The Mayor of Casterbridge

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
The Effigies Symbol Icon
The effigies are symbols in several ways within this novel. Most simplistically, the effigies are symbolic within the story and for the characters who construct them and see them. The poor folk of Mixen Lane who learn of Lucetta and Henchard’s secret past wish to harm the wealthy folk by bringing the secret into the open. By constructing the effigies of Lucetta and Henchard, and parading them through the town together, the poor folk are using the effigies to symbolize Lucetta and Henchard’s improper relationship. Lucetta, Henchard, and the other folk who witness the skimmington must understand the symbolism behind the figures in order to understand what is implied about Lucetta and Henchard. In a more complex way, the effigies function as distinct symbols for Lucetta and Henchard. Lucetta panics and faints when she sees the effigies. This reaction eventually leads to her death. The effigies threaten her happiness and the love she shares with her husband. For her, they are symbolic of the dangers of public scandal, words, and knowledge. Lucetta’s death shows that immaterial things, like fear and emotion, are as dangerous as physical weapons like swords and guns. For Lucetta, the effigies symbolize the power of secrets and information. For Henchard, the effigy of himself saves his life at the second bridge. Seeing the effigy appears to Henchard to be a miracle, an intervention in a dark moment. The effigy symbolizes the power of situations and events to change human lives. Without the effigies, Henchard may have had a different fate.

The Effigies Quotes in The Mayor of Casterbridge

The The Mayor of Casterbridge quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Effigies. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Self-Destruction Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Mayor of Casterbridge published in 2003.
Chapter 41 Quotes

In the circular current imparted by the central flow the form was brought forward, till it passed under his eyes; and then he perceived with a sense of horror that it was himself. Not a man somewhat resembling him, but one in all respects his counterpart, his actual double, was floating as if dead in Ten Hatches Hole. The sense of the supernatural was strong in this unhappy man, and he turned away as one might have done in the actual presence of an appalling miracle. He covered his eyes and bowed his head. Without looking again into the stream he took his coat and hat, and went slowly away.

Related Characters: Michael Henchard
Related Symbols: The Second Bridge, The Effigies
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard reaches new levels of despair when he thinks he will lose Elizabeth-Jane to Newson, just as he has grown to depend on her as his only source of happiness. Henchard’s character grows more sympathetic through this relationship: he loves Elizabeth-Jane and begins to see her virtues and value her as a person, but fears he will lose her. Newson’s reappearance emphasizes that Henchard cannot escape from his past. Having once given up his wife and daughter, it seems fated that he will not be able to keep them by his side forever. In his despair Henchard considers throwing himself into the river, but he is confronted with the effigy of himself from the skimmington-ride. The image of himself in the water seems to show him the future. This is what he will look like if he floats dead in the river. This surreal image changes his mind, and effectively saves his life.

The confrontation between man and effigy awakens Henchard from his despair because it seems to him that a miracle has occurred. He understands that the effigy is from the skimmington-ride, but it seems to him more than chance that it would appear in that place at that time. This gives him hope, or at least startles him out of his despair, because it seems that some mysterious force has intervened to protect him. And regardless of whether or not God or Fate has placed the effigy there, it has certainly appeared at that place because of the currents of the river. Therefore, although it seems a miracle to Henchard, the mysterious force at work is most notably nature itself. Nature has helped Henchard, whereas at other points in the novel it has harmed him.


Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Mayor of Casterbridge quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

“That performance of theirs killed her, but kept me alive!”

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Lucetta Templeman
Related Symbols: The Effigies
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard realizes that witnessing the effigy from the skimmington-ride has saved him, whereas witnessing the effigy of herself killed Lucetta. This is the type of irony that appears multiple times in the novel: the same event can have the opposite effect for different characters, and characters can completely reverse situations in life. While Hardy is certainly rather heavy-handed in the ironies of his plotting, his characters also witness these ironies within the plot itself: particularly Henchard, as in this passage. Henchard is awed by these ironies, and his reaction is due to his sense that something beyond his control is occurring. Irony often seems like fate because the reversal or change is so dramatic and complete. And yet despite this fatalistic quality of many of the events in this book, there are always other explanations provided for these events, such as the choices characters make or chance events of nature.

Get the entire The Mayor of Casterbridge LitChart as a printable PDF.
The mayor of casterbridge.pdf.medium