The Mayor of Casterbridge

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The Second Bridge Symbol Analysis

The Second Bridge Symbol Icon
There are two bridges near the lower part of Casterbridge where folks who are down on their luck—“in love, in business, in sobriety, in crime”— like to stand and reflect. The first bridge is at the end of High Street and normally draws those of lower character, and those less ashamed of their situation, who don’t mind their sorrow being noticed by others. Visitors to the second bridge, which is further along the highway, are often of higher social classes. Henchard, after his secret past has been revealed, and all his money and his home given to his creditors, begins to haunt this bridge. He returns to the bridge after Richard Newson appears in Casterbridge to claim Elizabeth-Jane as his true daughter. While Henchard lies to Newson and says Elizabeth-Jane has died, he knows he cannot keep the secret from her forever and he finds the thought of losing her unendurable. At the second bridge, he walks down a small path to a place in the river called Ten Hatches. As he stands looking into the water, the figure of his own effigy appears below him. The sight of himself seemingly already dead is enough to turn Henchard away from the river and his thoughts of suicide. Both bridges are symbolic of the sufferings in human lives, which may be brought about by chance occurrences or one’s poor decisions, and the way humans respond to hardship. The second bridge is linked to Henchard’s emotional decline, from a position of confidence to a state in which suicide seems desirable. Rivers are always changing, swiftly flowing, and a bridge allows humans to easily cross a treacherous river. A bridge is an appropriate place for one to stand who seeks security or comfort in the face of hardship and change. The suffering individual hopes for a symbolic bridge to carries him over his troubles, as the literal bridge carries him over the river.
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The Second Bridge Symbol Timeline in The Mayor of Casterbridge

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Second Bridge appears in The Mayor of Casterbridge. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 32
Self-Destruction Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...their misfortunes. Jopp often stood on this bridge after losing the position as Henchard’s manager. The second bridge is the place for unfortunate souls of a more privileged background. These individuals often stand... (full context)
Self-Destruction Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Henchard walks to the second bridge and is gazing into the water when Jopp arrives and greets him. Jopp tells Henchard... (full context)
Chapter 41
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...her something and the pair returns to Ten Hatches. Elizabeth-Jane sees in the water Henchard’s effigy from the skimmington-ride. Henchard says that the performance of the skimmington-ride killed Lucetta, but saved... (full context)
Chapter 43
Self-Destruction Theme Icon
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
...That very evening, Henchard secretly leaves town, with only Elizabeth-Jane accompanying him as far as the second bridge . As Henchard travels alone, he wishes he still had Elizabeth-Jane with him, believing any... (full context)