years ‘Henchard’s daughter’, Elizabeth-Jane returns with a message from his wife Susan.
Henchard is over-whelmed to see EJ again. He shows her around his beautiful home and makes her feel very welcome. He is highly surprised to hear that his wife whom he had sold many years ago remains alive. “Oh— Susan is— still alive? ” He asked with difficulty. By Hardy expressing how Henchard speaks about Susan reflects his true feelings for her. Henchard doesn’t necessarily love Susan still, but he does show contempt for her towards EJ. Henchard informs Farfrae of his disastrous past when he sold his wife and child EJ. “Well, I lost my wife nineteen years ago or so -by my own fault…
” By Henchard admitting to doing something wrong shows he has integrity again. By Henchard being completely honest with his business partner, the audience see the positive side to him come out again. Henchard’s downfall continues from his relationship with Farfrae. Hardy describes the liking Henchard has for Farfrae. This is used to make Henchard’s downfall look bigger than if Henchard wasn’t so involved and close to Farfrae.
Henchard and Susan are not lovers anymore and Susan meets him at the ‘ring’, an amphitheatre near Castorbridge which Hardy describes as,”… seldom had place in the amphitheatre, that of happy lovers. ” Even though Susan and Henchard are not close anymore, Henchard shows sensitivity towards Susan and begins their conversation in a peculiar way. “I don’t drink anymore. ” This is Henchard wanting to prove a point to Susan that he regrets what he did, by telling her that he now feels responsible for his actions shows a positive side to Henchard. Susan and EJ see a lot more of Henchard and after a while EJ becomes closer to Michael and spends more time with him than she does her mother.
As the bond grows between the two, Henchard requests for EJ’s name to be changed to Miss. Henchard in its place of Miss. Newson. “Now, Susan, I want to have her called Miss. Henchard- not Miss. Newson… it is her legal name-so it may as well be made her usual name- I don’t like t’other name at all for my own flesh and blood…. She won’t object. ” “No. O no. But-” “Well, then, I shall do it,” said he, peremptorily. The audience see a stubborn and self-centred side to Michael here. In contrast to this the audience can also see how much Henchard wants EJ to become part of his family again by name.
This again shows that he is sorry for what he done. Michael seems rather pushy towards Susan. Susan is slightly hesitant about the whole situation. Taking a situation like this upon himself, without his wife actually agreeing is very selfish of Henchard. The audience notices Susan’s hesitance and begin to sense an explanation for this. Hardy includes another character Abel Whittle in order to illustrate the variation in character between Henchard and Farfrae. Abel is employed by Henchard and when Abel is late Henchard uses an insensitive approach on Whittle.
Quite the reverse to this Farfrae shows a more kind and gentle approach towards him. This sparks jealousy of Henchard on Farfrae. A sense of disruption in their relationship occurs and the audience can see the beginning of Henchard’s downfall. Henchard also becomes jealous of Farfrae when he begins to bond with EJ. Henchard doesn’t want to run the risk of losing EJ therefore dispenses with Farfrae. “Mr. Farfrae’s time as my manager is drawing to a close- isn’t it Farfrae? ” He did this because he loves EJ, but he also wants to keep his good name and does not wish for Farfrae to take over everything.
Hardy is clever, in the way he creates the characters Henchard and Farfrae. He makes Henchard’s character the complete opposite to that of Farfrae. This gives the audience a great understanding and knowledge of each character; therefore they’re able to predict what will occur after each turning point to each character. Henchard realises he is in yet another disaster. Michael had not too long before his wife and daughter had found him, spent the night with a woman called Lucetta. He had then promised to marry her so she can keep her virtue. He did this thinking that Susan and EJ had died.
This of course means he cannot marry Lucetta. Susan becomes to unwell to leave her bed, therefore Henchard and EJ are expected to look after her. In the mean time Lucetta tells Henchard she wants her letters back, and that she wishes to meet him at the antelope hotel. “… I shall be in the coach, which changes horses at the antelope hotel at half past five on Wednesday evening; I shall be wearing a Paisley shawl with a red centre, and this may be easily found. I should prefer this plan of receiving them to having them send. – I remain still, yours ever. ‘LUCETTA’ “.
Hardy includes a lot of specific description in Lucetta’s letter, which shows a strong character to Lucetta. Thomas Hardy has a strong point of putting across the personalities of characters to the audience. Michael is in a bit of a tricky situation here, with Susan too ill to get out of bed, and Lucetta requesting to see him. Henchard has put himself in this mess in the first place, by assuming that Susan and EJ were dead. On the other hand Henchard shows positive again by being honest with Lucetta, informing her of the unexpected arrival of his ‘who he thought was dead’ wife and child.
When the traumatic death of Mrs. Henchard occurs, the lonely sad life of Michael Henchard appears. The only person he now cares about and has got left is Elizabeth Jane. EJ has lost her mother and Henchard wants EJ to know who her father is. EJ is originally shocked at what she has just heard but then settles nicely and begins called him dad. The next catastrophe which happens, Henchard walks straight into himself. Susan left a letter in an envelope for Henchard stating “Not to be opened until the wedding of EJ”.
The audience immediately know that Henchard will open the letter by the anxious character which Hardy has created. EJ isn’t really Henchard’s daughter. Henchard feels that fate is against him and he begins to feel separated from EJ. Without Henchard’s eagerness and self-concerned attitude towards everything, Henchard would be able to continue his happy life with his daughter, oblivious to the fact that she isn’t his own. Hardy’s efforts to put across the personality of Michael Henchard at the beginning of the novel are very successful. Throughout the novel Henchard’s downfall has just increased by the day.
The language used at the beginning of the novel is exceptionally descriptive. First impressions of Henchard are positive from reading the first page. The negative side begins to show when he reaches the furmity tent. By chapter 31 Hardy shows that Henchard has sunk socially and financially. He has to go and live with Joshua Jopp and refuses to see anyone. “Socially he had received a startling fillip downwards; and, having already lost commercial buoyancy from rash transactions, the velocity of his descent in both aspects became accelerated every hour. ”
Farfrae and EJ decide to get married. Henchard shows integrity by attending but EJ just can’t forgive Henchard for what he did and walks away form him. He bought a goldfinch as a wedding present, which Hardy uses as a symbol of Henchard’s life. Some people may have different opinions on why Henchard went downhill. Some people may put it down to fate. Others may think that Henchard is entirely responsible for all that happened. Hardy leaves this decision quite widely open. Henchard’s character has an extreme effect on other people and how their lives are lived, especially EJ’s.
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Michael Henchard's life is a series. (2017, Aug 26). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/michael-henchards-life-is-a-series-essay