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Archetypal Interpretation of the Mayor of Casterbridge

Author ZhangHui
Tutor LiuMingJing
School Central South University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Thomas Hardy The Mayor of Casterbridge archetypalthemes archetypal plots archetypal characters archetypalimages
CLC I561.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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Thomas Hardy is an outstanding novelist in critical realism and a great poet as well in Victorian era. Since The Mayor of Casterbrigde as Hardy’s one of masterpieces was published, there has been lots of cons and pros. Many scholars at home and abroad have analyzed it from such theoretical perspectives as existentialism, Darwinism, feminism and so on. But, so far, there has been no criticism that has comprehensively explored this novel from the angle of myth and archetypal criticism.The Introduction of this thesis will briefly present Hardy’s life and the background of The Mayor of Casterbridge; then summarize the main evaluation and research results at home and abroad; finally, it will state James G. Frazer’s, Carl Jung’s and Northrop Frye’s views about myth and archetypal criticism.Chapter one will focus on the archetypal themes in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Hellenic tragic theme almost runs through the whole novel. Henchard’s tragedy is not only a fate or a character tragedy but also a social one. Besides, it will discuss the common archetypal themes of the paradise lost, degeneration, redemption and retribution which can be traced in this novel. Chapter two will interpret the archetypal plots of conflicts in it. Hardy adopts the biblical plot of conflicts between the virtuous and the evil into such various kinds—inner conflicts within Henchard himself, the obvious external conflicts between Henchard and Farfrae as well as between the upper and the lower class. Chapter three will illuminate the archetypes attached to characters. Hardy shapes his three characters—Henchard, Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane—upon the mythical and biblical figures. Henchard is portrayed the same as Oedipus falls into the abyss of hopelessness after faith is shattered, while the archetype of Farfrae is mainly the sun-god Apollo who brings happiness and vigor to people. Furthermore, the stories between them also can be reflected upon those between Cain and Abel, Saul and David. Elizabeth-Jane is compared to Eve because of her beauty and her courage for pursing wisdom. Chapter four will analyze some archetypal images and symbols. One will be concerned about Casterbridge and the Amphitheatres, the other will be focused on animals:bird and bull.Interpreting the mythical and biblical archetypes in The Mayor of Casterbridge not only can contribute to doing exploration of its deeper meaning but also can greatly fortify its richness, profundity and readability.

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