English 181—Topics for the Essay on Hardy’s The Mayor of
Due date: May 22, 2000
General Instructions: The essay should be a three-page essay
on a topic related to Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge.
As for all essays, you should have a single, unified thesis that you prove
logically and thoroughly. Your experience, impressions, and response to
the work can guide your interpretation, but make sure that everything you
claim is demonstrable. If you decide to use one of the suggested topics,
keep in mind that you will need to narrow its focus considerably to make
a strong thesis.
Although the precipitating incident of the novel—the sale of a wife and
child at auction—actually happened, occurrences like it were rare. What
significance does it have for the novel as a whole? What references to
it appear in the novel, and what symbolic or social meaning for it does
the novel reveal as it progresses?
The novel’s subtitle calls it "The Life and Death of a Man of Character."
What conclusions about character and identity does the novel require of
its readers? Is character destiny? Can character be changed? Use incidents,
descriptions, and references to character from the novel as evidence for
Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge follows several characters through
great changes in status, position, and economic circumstances. What continuities
and discontinuities do the characters demonstrate during these changes?
What does this say about Hardy’s theory of human development?
Hardy’s novel includes many references to history, from Roman times to
recent changes in political and economic life in the town. What relationship
between history and the present does the novel reveal? To what extent does
history shape the lives and actions of the people of Casterbridge and the
central characters of the novel?
The novel contains many metaphorical versions of evolution: the slow changes
and adaptations shown by the town’s residents, the gradual displacement
of older agricultural practices by newer, more efficient methods, and the
fierce struggle for economic survival among people and businesses. How
does the novel comment on these evolutionary struggles, and to what extent
can the novel be considered either an illustration or a refutation of the
Any topic concerning The Mayor of Casterbridge that you can discuss
in three pages with a clear, arguable thesis. You may also do a comparative
topic on both The Way of All Flesh and The Mayor of Casterbridge,
but consult me first.