He is the mercurial main character, the "man of character" that the novel follows. Like his wife Susan, he believes that an evil fate is responsible for his misfortunes. However, unlike his wife, he tries to fight back against this fate with his bullish nature. He does have a kind spirit, wanting to make amends to Susan and Elizabeth-Jane, happily taking Farfrae under his wing, caring for the poor of the village. He also lives with high morals, confessing in several instances when he could easily lie. Yet when he believes he is crossed, he becomes extremely angry and will stop at nothing to ruin his rival. Unfortunately, he always comes to regret his anger, usually when it is too late to make amends. The whole novel tries to determine whether his character works against him, or if a heartless fate has brought him down.
Susan Henchard Newson
She believes that everything that happens to her is controlled by a menacing fate, and the events of the novel seem to support her view. She accompanies Michael Henchard to Weydon-Priors, and seems to be a dutiful wife to him. However, upon being sold for five guineas, she becomes angry and willingly leaves with Newson the sailor, effectively dissolving the marriage with Michael. After Newson's death, she returns to Wessex to find her husband. Although she eventually has a normal marriage with Michael, she carries the secret of Elizabeth-Jane's birth with her to her grave, revealing it in a letter that should be opened on Elizabeth-Jane's wedding day.
She is the first Elizabeth-Jane introduced in the novel. As a small girl, she is sold with her mother for five guineas to Newson the sailor. Three months later after the auction, she dies. She has black hair, one trait that Michael remembers about her.
She is the owner of the furmity tent in Weydon-Priors, where Susan and Elizabeth-Jane Henchard were sold. She is the one who adds liquor to Michael's furmity, which in turn makes him angry enough to sell his wife. She only remembers the auction when Susan mentions it eighteen years later. Later, she again leads Michael into despair by disclosing the whole story of the auction at her trial.
The townspeople of Weydon-Priors
These are the witnesses to the sale of Susan Henchard. Unlike the people of Casterbridge, they make no attempt to get involved in the lives of others. Although they do not approve of the sale of a wife, they make no attempt to stop the auction or to show him the error of his ways.
He is the kind sailor who offers to buy Susan and Elizabeth-Jane Henchard, but not before asking Susan if she is willing to go with him. After Elizabeth-Jane Henchard dies, he becomes the father of Elizabeth-Jane Newson. Later he fakes his death at sea, planning to return after a few months for Elizabeth-Jane. Even though he discovers that Michael has lied about Elizabeth-Jane's death, he asks Elizabeth-Jane to forgive him.
She is the daughter of Susan Henchard and Newson the sailor, and from her parents she inherited her fair hair. She is overly concerned with manners and respectability. Although she has a melancholy air, Elizabeth-Jane has a great ability to love, giving it to her mother, her father, her stepfather, and later her husband.
The townspeople of Casterbridge
Unlike the people of Weydon-Priors, the people of Casterbridge make it a point to remark and get involved in the affairs of the other townspeople. They are the ones who point out that Michael's crops don't sell, that Farfrae is a charming and wise young man, that Lucetta needs a comeuppance. Through these remarks, they serve as a Greek chorus.
He is a young Scotsman who passes through Casterbridge on his way to America. However, Michael quickly realizes Farfrae's great head for business, and makes him general manager. Farfrae is well-rounded: he knows business, and he also understands society's desires for courtly manners and entertainment. Michael greatly respects Farfrae and asks him for advice on several occasions. However, Farfrae has everything that Michael doesn't: the love of Lucetta, the support of the townspeople, and eventually the mayorship of Casterbridge. At the end of the novel, Farfrae finds happiness in his marriage to Elizabeth-Jane.
He is the first applicant for the position of Michael Henchard's general manager. Because Farfrae was chosen, Jopp hates him and will do anything to ruin him. From this point, Jopp behaves as the typical villain. He hates Lucetta because she refuses to help him, and he plays upon the hatred of the townspeople and the weaknesses of Michael to ruin her.
Abel works in Henchard's company, but he is always a bit tardy. Michael becomes so angry one day that he punishes Abel by making him come to work without pants. Nevertheless, Abel remains a faithful employee. Because Michael was kind to his mother, Abel willingly cares for Michael in his final days and delivers his last will to Elizabeth-Jane.
Lucetta Templeman (Le Sueur)
She is a flighty and indiscreet woman who follows her emotions. In her youth, she met Michael Henchard in her native Jersey. She wishes to marry him, but is stopped when Susan returns. After Susan's death, she moves to High-Place Hall in Casterbridge to keep an eye on Michael. However, she falls in love with Michael's rival Farfrae and marries him. She constantly fears that Michael will reveal their past connections through her scandalous love letters. Eventually the letters are read by the townspeople of Casterbridge, and they hold a skimmity-ride to mock the relationship between Lucetta and Michael. The shock of seeing the skimmity-ride kills Lucetta.
The Mayor of Casterbridge Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Mayor of Casterbridge is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.