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Historical Context

Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 near Dorchester, England and published The Mayor of Casterbridge in 1886. The political nature of the title and subject matter reflect a time in English history when the common people had little opportunity to express themselves in a political realm. The Third Reform Bill, which was passed just previous to the book's publishing, opened the political world to more participants by redistributing seats and reorganizing districts. It also outlawed several tactics used to disenfranchise farm laborers. A similar act in 1872, the Secret Ballot Act, increased political participation by allowing voters to cast ballots in private.
The manner in which the public expressed themselves before these acts is demonstrated grandly by Hardy's characterization of the pubs and taverns in and around Casterbridge. Mixen-Lane, for example, is a comprehensive compilation of country folk at their extreme, separated by makeshift bridges from the rest of society. Although it may symbolize the contrast between modern city people and backwards countrymen, Hardy probably uses it to depict how the methods of expression in Mixen-Lane have destructive results (drinking, skimmity-ride). In fact, the actions in Mixen-Lane are not only forbidden in other public spheres, but they are undeniably negative. Hardy's political commentary was therefore that public expression should be encouraged in more fruitful and defined methods.
The novel also sheds light on the mechanization of several areas in agriculture, including various public perceptions of the new technologies. This period in English history was met with great advancements in the agricultural industry.

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Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapters 3 and 4
Chapters 5 and 6
Chapters 7 and 8
Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 11, 12, and 13
Chapters 14 and 15
Chapter 16
Chapters 17 and 18
Chapters 19 and 20
Chapters 21 and 22
Chapters 23 and 24
Chapters 25 and 26
Chapter 27
Chapters 28 and 29
Chapters 30 and 31
Chapters 32 and 33
Chapter 34
Chapters 35 and 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapters 40 and 41
Chapters 42 and 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45


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