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Free Study Guide for The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy-MonkeyNotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

CHAPTER 11

Summary

As arranged by the note, Henchard and Susan meet at the Amphitheater, known as the Ring. He apologizes to her for his past mistakes, and she explains her reason for living with Newson. He tells Susan she should move to a cottage in Casterbridge as the widow Mrs. Newson. He will meet her there, court her, and eventually marry her. Not wanting Elizabeth-Jane to ever know the truth about he, he suggests that she will be known as his stepdaughter. When he asks Susan whether she forgives him or not, he cannot discern her response and glosses it over by saying, "Never mind--all in good time. Judge me by my good works."

Notes

The first half of the chapter is devoted to a detailed, graphic description of the Amphitheater, a Roman ruin outside of town known for having a somewhat unscrupulous reputation. Hardy emphasizes the gloom of its surroundings, suggesting a sense of mystery. It seems an appropriate place for Henchard to suggest as a meeting place where he can apologize to Susan for having sold her and their daughter. The cowardly Henchard also knows that the Ring is dark, secluded, and safe from observation. He is obviously worried about his good reputation.


The meek Susan is self-deprecating, telling Henchard that she does not want to cause trouble and will go away if need be. Henchard, however, has other plans. He seems genuinely repentant of his past mistake. He apologizes to Susan and states his intention of courting and marrying her in the future, making Elizabeth-Jane his stepdaughter. His promises to her make Henchard feel less guilty; he is glad for the opportunity to rectify his past.

CHAPTER 12

Summary

When Henchard returns home, he finds Farfrae struggling with the account books. After they have supper together, he confides in Farfrae about his past and how Susan has reappeared on the scene. He also discloses how Elizabeth-Jane does not know who her real father is. Henchard asks Farfrae what he should do about her, and Farfrae suggests that he tell her the truth.

Henchard conveys another dilemma. He has become intimate with a woman in Jersey who suffered much when their affair was discovered. Thinking his wife dead, Henchard had offered her marriage as a solution. Now, however, he feels his duty is to stand by Susan. Henchard asks Farfrae to write the lady in Jersey a letter to explain the situation. He also plans to send her money.

Notes

In this chapter, the reader sees that Henchard still knows "no moderation in his requests and impulses." Having taken an inordinate liking to Farfrae, he makes him his confidante and tells him about his past mistake with Susan and asks his advice about Elizabeth-Jane. Farfrae feels that Henchard should tell Elizabeth- Jane the truth about the past; he feels she would forgive both mother and father. Henchard, however, does not want to disclose the truth and risk losing his daughter's affection.

Henchard also tells Farfrae about his past loneliness and deep depression. He says that his isolation led him to an affair with a woman in Jersey. When their relationship was revealed, it caused her great pain. To make things right, he promised to marry her. Whatever Henchard's faults might he, it is obvious he is no philanderer, but a man of honor.

With Susan's re-entry into his life he feels his first duty is to her, and he must disappoint the woman in Jersey. He feels bad about the situation and plans to send her a sum of money as an apology. He asks Farfrae to write a letter to her explaining the situation.

The differences of temperament between Henchard and Farfrae are revealed in this chapter. Henchard is "mentally and physically unfit for grubbing subtleties from soiled paper". His books of account are in an unmanageable mess, for he is not given to details. In contrast, Donald Farfrae, an educated man who is detail-oriented, eagerly tackles the neglected books. When Henchard tells Farfrae about the gloomy fits of depression he experiences, Farfrae politely tells him he has never had a sense of loneliness or depression. Henchard is very outspoken; in opposition, Farfrae knows how to maintain a diplomatic silence. Farfrae is prudent, meticulous, and transparent; Henchard is Moody and impulsive.

It is important to notice how the chapter ends. Henchard has a sense of uneasiness about his personal matters, as if he is tempting the hand of Fate. He doubtfully wonders, "Can it be that it will go so easily?" His thoughts seem to foreshadow that things will not go smoothly.

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