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Free Study Guide for The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy-MonkeyNotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 17

Summary

Elizabeth-Jane perceives Henchard's displeasure when he sees her dancing with Farfrae, but she does not know the reason. Then someone tells her that as the Mayor's stepdaughter, it is improper to dance in "a mixed throng." She decides to go home and is accompanied by Farfrae, who drops hints of his growing attraction to her. He even suggests that he might propose to her if he were richer.

Farfrae tells Elizabeth-Jane of his intention to leave Casterbridge; however, the next day Farfrae decides to stay on and compete in business against Henchard. Henchard is offended by this news and becomes so enraged that he forbids Elizabeth-Jane from seeing Farfrae socially. He also writes to Farfrae and forbids him to talk to her.

When Farfrae opens for business, several of Henchard's customers call on him. He refuses to take their business on ethical grounds. Before long his business outstrips Henchard's, and he is given a stall at the local market. Henchard retaliates by forbidding Farfrae's name to ever be mentioned in his house.


Notes

In this chapter, the reader learns more about Elizabeth-Jane. She has a sense of propriety, a desire for respectability, and an insecurity about social behavior. She is shocked to learn that, as the Mayor's stepdaughter, she should not be dancing in mixed company. She is so embarrassed at her mistake that she chooses to leave the dance. She is delighted that Farfrae accompanies her home, for she is strongly attracted towards him and amazed at the interest he has taken in her. She is so level headed, however, that the next day she thinks that she is good looking "just enough to make him silly, and not enough to keep him so." When Henchard grows angry at Farfrae, he forbids his daughter to see him again. She promises to act in accordance with Henchard's wishes, showing her regard and consideration for her stepfather.

When Farfrae goes into business for himself, he is very successful because of his business acumen and his ethical behavior. He does not desire to create any trade antagonism between himself and Henchard and even goes to the extent of discouraging customers because they had dealt with Henchard in the recent past. Farfrae even tries to make friendly overtures to Henchard, but he is always rebuffed. Henchard's business begins to suffer because of his blunt and arrogant ways and his lack of organization.

CHAPTER 18

Summary

Susan, who has been ailing for some time, takes a turn for the worse. She is on the verge of death, when Henchard receives a letter from Lucetta requesting him to return all the love letters she has sent him. She also fixes a time and place for a meeting, but does not show up at the appointed hour.

When Susan realizes she is near the end, she does several things. She writes a letter to her husband and seals it in an envelope. Then she addresses it with these words: "Mr. Michael Henchard, not to be opened till Elizabeth-Jane's wedding-day." Next she confesses to Elizabeth-Jane that she was the one who had sent the anonymous letters to her and Farfrae in order to bring them together. She had hoped that some day they would marry and is sad that Henchard stands between them. Shortly after her confession, Susan dies.

Notes

This chapter introduces the character of Lucetta, Henchard's former lover. The reader gets a brief glimpse into her personality through the letters she writes to Henchard, revealing her indiscretion in pestering Henchard. In them, she upbraids him for not keeping his promise to her. Her request that Henchard personally return her love letters is obviously an effort to meet him and talk to him of past times. Since Henchard is a decent man, he does not hesitate to return the letters and is surprised when Lucetta does not show up.

Before her death, Susan clears up the mystery about the sender of the anonymous letters to Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae. She tells her daughter she has hoped that she and Farfrae would marry. Susan also leaves a letter for Henchard directing him not to open it till Elizabeth-Jane's wedding day. The reader is left to wonder what is contained in the letter.

The chapter ends on a light note with Longways, Mother Cuxsom, and others offering amusing comments on Susan's death. They also talk about local superstitions and their provincial beliefs, which is typical of Hardy's style.

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