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The Mayor of Casterbridge
Thomas Hardy

THE STORY, continued


Farfrae and Henchard's rivalry becomes more intense. Even the men who work for the two are caught up in the battle. One day, wagons belonging to each company collide. Henchard's man is at fault, but he won't admit it. Henchard arrives on the scene and berates Farfrae's man. Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane, having witnessed the accident from their window, rush out to tell Henchard that his man was responsible. The workman defends himself by referring to Lucetta as a "typical" woman who is attracted to Farfrae. Henchard quickly silences the man by claiming that he is Lucetta's suitor. Lucetta responds by leaving the scene without comment.

Later, Henchard, spying on Lucetta, overhears Lucetta and Farfrae declare their love for each other. He follows Lucetta back to her home and barges in without knocking, demanding to know why she won't marry him. When she balks, he threatens to reveal their affair ("in common fairness to other men," particularly Farfrae) if she doesn't promise before a witness to marry him.

Lucetta resigns herself to his demand. Henchard is aware of her unwillingness, but he doesn't care. Elizabeth-Jane is summoned to act as witness. Lucetta makes the promise, then faints. Elizabeth-Jane tries to talk Henchard out of his plan, but he refuses, at the same time reminding her that she is now free to pursue Farfrae. Ignoring the suggestion, Elizabeth-Jane wonders what kind of hold Henchard has over Lucetta.


The next morning, Henchard serves as justice of the peace and hears the case of a woman arrested for vagrancy and indecent behavior. Seeing the woman, Henchard believes he may know her, but isn't certain. (With this, Hardy prepares you for another of the novel's many significant coincidences.) Henchard asks if the woman has anything to say for herself. She begins a story about a wife and child auctioned by the husband in her furmity tent at Weydon-Priors fair nearly 20 years earlier. She accuses Henchard of being that man, and says he is no better than she. Henchard's past has come back to haunt him. He finds himself being judged while he is serving as judge.

The town leaders at the court discount the woman's story but, Henchard admits that it is true. He could easily have denied it and saved his reputation. Why do you think he chose not to do so? As Henchard leaves the town hall, he finds himself surrounded by a large crowd of the town's lower-class people. Notice how different this meeting is from the last time Henchard was observed by the townspeople in the King's Arms (Chapter V). He has been symbolically driven from his lofty place (what the furmity woman has called his "great big chair"). Within a few chapters, he will fall so far as to live among these people.

The news of Henchard's past spreads quickly throughout Casterbridge and reaches Lucetta. She is overwhelmed by it. Can she really marry such a terrible man? She decides to go away for a few days, and tells Elizabeth-Jane, who hasn't yet heard the news. Henchard comes to call while Lucetta is away. On one of his visits, he learns that she has returned but is out for a walk.


Elizabeth-Jane goes to meet Lucetta on her walk, and the two women are attacked by a ferocious bull. They run into a barn but the bull follows. Suddenly a man appears, turning the bull away from the women. It is Henchard. Elizabeth-Jane leaves Henchard and Lucetta together and walks toward home.

Henchard tells Lucetta he has reconsidered the promise he forced from her, adding that for her sake he is willing to postpone their wedding for a year or two. Lucetta instead offers to pay him for saving her from the bull. Lucetta's offer of money seems to echo Henchard's offer to Lucetta in his long-ago letter in which he informed her that he could not marry her because of the return of Susan. Their roles have now reversed.

Henchard refuses Lucetta's offer, telling her he believes his creditors might give him more time to pay his debts if they thought he might marry the wealthy Miss Lucetta Templeman. Lucetta refuses, revealing that Henchard's principal creditor has already witnessed her marriage to Farfrae earlier in the week.

This chapter marks the second time that money has been closely linked to escape from marriage. Both times, money has been offered to Henchard. This time he refuses to accept it, not because he has learned from his experience with Susan, but because he realizes the money would not help him pay off all his financial and moral debts. You have already seen that to Henchard, marriage is more of an obligation (like a business transaction) than a personal relationship. He has reaffirmed this notion by his suggestion that they announce their betrothal in order to help him escape the wrath of his creditors. Lucetta, on the other hand, believes that money can buy her romantic happiness by helping her escape from Henchard and possess Farfrae. Both characters are deluded and will suffer for their delusions.

Henchard is shocked. Lucetta cites his past scandal as one of the major reasons she has broken her promise. Henchard doesn't even see the irony in Lucetta's breaking of her marriage pledge to him, just as he had once broken his marriage pledge to her.

Lucetta's comment at the end of the chapter, "I'll help you pay off your debt," reflects this irony. Henchard's current suffering is a symbolic pay-off of his debt to Susan and the community for his earlier breach of morality when he auctioned his family.

In reaction to Lucetta's news, Henchard dismisses her with the threat that he will tell Lucetta's new husband, Farfrae, about her earlier affair with him.


As Farfrae moves into High-Place Hall, Lucetta realizes that she hasn't yet told Elizabeth-Jane about her marriage. She doesn't suspect Elizabeth-Jane's feelings for Farfrae. When Lucetta speaks to the girl in her room, she learns that although Elizabeth-Jane has heard the wedding bells ringing, she doesn't know who has been married.

Elizabeth-Jane always seems lost in a strange private world in which rumor or speculation never enter. Otherwise, how can you explain her not guessing about Lucetta's marriage, not hearing about the furmity woman's accusation of Henchard, or not figuring out the link between Henchard and Lucetta? Hardy seems to emphasize the girl's innocence, but his portrayal isn't very convincing. In Elizabeth-Jane's responses to Lucetta, she also appears prudish. Do you think Hardy wants you to feel positively or negatively about Elizabeth-Jane? Her plight constantly arouses your sympathy, but her attitude is hard to understand. Much of the rest of the novel focuses on her future. Follow Hardy's descriptions carefully to see if her character develops and grows.

Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane discuss Lucetta's story about the two men in "her friend's" past. Elizabeth-Jane says the friend is obligated to marry the first man even though she loves the second, that she should marry the first man or remain single. Elizabeth-Jane's response seems similar to Farfrae's in Chapter XII, when he recommended that Henchard simply disregard the second woman because of his obligation to the first. Neither Farfrae nor Elizabeth-Jane are romantics. Farfrae takes a matter-of-fact approach to relationships, as does Elizabeth-Jane.

When Lucetta reveals that she has married Farfrae instead of Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane determines to leave the house at once. She is upset both by Lucetta's "improper" behavior and by her own failure to win Farfrae. She moves to a house across the street from Henchard's and thinks about her future.

This chapter marks the end of the third major section of the novel. The section began with Lucetta's arrival in Casterbridge to marry Henchard and ends with her marrying Farfrae. Henchard has started to pay for his past sins. He is inexorably losing his position to Farfrae. Old ways and old people are being turned out, and new ways and new people are taking over. Nearly all of the loose ends in Henchard's life have been accounted for. Only one lie, Elizabeth-Jane's true parentage, remains to be revealed.


Following the furmity woman's courtroom revelation, Henchard experiences a rapid financial collapse. At the same time, his social life and self-esteem also collapse. "He passed the ridge of prosperity and honour, and began to descend rapidly on the other side." Used to conducting business with a handshake and strong eye contact, he now seldom looks up from the ground when he meets people. Several business setbacks have forced him to the edge of bankruptcy.

Henchard is summoned to a meeting of his creditors. When all of his assets have been seized, he even offers to turn over his gold watch and the money in his pocketbook. The creditors refuse the offer but praise Henchard for his honesty. Nevertheless, he sells the watch and uses the money to pay off one small creditor. He clearly wants to convince himself that he pays his debts. Are you impressed by his actions here?

Elizabeth-Jane feels sorry for Henchard and wants him to know that she still believes in him and forgives him for his behavior toward her, but he refuses to see her. Henchard has moved into the slum area of town. He occupies a few rooms in Jopp's cottage. This move seems to be another example of Henchard's urge to punish himself. He has isolated himself from the powerful people in the town and has made himself dependent on someone he neither respects nor likes. He refuses to see anyone, including Elizabeth-Jane.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth-Jane notes that Farfrae has had his name painted over Henchard's on the gateway to Henchard's former business. Abel Whittle says that the new boss pays a little less than the old one but doesn't strike fear into the hearts of the workers.

Abel Whittle appears several times in the novel, always at a critical moment in Henchard's downfall. Perhaps that is why Hardy names him "Whittle." Abel may be dim-witted, but he has the same type of innate wisdom as the fool in Shakespeare's King Lear. Here, Abel tells Elizabeth-Jane, "For what's all the world if your heart is in a larry (commotion), Miss Henchet?" The statement seems to fit Henchard's situation as well. Abel will resemble Lear's fool again at the novel's end.

Elizabeth-Jane's sympathy contrasts sharply with Farfrae's apparent callousness toward Henchard. Farfrae doesn't let his feelings interfere with business matters. He rushes in to take over Henchard's business and even cuts the salaries of his workers. The new order is taking over in Casterbridge.


Having moved Henchard to the poor side of town, Hardy begins to focus on the people and places in that district. He points out two bridges in the area. One is frequented by the lowest characters in the town, such as Jopp and the members of the town chorus. The other is often visited by failures who are contemplating suicide. Henchard goes to the latter bridge, where Jopp seeks him out. Ever vengeful, Jopp tells Henchard that Farfrae and Lucetta have moved into his former house and have even bought his old furniture at auction. "Surely he'll buy my body and soul likewise!" Henchard says.

The landscape turns symbolically blacker as Farfrae drives up to see Henchard. Farfrae says he has heard that Henchard intends to move away, urging him to stay, much as Henchard had urged Farfrae long ago. He invites Henchard to move in with Lucetta and him, but Henchard refuses. Farfrae mentions the furniture he has bought and offers Henchard his pick of it. Henchard is moved and wonders aloud if he has wronged Farfrae in some way and is therefore suffering now because of his past sins.

Elizabeth-Jane hears that Henchard is sick and comes to nurse him. With her help, he recovers quickly. Being reunited with Elizabeth-Jane seems to turn the clock back in Henchard's mind. He applies for a job as a journeyman hay-trusser in Farfrae's yard.

Henchard hears that his rival may soon become Mayor of Casterbridge. He begins counting the days until he is released from his oath against drinking. The expiration of the oath seems to symbolize for Henchard a return to his old self. He doesn't realize that he must pay further for his sins.


This chapter opens in the Three Mariners Inn. Early in the novel, Hardy contrasted the King's Arms with the Three Mariners. High-class business people dine and drink at the King's Arms; the laboring people patronize the Three Mariners. Henchard has left the King's Arms and the gentry for good after the furmity woman's revelation. Now he drinks with the lower classes at the Three Mariners.

One Sunday, Henchard joins the regulars as they drink and sing psalms. Henchard spots Farfrae and his new bride, Lucetta, walking outside with members of the upper church (that is, the upper classes). Henchard searches for the perfect psalm to match his mood: Psalm 109. This bitter psalm calls for the death and destruction of a man and his family- exactly what has happened to Henchard. The choir members at first balk at singing the psalm, but Henchard bullies them into it. They are later regretful when Henchard reveals he has directed the psalm at Farfrae. Noting Henchard's agitated state, Elizabeth- Jane leads her father home. She decides to watch both men closely.

A few days later, Lucetta encounters Henchard. She is surprised to see him. He acts snidely toward her. That afternoon, she sends a note to Henchard, demanding that he show her more respect. Lucetta's habit of putting her feelings into writing is unwise. Remember, she has written numerous love letters to Henchard that he never returned. What if he should decide to use her letters against her? He contemplates using this note but throws it into the fire. Henchard may be bitter, but he isn't a blackmailer.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth-Jane continues to observe Henchard and Farfrae. (Note that Hardy once again uses an outside observer to relay the action to you.) One afternoon, she notices Farfrae in the hay-loft. Unnoticed, Henchard is a few steps behind him. Henchard raises his hand as if to push Farfrae down, but he stops. Henchard obviously isn't a murderer, either. What do you think stops him from destroying Farfrae and Lucetta? Is Hardy showing fate at work or Henchard's "character"? Henchard is a paradoxical mixture of powerlessness and power. This combination frightens Elizabeth-Jane, who decides to warn Farfrae.


In the previous chapter, Hardy introduced two important ideas: First, Henchard's desire to destroy Farfrae and Lucetta, and second, Lucetta's tendency to put her feelings into letters that can be used against her. Hardy develops these ideas in this chapter.

As the chapter opens, Elizabeth-Jane warns Farfrae about Henchard. Farfrae doesn't believe her at first. "But we are quite friendly," he says. Farfrae is oblivious to the fact that by taking over the older man's house and business and hiring him as a common worker, he may have deeply hurt Henchard's pride. Once again Hardy shows Farfrae's lack of feeling and his insensitivity to Henchard.

Other businessmen in the town support Elizabeth-Jane's warning, however. They convince Farfrae to abandon the idea of establishing a fund to set up Henchard in his own small business. Henchard mistakenly believes Farfrae is behind the withdrawal, and feels even more bitter toward him.

Farfrae tells Lucetta about Henchard's hostility, and she becomes alarmed. She tries to talk Farfrae into moving away, and he seems agreeable. Just then, however, a member of the town council arrives to tell Farfrae that the current mayor has just died, and to ask if Farfrae will become mayor. Farfrae agrees. Again fate has intervened.

Fearing that Henchard, in his hatred toward Farfrae, might expose her secret, Lucetta seeks out Henchard, begging him to return her letters. He puts her off. Later, he remembers that the letters are still in the safe in his former home. This memory brings "a grotesque grin" to Henchard's face.

The next night, Henchard comes to retrieve the letters from Farfrae. Henchard states that they were written by the second woman in the story he had told Farfrae long before. Farfrae asks what has happened to the woman, and Henchard replies that she "married well." He begins reading the letters aloud to Farfrae. Their passion reminds Farfrae a little of Lucetta, but he attributes the similarity to the fact that all women are alike. At first, Henchard planned to identify the signature on the letters, as a final blow, but he loses his nerve.

Hardy has created a series of cruel ironies and coincidences along with the incident with the letters. If Lucetta had known the letters were in her own safe all along, she could have destroyed them. If Farfrae had not prevented Henchard from leaving town by hiring him, Henchard would not be in a position to possibly destroy the relationship between Farfrae and Lucetta. If Farfrae had not moved into Henchard's old house, the letters might have been thrown out.


As is common in The Mayor of Casterbridge, the conversation between Henchard and Farfrae is overheard by an outside observer, Lucetta. She is almost paralyzed with fear. Later, she is relieved to find that Farfrae still doesn't know that she wrote the letters. She debates telling him the truth, but instead decides to retrieve the letters. Characteristically, she writes another self-incriminating note to Henchard and sets up an even more dangerous meeting at The Ring, the Roman amphitheatre where Henchard originally met Susan when she returned to Casterbridge. Henchard is moved by Lucetta's pleas, and promises to return the letters to her. At the same time, he warns her to tell Farfrae the truth soon.

While Henchard may have seemed vengeful or weak at the end of the last chapter, he impresses you as being sensitive in his meeting with Lucetta. He is clearly the kind of man who can inspire passionate love letters. In this respect, he contrasts sharply with Farfrae once again. Ask yourself why Lucetta has chosen Farfrae over Henchard. Possibly Lucetta Le Sueur, the French woman, would have chosen Henchard, but Lucetta Templeman, the English woman, would rather have the wealth and position that marriage to Farfrae promises. She, too, is tempting fate and hiding behind a new identity, just as Henchard has. From what you have seen so far, it's fair to say that her ambition may prove disastrous.


Hardy makes sure that you are aware of Henchard's warning to Lucetta at the end of the previous chapter. He then develops that situation by introducing the evil Jopp at the beginning of the following chapter. Although Henchard may not be a blackmailer, Jopp is. He asks Lucetta to convince her husband to give him a job. He also mentions that he knew her in Jersey. Jopp becomes even more of a threat later in the chapter when Henchard foolishly hands him the packet of letters to deliver to Lucetta. Jopp quickly discovers the nature of the poorly sealed packet, then stops for a quick drink at an inn in Mixen Lane, the poorest part of town, before heading to Farfrae's house with the package.

Hardy gives you a detailed description of Mixen Lane and its inhabitants. Notice all the images of darkness, pain, and destruction.

Coaxed by the others at the inn, Jopp opens the packet of letters and begins reading them. The listeners show mock horror at hearing that the proper Mrs. Farfrae has had an affair. They decide to sponsor a skimmity-ride through the town. This ancient custom is a parade to ridicule adulterers.

By having Jopp stop in Mixen Lane with the letters, Hardy has symbolically sunk Henchard and Lucetta's affair to the depth it may deserve. In the unforgiving hands and minds of the lowest elements in the town, the affair becomes more sordid than passionate. Like Henchard, Lucetta is concerned about her social position. It is significant that both are brought down by those who want to show that Henchard and Lucetta are no better than they. Sponsoring the skimmity-ride is a perfect way for members of the town chorus to demonstrate this.

Now a new character appears on the scene. Throughout the novel, you have seen that new characters have helped introduce new twists in the plot. The unnamed character is too well dressed for Mixen Lane, but he stops for a drink anyway, even contributing a coin to help pay for the skimmity-ride.

The next morning, Jopp brings the letters to Lucetta, who burns them immediately. She believes that the episode of the letters is finished and that her reputation is safe, but you should know better.


Henchard, the man of pride, has very little pride left. But he is still not able to admit his downfall as this chapter begins. He appears before the town council in the same grand clothes he wore as Mayor to ask that he be permitted to participate in a forthcoming celebration being planned for a visit by a member of the Royal Family. His clothes are now sadly tattered, as is Henchard's reputation, and he is told that he can be a spectator but not a participant. "If ye are included, why not others," Mayor Farfrae says. Henchard replies, "I have a particular reason for wanting to assist at the ceremony." Why do you think the event is so important to him? He is risking what little pride is left simply by appearing before the council. Perhaps the historical significance of the Royal visit is important to him. He still wants to be a part of Casterbridge's history. Perhaps he can't stand the idea of being a spectator rather than a participant. Being passive is not part of his character. Or perhaps he just wants to be seen again, to have a place in the public eye. "I'll welcome his Royal Highness, or nobody shall!" he declares. Wearing the clothes he wore as Mayor seems to emphasize his desire to maintain his former position in the town.

Henchard makes certain he is seen at the celebration. As the Prince's carriage approaches, Henchard steps in front of it. Wearing a bright ribbon and carrying a homemade flag, Henchard attempts to shake hands with the Prince.

Lucetta is aghast at the sight. Henchard has ruined her most glorious hour as the Mayor's wife. Elizabeth-Jane is terrified and incredulous. Farfrae, annoyed, pushes Henchard out of the way. Although Henchard is angry at Farfrae's treatment of him, he walks away, more defeated and bitter. The proper ladies in the crowd discuss Henchard's relation to Farfrae, much to Lucetta's annoyance.

Finally, Hardy turns to the members of the town chorus for their comments. They mention how uppity Farfrae has become and what a "lady of quality" his wife is. Now they are even more determined to carry out the skimmity-ride and humiliate Lucetta. The ride is planned for that very evening. There will be an upper-class spectacle and a lower-class spectacle on the same day in Casterbridge.

Hardy gives Jopp the final word in the chapter, thus sounding an ominous note.


Jopp's evil presence carries over to this chapter. He encounters Henchard and inflames Henchard's already seething case against both Farfrae and Lucetta. Henchard decides that he must confront Farfrae. In Farfrae's barn, Henchard challenges the new mayor to a wrestling match to the death. Saying that he is the stronger man, Henchard ties one hand behind his back to make the fight fair. Henchard seems to be a curious mixture of bully and fair fighter. The battle is over quickly. Henchard forces Farfrae to the edge of the loft and is about to push him to his death. He cannot do it, however. This marks the third time that Henchard has stopped himself from destroying Farfrae or Lucetta.

At different points in the novel, Henchard is compared to a series of animals- from a raging bull to a fangless lion. There is a certain animal quality about his unbridled energy. In this chapter, Henchard decides to fight Farfrae to show that he is a "real man"; however, the fight shows him to be more of an animal. In many ways, the rivalry between Henchard and Farfrae parallels the rivalry of two male animals fighting over territory and mates. Henchard was there first, but the newcomer has presented a serious and eventually successful challenge. Henchard loses and considers finding a new territory, but instead he remains and becomes domesticated. "Henchard had become in measure broken in," Hardy states earlier. The fight in the barn also parallels Henchard's earlier encounter with the bull. Farfrae wrenches Henchard's arm much as Henchard had wrenched the bull's neck. Once the fight has ended and Henchard has stopped short of killing his opponent, he hides himself shamefully in the barn "in a crouching attitude, unusual for a man...".

He leaves the barn in shame, realizing that even his physical (animal) strength, upon which his pride has been based, has not been enough to help him triumph over his "enemies" or his fate. He begins walking toward the bridge of failures again. There he hears, but doesn't heed, the beginnings of the skimmity-ride.


Hardy has built up your anticipation of the skimmity-ride for several chapters. Now it finally occurs. First, like a movie director, Hardy places all the principals. He has already shown that Henchard is out of the way at the bridge of failures. Next, he has Farfrae receive an anonymous note that directs him to leave town. Finally, he places Lucetta near the window in her house where she will be sure to see the event. After all, Lucetta is the one who will probably be most affected by the ridicule of the skimmity-ride.

The marchers proceed through town, banging drums and tambourines and carrying two stuffed figures- effigies of Henchard and Lucetta. Lucetta, hearing several maids describing the figures, is drawn to the window to see the parade. "It's me," she says. Her quick confession seems very similar to Henchard's when he was confronted in court by the furmity woman.

Elizabeth-Jane rushes into Lucetta's room and tries to pull her away from the window, but the damage has been done. Lucetta is certain that Farfrae will see the effigies and know of her unfaithfulness. She collapses in an epileptic seizure. Since Lucetta is pregnant, the doctor fears it may prove fatal. He says that Farfrae must be sent for at once. Since epileptics usually have a history of such seizures, do you feel it a weakness in the novel that Hardy has not indicated previously that Lucetta is epileptic?

Several town leaders try to stop the skimmity-ride. They insist that the town constables should find and stop the participants. Carrying out a half-hearted and unsuccessful search near Farfrae's house and in Mixen Lane, the constables soon give up.

One of the most interesting points about the much discussed skimmity-ride is that you never really see it. Neither do most of the people in the town. One maid even says, "There- I shan't see it, after all!" You hear about the parade from the different maids and from Lucetta who insists "I will see it!" and "Donald will see it!" Then it seems to simply disappear. The town leaders and constables keep searching for concrete evidence of the spectacle, but they can't find any. Farfrae, for whose sake the parade has been planned, isn't even in town when it occurs. In some ways, the skimmity- ride seems to be more in Lucetta's mind than elsewhere. It surfaces all her guilt and fear. Perhaps this is why she is so affected by the procession that ridicules her past affair.


Throughout this section of the novel, Hardy has pushed Henchard from the center of action in Casterbridge to the outer edges. As the section opened (Chapter XXXI), Henchard had moved to Jopp's cottage on the poor side of town. He began drinking at the Three Mariners rather than at the King's Arms. He estranged himself further from Farfrae and Lucetta. He even brought ridicule upon himself by his behavior when the Prince visited.

As if to emphasize the distance that has come between Henchard and the other characters, Hardy presents the action in this chapter through Henchard's eyes. Henchard has become an outsider, observing the action rather than playing an active role.

Henchard leaves the bridge of failures and enters the town just as the skimmity-ride is ending. Looking for Elizabeth-Jane, he goes to Farfrae's house. He tells the people at Farfrae's house, who are searching for Farfrae, that the new mayor has changed his earlier plans and has gone in the opposite direction. Remember that he overheard Farfrae's plans while perched in the loft. The others don't believe him because, as Hardy notes, "He had lost his good name." Henchard decides to find Farfrae himself.

When Henchard catches up with his former friend and rival, he addresses him humbly as "Mr. Farfrae." But Farfrae is suspicious. He thinks Henchard wants to trick him into an ambush and kill him. Henchard becomes desperate. Hardy uses words such as "implored" and "deprecated" to describe Henchard's behavior and point out his ineffectualness. Farfrae ignores Henchard's insistence that something is wrong at Farfrae's house. Henchard returns to town where he curses himself as being "a less scrupulous Job," a man who has lost even his own self-respect. The reference to Job, the biblical character who suffered terribly and lost everything as a test of his faith in God, shows clearly Henchard's sunken mental state.

Henchard sees Elizabeth-Jane at Farfrae's house and learns that Lucetta is near death. Noticing Elizabeth-Jane's warm look toward him while they conversed, Henchard sees a "pin-point of light" for the first time in the evening's darkness. He begins to wonder hopefully if he can learn to love her as his own daughter. With that thought in mind, he returns to Jopp's cottage. There Henchard learns that a sea-captain has called on him. Who can the mystery man be? Remember, only one other sailor has appeared in the novel- Newson. Just as Henchard is thinking of finding a daughter's love in Elizabeth-Jane, will her real father return to take her away from him? Perhaps Henchard truly is a Job figure, doomed to constant suffering for his sins.

Farfrae returns, but he is too late. Lucetta dies during the night. As this fourth section of the novel ends, another of Henchard's women has died and the third may be taken away from him momentarily. He is lonelier than ever.


At the end of the previous chapter, Henchard was cloaked in darkness and desolation. As this chapter opens, he sits by a fire in his cottage, and his face "brightens" when he sees Elizabeth-Jane. Having reached the depths of despair, he seems to sense in Elizabeth-Jane a reason for renewed optimism.

A stranger then knocks on Henchard's door. Now you know that the man in Mixen Lane and the visitor yesterday is Newson. When Henchard learns the man's identity, he looks down at the floor, like a shamed dog. He seldom looks up for the rest of their conversation. Newson has come to inquire about his daughter. Henchard tells him "doggedly" that Elizabeth-Jane is dead. Newson replies, "Then what's the use of my money to me?" There is irony in this statement, for in a sense, Newson's money triggered all of Henchard's troubles, when it was used to purchase Susan.

Accepting Henchard's explanation, the sailor leaves, his shadow passing before Henchard's window, symbolically darkening the brightness that had flickered there before. Henchard is amazed by his own lying. He is also worried. He had half expected Newson to catch him in the lie and is certain the man will return to curse him and take Elizabeth-Jane away for good. He makes a half-hearted attempt to find Newson, just as he had done after selling his wife and daughter. Rationalizing, he tells himself he may have been justified in lying to Newson. He "speciously argues" that he is more of a father to the girl than Newson.

Henchard's lying to Newson and subsequent justification of his lie are further illustrations of his destructive pride or hubris. See the discussion of hubris in the "Themes" section of this study guide. He may have been severely damaged by the events of the past year, but he is still not fully repentant. Henchard is not being punished merely for selling his family; he has continually tempted fate with his excessive pride. The images of brightness at the beginning of this chapter illustrate the return of Henchard's pride and self-esteem. Hardy is setting him up for "the big fall." Watch how images of darkness and death begin to envelop him in this chapter and in the remainder of the novel.

Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane have a warm conversation, but he is plagued by the thought of Newson's return. The thought plunges Henchard into a "leaden gloom." He goes for a walk, crosses a bridge, and looks into the waters below. He sees what he thinks is a body- his own body! What Henchard actually sees is the effigy that had been paraded in the skimmity-ride through town the day before. It is a curious psychological moment. Henchard, the observer in the last chapter, is now detached even from himself. Symbolically, he is dead. Henchard brings Elizabeth-Jane to see the figure. She confirms that it is his effigy. Realizing that Henchard is in a suicidal frame of mind, she decides to move in with him to protect him. Interestingly, if Henchard had not seen the effigy, he might have jumped into the water and killed himself. The skimmity-ride killed Lucetta, but one of the effigies used in the procession saved Henchard.

As the chapter ends, Henchard optimistically believes that a kind fate now watches over him. "And yet it seems that even I be in Somebody's hand," he states. Henchard's false hopes reflect the theme of barrenness that Hardy's religious skepticism led him to develop in the novel. Henchard's "Somebody" isn't a forgiving God; it is a more frightening and empty presence.


A period of relative calm settles over the lives of the main characters. Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane are living together as father and daughter, and Henchard is running a small seed business purchased for him by Farfrae and the town council. Farfrae has decided not to punish the perpetrators of the skimmity- ride. Because Lucetta confessed her past affair to him on her deathbed, he feels only minimal grief at her death. Farfrae's sense of propriety does not allow him to accept any impropriety in his wife.

Henchard now resumes his role as the observer in the novel. A budding romance develops between Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae. This romance troubles Henchard for two reasons: he doesn't want to lose Elizabeth-Jane to anyone, and he especially can't stand the idea of his enemy winning her hand. Nevertheless, he uncharacteristically refrains from intervening. Fear of loneliness has made the once- forceful Henchard hold his jealousy in check. He wants to retain the love of his "daughter." For a fleeting moment, he contemplates revealing Elizabeth-Jane's true parentage thus causing the proper Farfrae to forsake her, but he fears the knowledge would drive her into Newson's arms instead of his.


As the romance between Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane blossoms into an engagement, Henchard's self- esteem sinks lower and lower. He sees himself as a "fangless lion," a very different image from the "raging bull" he has been compared to earlier.

When through his telescope he sees Newson approaching the town, Henchard knows that his relationship with Elizabeth-Jane is doomed. He returns home and learns from Elizabeth-Jane that a stranger wants to meet with her. Sadly, Henchard tells her to see the man, adding that he is going to leave Casterbridge- not because of her impending marriage but to allow the two of them (Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane) to lead separate lives. Henchard asks her to remember him always. He still has some pride left; later, he will have none.

Elizabeth-Jane is reunited with Newson that evening at Farfrae's. She learns that Henchard kept her true parentage a secret and sent Newson away with a lie. Elizabeth-Jane bitterly remembers her last promise to Henchard. Then she, Newson, and Farfrae turn their thoughts to the wedding plans.


The last two chapters of The Mayor of Casterbridge form an epilogue, much as the first two chapters served as a prologue. Henchard, once again a wandering hay-trusser, returns to Weydon-Priors. He seems to be trying to retrace his history. Hardy notes that externally there was nothing to stop Henchard from starting all over again and achieving "higher" things, but internally his life is empty. Yet his thoughts are still on Elizabeth-Jane and Casterbridge.

When he learns from some passersby that Farfrae is soon to marry, he decides to return to Casterbridge for the wedding. Henchard buys a new suit and searches for a wedding present, choosing a caged gold finch. The caged bird, like Henchard himself, is imprisoned by fate.

Henchard arrives at the wedding. He leaves the bird outside and enters the house. He hears music and observes dancing. It pains him to see that Elizabeth-Jane's dancing partner is Newson, who has resumed his role as father. Hardy presents a series of dark images at this point to illustrate Henchard's feelings. Finally, Elizabeth-Jane greets him, addressing him coldly and formally as "Mr. Henchard." She tells him bitterly that she can no longer love him. Henchard is too devastated with pain and self- loathing to defend himself. He leaves the house, promising never to trouble her again.

Although Hardy included this chapter in his serialization, he omitted it from the first edition of the novel. He included it in later editions, however, because of popular demand. The chapter has a strange sense to it. Henchard seems like a wounded bird, making one last attempt at flight before dying. Some readers feel the chapter is useful because it emphasizes Henchard's total isolation from the community: life will continue comfortably in Casterbridge, and Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae will be happy, without Henchard. This sets the stage for Henchard's last request in the final chapter. Other readers feel that Hardy overdoes his debasement of Henchard, and that Chapter XLIV adds nothing new.


In the novel's final chapter, Henchard, a wanderer again, roams onto Egdon Heath where he is later followed by Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae. The Heath is a timeless place, and a man's history means very little within it. It is a fitting setting for the end of Henchard's struggles.

NOTE: Egdon Heath is best known to Hardy's readers as the setting (and, in some ways, one of the leading characters) of The Return of the Native. Eustacia Vye, the main character of that novel, feels trapped by the Heath and never manages to escape its hold. Eventually, it plays a part in her death, or suicide. For Hardy, Egdon Heath- bleak and barren, large and lifeless- measures the endurance and insignificance of people.

Henchard is drawn to the Heath by Elizabeth-Jane's rejection of him. Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae are drawn there by the discovery of the bird cage in which Henchard had brought his wedding present. The bird had died of starvation without uttering a sound. Just as its caged existence symbolized Henchard's feelings of imprisonment and isolation, the bird's death also symbolizes the lack of love in Henchard's life. Elizabeth-Jane is moved by the present, which she considers Henchard's repentance, and she is determined to find him again.

At first unable to find Henchard, Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane are about to turn back. Then they see Abel Whittle in the distance. They follow him to a cabin where he tells them that Henchard has died moments before. They find it strange that Abel has remained with Henchard. After all, Henchard often abused Abel unmercifully when he worked for Henchard. Abel explains that he has stayed with Henchard because of the way Henchard cared for Abel's mother when she was dying. Other, more symbolic, reasons also explain his presence. For one thing, Henchard left Casterbridge as an outcast, feeling like Cain. Having Abel beside him emphasizes his link to Cain. Abel also seems a bit like the wise fool, thus linking Henchard with King Lear as well. Finally, having to depend on Abel demonstrates that the once-great Henchard has in the end sunk lower than the most common workman. His pride has been destroyed. He has been punished for his hubris.

Henchard leaves a tragic will pinned to the head of his bed. He asks that he be neither mourned nor remembered- particularly by Elizabeth-Jane. He seems to be releasing her from the promise he had extracted from her when he first left Casterbridge. Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae decide to abide by the terms of the will. What does the will suggest about Henchard's view of his life? Would you judge him as harshly as he does himself?

The final paragraphs of the novel are devoted to a brief presentation of Elizabeth-Jane's future life, one filled with calmness and moderation, but not necessarily happiness. There is a certain melancholy tone to the ending. The hare has lost the race, and the tortoise has won. But the scene seems devoid of the energy that Henchard represented. Hardy seems to say that in the fallen, fate-dominated world of the novel, people are meant to endure, but not to rise too high.


THE STORY, continued

ECC [The Mayor of Casterbridge Contents] []

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