In a fit of drunken anger, Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter for five guineas at a country fair. Over the course of the following years, he manages to establish himself as a respected and prosperous pillar of the community of Casterbridge, but behind his success there always lurk the shameful secret of his past and a personality prone to self-destructive pride and temper. Subtitled ‘A Story of a Man of Character’, Hardy’s powerful and sympathetic study of the heroic but deeply flawed Henchard is also an intensely dramatic work, tragically played out against the vivid backdrop of a close-knit Dorsetshire town.
Under the powerful influence of the rum furmity, Michael Henchard, a hay-trusser by trade, sells his wife susan and their child Elizabeth-Jane to Newson, a sailor, for five guineaus.
Years later, Susan, now a widow, arrives in Casterbridge to seek her legal husband. To their surprise, Henchard is now the Mayor of Casterbridge and following the sale of his wife, took a twenty-one-year vow not to drink, out of shame. Henchard remarries Susan and as Elizabeth-Jane believes herself to be Newson's daughter, he adopts her as his own. But he cannot evade his destiny by such measures, for his past refuses to be buried. Fate contrives for him to be punished for the recklessness of his younger days.