The Mayor of Casterbridge, published in 1886, marks the beginning of the richest period in Hardy's twenty-five years as a novelist. Subtitled The Life and Death of a Man of Character, its focus is the spiritual and material career of Michael Henchard, whose governing inclinations are tragically at war with each other. A drunken impulse has led him to sell his wife at a country fair; years later she and her daughter seek him out in Casterbridge, where he is now a rich and respected member of Wessex society. However, it is neither his family nor the ambitious manager of his corn business who brings him down but his own self-destructive nature. Henchard is at the centre of a complex web of changing relationships in a novel of elaborate psychological inversions. And the imaginative conviction with which the town of Casterbridge is portrayed makes it an ideal landscape to frame and witness the inevitable dramas of the human predicament in a world apparently ordered merely by chance.