Throughout difficult transition from pre-industrialism to modernist Victorian

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Throughout difficult transition from pre-industrialism to modernist Victorian

Throughout The Mayor
of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy has represented trade in the dichotomous
relationship between traditionalism and modernization through his characters
Henchard and Farfrae, who represent these
ideologies retrospectively. In the first half of the nineteenth century,
British society was going through a difficult transition from pre-industrialism
to modernist Victorian thinking. The repeal of the corn laws, which allowed
foreign grain to be imported into England, altered trade and business
throughout the country in the years surrounding 1846. Through The Mayor of Casterbridge, which takes
place during this time, Hardy created a contrast between traditional and modern
approaches to trade through the characters of Henchard and Farfrae. These
opposing ideologies are used to represent trade during 1846, as well as the
subsequent transition of trade that came with the repeal of the corn laws.

The conflict between traditional and modernist thinking is
illustrated through Henchard and Farfrae’s differing approaches to trade,
business, and modernization. Through
these two characters and their conflict between traditional and modern
approaches to business and trade, Hardy creates a dichotomous relationship that
represents trade within The Mayor of
Casterbridge.

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Henchard and Farfrae hold starkly differing methods of record
keeping and employee management in Henchard’s business. Henchard represents
traditional approaches to trade and business; he cannot write properly which
results in unkempt and unorganized records, many of which he keeps in
his head. In contrast, Farfrae represents a modern approach to trade and
business, going through Henchard’s records making sure to keep them up to date
while correcting any mistakes there might be, with no problem staying late to
do so.

“A light shone from the office window, and there being no
blind to screen the interior, Henchard could see Donald Farfrae still seated
where he had left him, initiating himself into the managerial work of the house
by overhauling the books. Henchard entered, merely observing, ‘Don’t let me
interrupt you, if ye will stay so late.’
He stood behind Farfrae’s chair, watching his dexterity in clearing up the
numerical fog which had been allowed to grow so thick in Henchard’s books as
almost to baffle even the Scotchman’s perspicacity. The corn-factor’s mien was half
admiring, and yet it was not without a dash of pity for the tastes of any one who could care to give his mind to such
finnikin details. Henchard himself was mentally and physically unfit for
grubbing subtleties from solid paper; he had in a modern sense received the
education of Achilles, and found penmanship a tantalising
art.” (Hardy 58)

Hardy represents trade through the conflict between
traditional and modern approaches to business, and these approaches are shown
through Henchard and Farfrae’s differing attitudes towards business and trade.
Henchard, being an older man who upholds traditional values, is no longer
skilled enough to run his business and this can be seen through his inability
to keep accurate records. However, Farfrae is much younger and therefore is
shown to have the ability and skill to run the business in a modern and
efficient way and this can be seen through his late night managerial work.

 

Similarly, Henchard and Farfrae’s differing methods of
employee management further demonstrate the conflict between traditional and
modern approaches to trade and, like record keeping, Hardy further represents
trade through this dichotomous relationship. The altercation between Able
Whittle and Henchard in chapter fifteen is a prime example of these contrasting methods of employee management.
Able has arrived late to work, which sends Henchard into a rage. Henchard then
decides to severely punish Able for his
unpunctuality, instilling respect through fear within his employees.

“Six o’clock struck, and there was no Whittle. At
half-past six Henchard entered…Then Henchard swore… and declared with an oath
that this was the last time.

‘I don’t want to hear it!’ roared Henchard. ‘Tomorrow the
waggons must start at four, and if you’re
not here, stand clear. I’ll mortify thy flesh for thee!’… Henchard turned away.

‘He asked me and he questioned me, and then ‘a wouldn’t
hear my points!’ said Abel, to the yard in general. ‘Now, I shall twitch like a
moment-hand all night tonight for fear o’ him!” (Hardy 75)

 

However, once again Farfrae’s differing approach appears
to improve the business. He admits that Able was in the wrong, but so too was
Henchard.

“Get back home, and slip on your breeches, and come to wark like a man! If ye go not, you’ll ha’e your
death standing there!… I don’t care what Mr.
Henchard said, nor anybody else! ‘Tis simple foolishness to do this. Go and
dress yourself instantly, Whittle.” (Hardy
76)

Farfrae efficiently resolved the issue between employee
and employer with his modern way of running a business.

As Henchard, the traditionalist is shown to be damaging
the business through his inability to keep records and harsh punishment for his
workers, Farfrae appears to solve these issues through his modernist way of
thinking. By contrasting this pair so vividly throughout the novel, Hardy has
shown the representation of trade as a dichotomous relationship between
modernism and traditionalism, making it easy for readers to see the transition
from pre- industrialist trade to modern Victorian trade.

 

Likewise, through Henchard and Farfrae’s opposing
ideologies of traditionalism and modernization, Hardy introduces readers to the
transition of trade that came after the repeal of the corn laws in 1846. Through
Henchard and Farfrae, readers can clearly see the conflict between traditional and
modern approaches to trade within Casterbridge society. By introducing a
revolutionary piece of machinery in chapter twenty-four, Hardy accurately depicts
the difficult transition of trade that occurred within agricultural communities
in 1846. This can clearly be seen through Hardy’s initial description of the
new machine.

 

“It was the new-fashioned agricultural implement called a
horse-drill, till then unknown, in its modern shape, in this part of the
country, where the venerable seed-lip was still used for sowing as in the days
of the Heptarchy.” (Hardy 129-130)

 

We are told that this machine “created about as much
sensation in the corn market as a flying machine would create at Charing Cross”
and “The farmers crowded round it, women drew near it, children crept under and
into it.” (Hardy 130) It is clear then from this description that the new, modern
horse-drill was an exciting addition to most members of Casterbridge society. Thus,
illustrating the initial willingness to participate in modernization by Casterbridge
society.

 

However, the initial willingness is, of course, met with
hesitation and anger by Henchard, the traditionalist, who “proceeded to explain
it (the machine), and still more forcibly to ridicule it.” (Hardy 130) Henchard
said, “The thing- why ’tis impossible it
should act. ‘Twas brought here by one of our machinists on the recommendation of
a jumped-up jackanapes of a fellow.” (Hardy 130-131)

 

Henchard, being the mayor of Casterbridge, holds power
over not only his workers but also each member of Casterbridge society. His
lack of enthusiasm towards the horse-drill spreads throughout each person who
came to see this new machine. This can be
seen through the character of Miss Templeton, who first describes the machine
as “wonderful” but immediately afterwards refers to it as “a stupid thing”, “on
the strength of Henchard’s information”. (Hardy 131) It becomes clear to the
reader that Henchard’s traditionalist ideology will be spread among the
community so long as he is in power, which will ultimately hurt Casterbridge
society if they cannot embrace modernization.  

 

Fortunately, Farfrae the modernist, who recommended the
machine redeems the credibility of the horse-drill by stating, “Stupid? Oh no!
It will revolutionise sowing hereabout!
No more sowers flinging their seed about broadcast,
so that some falls by the wayside and some among thorns, and all that. Each
grain will go straight to its intended place, and nowhere else whatever!” (Hardy
131) This interaction is a key example of how Hardy represents trade in The Mayor of Casterbridge. By
introducing a modern invention to Casterbridge society and depicting the
subsequent conflict caused, Hardy has shown how the dichotomous relationship
between traditionalism and modernization represents trade within The Mayor of Casterbridge, as well as
the transition of trade from traditional
to modern during the nineteenth century.

 

By analyzing Hardy’s
representation of trade in The Mayor of
Casterbridge, it becomes clear that the dichotomous relationship between Henchard
and Farfrae is reminiscent of a similar contrasting relationship; that of
traditionalism and modernization. This shows that Hardy has represented trade
through the dichotomous relationship between traditionalism and modernization. Similarly,
Hardy depicts the transition from traditional to modern approaches to trade
through the rise and fall of both Henchard and Farfrae. Henchard’s fall from
power and loss of his business represents the fall of traditional trade, while
Farfrae’s success in becoming the new mayor and subsequent control of the corn
business represents the rise of modernist trade. By deliberately choosing to
oppose these ideologies through the protagonist and another main character,
Hardy has provided readers with an in-depth and shocking view of the transition
from tradition to modernist methods of trade that was occurring all over Britain
during the nineteenth century after the repeal of the corn laws.

 

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