Set against the backdrop of peaceful south-west England, where Thomas Hardy spent much of his youth, The Mayor of Casterbridge captures the author's unique genius for depicting the absurdity underlying much of the sorrow and humor in our lives. Michael Henchard is an out-of-work hay-trusser who gets drunk at a local fair and impulsively sells his wife Susan and baby daughter. Eighteen years later Susan and her daughter seek him out, only to discover that he has become the most prominent man in Casterbridge. Henchard attempts to make amends for his youthful misdeeds but his unchanged impulsiveness clouds his relationships in love as well as his fortunes in business. Although Henchard is fated to be a modern-day tragic hero, unable to survive in the new commercial world, his story is also a journey towards love. Rooted in an actual case of wife-selling in early nineteenth-century England, the story builds into an awesome Sophoclean drama of guilt and revenge, in which the strong, willful Henchard rises to a position of wealth and power — only to suffer a most bitter downfall. Proud, obsessed, ultimately committed to his own destruction, Henchard is, as Albert Guerard has said, "Hardy's Lord Jim...his only tragic hero and one of the greatest tragic heroes in all fiction." Thomas Hardy's almost supernatural insight into the course of wayward lives, his instinctive feeling for the beauty of the rural landscape, and his power to invest that landscape with moral significance all came together in an utterly fluent way in The Mayor of Casterbridge.