Jungian Archetypes in The Mayor of Casterbridge

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Jungian Archetypes in The Mayor of Casterbridge

Post  SarahCrawley on Thu Jan 27, 2011 1:35 pm

The Mayor of Casterbridge
Sarah Crawley


The Mayor of Casterbridge is the story of Michael Henchard, a man who is forever haunted by one moment in his life, a moment of drunkenness and temper: when he auctions off of his wife at a county fair. He is determined to change; he goes to Casterbridge and makes his place in the world by the efforts of his labour, becoming the most prominent wheat merchant in Casterbridge, as well as its mayor. But his past catches up with him, when his wife and daughter come to Casterbridge, seeking his support after the death of the man who purchased them many years ago. From then on, the man who he created in Casterbridge is steadily dismantled, as he loses his business and his flawed character is revealed.

Character Archetype:

Societal position is the scale by which the characters are measured, either revealing a character’s archetype or concealing it. Lucetta Templeman is a character plagued by the archetypes that society has assigned her, yet throughout the film she exhibits the characteristics of several archetypes, giving her a rich role. At first, Lucetta would seem to predominantly be a temptress. After Michael Henchard came to Casterbridge, he went on a business trip to Jersey and began an intimate relationship and a regular correspondence with the beautiful Lucetta Templeton. The intimacy of their affair would have led to scandal should they not be married, so in pity, Michael Henchard offers her engagement in order to save her name. He leaves her Jersey; and she suffers the ruination of her name. She is constantly tries to free herself from this incident, and her reputation as a fallen woman, but her life is marked by her relationship with Henchard. Although the affair causes him trouble, perhaps contributing to his downfall throughout the film, it more so affects hers, as is likely the case with most women typified by the temptress.
She moves to Casterbridge after Henchard’s former wife dies, to take up Henchard’s offer of marriage. She believes that it is her only choice if she is to have a happy life; yet her love for Henchard has weakened, and has instead turned into a feeling of entrapment. Yet Lucetta does find happiness, in Donald Farfrae, the new Mayor of Casterbridge, and with much difficulty the two marry. Through Farfrae’s eyes, we see Lucetta with a new archetype: the damsel in distress. For he sees that she is a lonely woman, tormented by her past and longing to be free, happy and loved. He promises her that she shall have anything she desires, and seeks to rescue her in any way he can. She is someone to care for, protect and deliver from a place of great unhappiness and distress.
Lucetta is also an example of the scapegoat character archetype. Lucetta marries Farfrae against Henchard’s will, who believes it is her obligation to accept his offer of, despite her obvious happiness with Farfrae. Henchard threatens to make public the love letters that Lucetta sent him, should she refuse. Henchard, though, in his steady fall from society, begins to accept and try to make amends for his errors. He promises Lucetta that he will leave her alone and give her back the love letters. Henchard foolishly sends the bundle of letters in the care of a man who thinks ill of him, and the man reads the letters aloud in the pub. A crowd gathers, delighting in the scandal of the Mayor’s wife. They prepare an effigy, of both Michael Henchard and Lucetta Templeton, bound together, and ride the effigies through town in a parade. Looking out from her window over the crowd, Lucetta goes into shock, and dies only days later. The effigy is a symbol of her death, and in effect causes her death itself. Lucetta’s role as the scapegoat reveals the structure of the society and the importance given to reputation. The townspeople harbor an intense desire to expose the flaws of a member of the elite, and prove that they are someone to look down upon: a desperate attempt to feel power.
By the end of her presence in the film, our view of her is not affected by her portrayal as a Temptress, unless it is tied in with in the pity we feel for her as a scapegoat and a damsel in distress, only longing to be free.

Symbolic Archetype:

The symbolic archetype of water versus desert is also used within the film. Michael Henchard’s life is ruled in part by the weather. He is a businessman, a wheat merchant, whose living depends on the crops and the health of the land. There is always an element of chance, as with any business. It echoes his own life, in the risks involved in every decision that Michael Henchard makes, and in the way that he seems to gamble on the lives of those around him. Donald Farfrae, Michael Henchard’s former business partner, leaves to begin his own business in the town, and does well. Henchard, on the other hand, experiences a decline in his business and his social status, and begins to compete in a battle of business against Farfrae, of his own initiation. He goes to an old soothsayer and asks him to predict the weather of the next harvest. The soothsayer, a devil figure of sorts who offers the knowledge and possible fortune that Henchard seeks, tells Henchard that the next harvest will be ruined by a tempest. Henchard believes completely in the prophecy, and gambles everything; he plans to buy all of the wheat that he can, wait until the upcoming bad harvest, and sell it at a high price. Ironically, instead of water being the giver of life in a literal way, its demonic destruction of the crops will result in either Henchard’s rebirth into the elite social circle, or his departure from it entirely. As the harvest grows nearer, Henchard has spent all of his money and is in enormous debt. He is urged to stop buying wheat, and begins selling instead, to try to save himself. Yet it is after nearly his entire stock of wheat is sold that the rain comes pouring down. The symbolic water versus desert archetype represents to the viewer the capacity of water to give life or death, yet not in a literal way, as well as its uncontrollable nature. One’s rebirth by water cannot be controlled; it must instead be decided by a natural course.

Situational Archetype:

Throughout the film, Henchard suffers an unhealable wound, which becomes a dominant situational archetype. The film opens with Michael Henchard auctioning off his wife and child. The next morning, when he is sober, he realizes the true power that his shadow has over him. Although he continually suffers cycles in which he is again taken over by his shadow, he has gained knowledge of himself as a deeply flawed man who ultimately drives away the people around him. The unhealable wound of the loss of his wife affects his behaviour throughout the film, as he becomes a tyrant over his employees, friends and family, in a desperate attempt to not lose his role in their lives. Lucetta Templeton was left isolated in her situation in Jersey, where she and Henchard had their affair. When Henchard’s wife returns to him in Casterbridge, however, he turns Lucetta away. Henchard’s wife then dies, and Lucetta believes that she may finally be saved from her disgrace by marrying him, the only man she thinks will ever care for her. Yet once she meets Farfrae, she wishes to end any ties to Henchard. But Henchard does not take pity on Lucetta, a woman whose love he never fully felt in return, and threatens to reveal her love letters should she refuse to marry him. He feels that she must be grateful to him, and feels strongly that he must not let another person slip through his fingers. Yet his desire to keep people with him turns instead to desperate measures of control, which are threatening and alienating. It is his unhealable wound that reminds him of his flaws and their results, yet the irrational and desperate attempts to avoid such results are ultimately flaws as well. Perhaps they are even greater.


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sounds like a cool movie

Post  catherineleggett on Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:41 pm

awesome review, Sarah Smile
I have never seen this, but you explained it a lot, so hopefully what I am going to write makes a bit of sense. Could one say that Lucetta Templeman could also be categorized under the character archetype of the outcast? Because from the summary it sounds like she didn't really fit in anywhere. It seems like people in Jersey viewed her as an outcast because of her relationship with Henchard. Her "crime", in society's view, was not behaving how women were supposed to. Then, she moved to Casterbridge, which fits with the outcast archetype because she was wandering from one place to another, hoping she will find a better life. But she doesn't end up fitting in there either, because when everyone in Casterbridge found out about the love letters she wrote to Henchard, they delighted in exposing her flaws, as you said. The townspeople do not feel pity for Lucetta, because they don't see her as one of them. So she was still an outcast right up until her death.


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Post  Mr. C on Sun Feb 06, 2011 12:33 pm

Sarah - a strong review. Well done. I particularly liked your character analysis. By demonstrating that one character has elements of several archetypes, you have shown that archetypal analysis adds layers to character or literary analysis. When using Jungian archetypes, it easy to reduce a work of art or a character to a stereotype, but that is not the purpose (or design) of literary analysis. The more archetypes we can apply, the more we can see how a literary character echoes and adds to the vast body of literary characters.

And Catherine, I agree - sounds like an Outcast to me, which would be fairly synonymous with the Scapegoat.
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