||Though a novelist in the late Victorian age, Thomas Hardy has recently been re-evaluated and praised by critics for his conception of the country images in Wessex, his devotion to preserving the local dialects, and his realistic descriptions of social life and customs in Victorian society. Hardy’s novels were not seen as masterpieces at his time. They were even criticized as immoral or bawdy; however, his works successfully record the customs and ethical values of the Victorian period for contemporary readers. Constantly his works reveal his concern for obscure men and women, especially the poor and the lower, who, we should not forget, were notoriously treated in the Victorian society. These obscure people’s greatest pain in life may come not just from the hardship of making a living in a rigid capitalist society but also from the difficulty of being accepted by their neighbors, the land, and the society as a whole. Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) studies the interweaving of the human relations which are set up, exchanged, and even devastated in a system of trust and distrust. Thus, to investigate the exchange of trust will be the major concern of this thesis.
The opening chapter of my thesis surveys the relations between trust and trustworthiness in Casterbridge to illustrate trust as the bedrock of interpersonal relationships. The following chapter investigates the issue of trust and trustworthiness in Hardy’s fiction from the angles of not merely Hardy’s stance but also historical and sociological viewpoints. The third chapter deals with commitment, action, and obligation in marital and domestic life in Casterbridge. The chapter will point out that a person’s action is an important demonstration of his fulfillment of commitment and obligation. His practice of his duty as a good family member or marriage partner is probably the step in building up his credit in community. Chapter IV will investigate the issues of trust and reciprocity both in Casterbridge and Victorian communal life. When a stranger comes into a new community, whether he can become part of it depends on what he did in the past and what he does in the present community, which are evaluated by the local so as to avoid risks in business loss or bad interpersonal transactions. The last chapter concludes that everyone has his and her own account of honor and shame, which makes up his credit in life; however, one’s trustworthiness is quite like flowing capital exchanged or kept by people. Hardy’s presentation of trustworthiness in the novel indicates that one’s right or love to other people can be seen as property or capital, which changes the views of value and human relationships in Victorian society and impacts on all aspects of life as a whole.