Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge does an excellent job of displaying Casterbridge’s realistic Western England setting through the architectural buildings, the behavior of the townspeople, and the speech used throughout the novel. All of these aspects combined provide a particular environment Hardy called “Wessex” which infuses the work with reality and a life. The love which Hardy had, for architecture, is displayed throughout this novel with the descriptions of the surrounding countryside, the buildings, the commerce, the roads, and the amusements that make up the environment of Casterbridge. The town of Casterbridge in Wessex, an ancient name for the West Saxon kingdom of the Middle Ages, is no longer used geographically. It comprises of Doreshire and parts of other western England countries.
The country and the town meet at a mathematical line. The town is shut in by a square wall of trees, like a plot of garden grounded by a box-edging. When overlooking Casterbridge, there are towers, gables, chimneys, and casements standing tall and strong to show the development of the buildings. The chief hotel in Casterbridge-namely, the Kings Arms, is a spacious bow-window projected into the street over the main portico. The homes of Casterbridge consist of timber homes with overhanging stories, whose small-paned lattices were screened by dimity curtains on a drawing-string. There were other houses of brick-nogging, which derived their chief support from those adjoining.
The roofs consisted of slate patched with tiles, and occasionally there was a roof of thatch. Detail to buildings of Casterbridge gives readers a visual insight to the composition to the social classes of the town. Leading onto the townspeople who keep Casterbridge alive and productive. Social classes of the townspeople determine each individuals behavior and how others treat each individual based on social class or status. The characters may seem odd to some audiences, yet these characters are at all times real.
They are based on people Hardy had grown up with, people whose tragic histories had unearthed during his early architectural apprenticeship, people he had heard about in legends and ballads. The agricultural and pastoral character of the people upon whom the town depended for its existence was shown by the class of objects displayed in the shop windows. The lower-class was classified as mischievous knaves by Hardy for he personally, along with others of status, was not very fond of them. There is one obvious example in the story which displays the greed and importance of show, of the upper class. In Casterbridge’s best hotel when the Mayor was having a big dinner party, the blinds were left unclosed so the whole interior of this room could be surveyed from the top of a flight of stone steps to the road-wagon office opposite, for which reason a knot of idlers had gathered there to watch what they couldn’t have. The higher classes took what lavishing capabilities they had and frolicked in them for all below to envy and want.
Although the behavior and mannerism of the townspeople is blunt, it is realistic and influenced by real life situations through the mind of the author. A less obvious yet realistic part of the setting which can normally be over-looked but is emphasized throughout this novel is the speech, or dialect of the characters and townspeople. Social class is very obviously shown through the speech of every individual. Higher class residents of Casterbridge often spoke much more vulgar terms. They have their own folk dialect which modernly is referred to as slang throughout regions influential on the environment of the speaker. Speech is also an issue with age and maturity which is excellently presented throughout the entire course of the novel in Elizabeth-Jane.
Hardy shows the gradual change that takes place in her speech through the years. In the first portion of the novel when Elizabeth-Jane is young, she has a sense of playfulness and good times. But as she grows older and her sorrow increases. Elizabeth-Jane turns more to study and reflection. Towards the end of the novel, Elizabeth-Jane is a full grown woman who has her life established and knows where she stands in social status.
She is melancholy and kind. A matronly woman whose speech seems highly studied and affected. Hardy does an excellent job of taking the little things society tends to overlook and accenting them to show how realistic each individual is in the town of Casterbridge. The townspeople, the buildings, and the speech of every individual throughout the novel. English Essays