The Outsider Within the Victorian Community: Nicholas Bulstrode in Middlemarch and Michael Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge
Degree Granting Department
Pat Rogers, PhD.
Elton Smith, Ph.D.
Nancy Tyson, Ph.D.
Identity, Image, Connection, Alienation, Introspection
Many have written about the theme of interconnection in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, where individual lives and fates are woven into the larger life of the community, but few have written about this theme in relation to The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy’s fictional and historical depiction of Dorchester and the larger area of Wessex. Hardy’s novel about “the life and death of a man of character,” is a complex and psychological characterization, but it also is representative of a particular province during a time of rapid change in community structure, just as Middlemarch is. I would like to suggest that it is through the complex characterizations of the outsider and outcast from the community that Eliot and Hardy reinforce the theme of interconnection. My aim will be to highlight this point through an examination of Nicholas Bulstrode, the Middlemarch banker with a shady past, and Michael Henchard, the Casterbridge mayor with skeletons of his own, illustrating the integral role these two characters play in reinforcing the authors’ themes of interconnection and disconnection within their novels. Although Henchard is the main character of Casterbridge and Bulstrode a minor character in Middlemarch, both characters are integral to the notion of the outsider within the enclosed Victorian community.
I will develop this idea by first looking at the role community plays in each character’s concept of self. Then I will look at the degree to which these characters are a part of their communities and the point at which this connection begins to unravel. Finally, I will examine the role introspection plays in revealing to each man his lack of connection, not only to his community, but also to himself, thus illustrating the Victorian concept of interconnection and interdependence as a vital part of selfhood and perhaps of survival.
Scholar Commons Citation
Conklin, Marian D., "The Outsider Within the Victorian Community: Nicholas Bulstrode in Middlemarch and Michael Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge" (2005). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.