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Free Study Guide for The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy-MonkeyNotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND ANALYSIS

CHAPTER 39

Summary

After the wrestling match, Farfrae had intended to go to Budmouth. When he is about to leave, Whittle arrives with an unsigned note asking him to come to Weatherbury. This anonymous letter was written by Longways and other men who work for Farfrae to get him out of the way for the evening entertainment.

That evening, Lucetta is shocked when she sees effigies of Henchard and herself paraded on a donkey. She falls into a fit, and the doctor is called. He urges someone to get Farfrae, for Lucetta's condition is critical since she is pregnant. A messenger is sent to Budmouth, where Farfrae is supposed to be.

Benjamin Grower tries to find the perpetrators of the skimmity- ride, but finds no one to who will give any information. Everyone in Casterbridge, including the frequenters of Peter's Finger, feign ignorance and give each other alibis.

Notes

Farfrae is upset with his encounter with Henchard, for he now realizes the full extent of the man's hatred towards him. It is, therefore, not surprising that he does not question the contents of the letter or note the fact that the senders are anonymous. He simply sets off for Weatherbury.

Longways and others attempt to protect Farfrae from the skimmity-ride although they have no such regard for Lucetta. Because they assume she is guilty, they feel she must bear the consequences. Elizabeth-Jane is the only person who shows concern for her. Despite being hurt by Lucetta and Farfrae, she has no desire for revenge or retaliation. Instead, she tries unsuccessfully to shield Lucetta from witnessing the effigies. It is also Elizabeth-Jane who takes charge of the situation when Lucetta falls into a swoon. The doctor is called, and everyone learns that Lucetta's condition is critical because she is pregnant.


There is an intentional comparison in this chapter between Henchard and Lucetta. Both of them have tried to hide mistakes in their past that would color their present reputations. But just as Henchard's past has caught up with him, so does Lucetta's. She is totally shocked to see the effigies of Henchard and herself, especially since she has just recently felt that her past was safely behind. She falls into a swoon, because she knows that Farfrae will now know the truth about her.

CHAPTER 40

Summary

When Henchard sees the effigies, he immediately goes to Lucetta's house. His credibility is so low that no one is willing to believe him when he tells them that Farfrae has gone to Mellstock and Weatherbury, not Budmouth. He decides to go after Farfrae himself and catches up with him at Yalbury Bottom. Farfrae does not believe him either; he thinks Henchard is trying to finish him off and proceeds to Mellstock. Henchard goes back to Farfrae's house and informs them that Farfrae will not be back for another two hours. When Farfrae finally returns, Lucetta confesses all to her husband and dies in the early hours of the day.

In the midst of all the confusion and fear for Lucetta's life, Henchard finally sees Elizabeth-Jane in all her goodness. He now desires her love and is willing to accept her as his daughter. When Henchard returns home, Jopp informs him "a kind of traveler, or sea-captain of some sort" had called on him.

Notes

Henchard's credibility has sunk so low that no one will believe him anymore. The townsfolk do not listen to him when he says that Farfrae has gone to Weatherbury. Farfrae will not listen to him when he explains that Lucetta is very ill. Fate, coupled with his totally unacceptable behavior, has discredited him completely.

Lucetta's death is also very poignant. In spite of her faults, she does not deserve to die mortified and disgraced. The callous people of Casterbridge are to blame. It is ironic that the same society that welcomes change and progress, as represented by Farfrae, rejects Lucetta, who is representative of the new age. She is a woman who has defied her traditional role, and Casterbridge is not ready to accept the change.

Henchard's realization about the goodness of Elizabeth-Jane is also very touching. Although he now accepts her as a daughter and longs to win her love, he thinks he is not worthy of her since he has fallen to the lowest level of society.

The chapter ends on a note of mystery and premonition. When Henchard returns home, Jopp tells him that a sea-captain has called for him. The reader is made to wonder if it is possibly Newson.

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