Modeled on Dorchester, Hardy's Casterbridge is remarkable for the clarity of its layout, especially for the strict border between town and country: "Casterbridge, as has been hinted, was a place deposited in the block upon a corn-field. There was no suburb in the modern sense, or transitional intermixture of town and down. It stood, with regard to the wide fertile land adjoining, clean-cut and distinct, like a chessboard on a green table-cloth" (162). The chessboard provides a particularly apt metaphor for the setting of the novel, for Hardy makes Casterbridge a remarkably public, exposed ground for action. Here observers mark every actor's every move. There is no need to imagine, as Dickens does, the remgval of the rooftops in order to see into the private lives of individuals, for people in Casterbridge transact their business in full view of the public. Hardy makes the marketplace in the middle of the town the most important arena, where the rise of Farfrae and the decline of Henchard play out in front of and among the people whose personal and pragmatic estimations of worth make that chiasmic action possible. 
Suzanne Keen. Victorian Renovations of the Novel: Narrative Annexes and the Boundaries of Representation. Cambridge UP, 1998.
Last modified 2000