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

CHAPTER 41

Summary

The next morning Elizabeth-Jane goes to Henchard's house to inform him of Lucetta's death. Henchard showers her with kindness, makes her rest, and prepares breakfast for her. While Elizabeth-Jane sleeps, the sea-captain calls on Henchard again. He is the same man who had contributed a sovereign for the skimmity- ride at Peter's Finger calls on Henchard, and it is none other than Newson. He explains that he had engineered his disappearance out of kindness to Susan. He has found out that Susan is dead, but he wants to see his daughter. Henchard, fearing the loss of Elizabeth- Jane, tells Newson that she too is dead. Newson accepts Henchard's news as factual and leaves Casterbridge.

Elizabeth-Jane awakens, but Henchard is afraid to ask her to stay, for he is sure Newson will return. After her departure, Henchard goes to a point in the river called the Ten Hatches Hole. He considers suicide when he sees an exact image of himself floating in the water, but he has a change of heart and returns home. To his surprise, he finds Elizabeth-Jane waiting for him. He takes her back to the Ten Hatches Hole where he has seen his image floating. She tells him it is only his effigy, which the revelers had disposed of. Elizabeth-Jane guesses that he had contemplated suicide and offers to stay with him. Henchard feels that God has intervened to save him with Elizabeth-Jane's kindness.

Notes

As Fate has it, when Henchard accepts Elizabeth-Jane as his daughter, Newson makes his appearance in Casterbridge. He has heard that Susan is dead, but he wants to see his daughter. Henchard's new-found happiness is endangered once again. As impulsive as ever, he lies to Newson, saying that Elizabeth-Jane is dead. Later he realizes that this lie could lead to a complete estrangement from Elizabeth-Jane, but he tries to rationalize his action. He feels that he has a greater need for Elizabeth-Jane than Newson and that his lie was prompted by his love for her. He cannot bear the thought of a life of loneliness without Elizabeth- Jane at his side. The idea that Henchard is superstitious is again reinforced when he sees his effigy in the river; he feels it is an evil sign and contemplates suicide.


Newson appears to be a decent person. He tells Henchard that he appeared to be dead out of kindness to his wife. He also has a desire to find his daughter. Newson is also gullible. He believes Henchard's lie and makes no further inquiries about Elizabeth- Jane.

Elizabeth-Jane, who is a lonely woman that desires a reconciliation with Henchard, responds with warmth when he expresses his love. She is also sensitive to his needs; she has divined how everybody and everything has seemed to go against Henchard and knows how he must be suffering. When she guesses that Henchard has very nearly committed suicide, she decides to live with him, serving as his comforter and protector. When Henchard openly asks her forgiveness, the kind Elizabeth-Jane gives it readily and says, "I have forgotten it. Talk of that no more." She is obviously a generous and noble young lady.

CHAPTER 42

Summary

In this chapter, Farfrae continues to prove he is a kind and thoughtful man. After much reflection and consideration, he decides not to punish the perpetrators of the skimmity-ride, for he does not want to drag Lucetta's past out into the open. The town council, headed by Farfrae, decides to help Henchard. They purchase a small root and seed business for him to manage, and he accepts it, chiefly for Elizabeth-Jane's sake.

Henchard remains in constant dread of Newsons's return and watches for him regularly. He also notices that Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane are meeting secretly, which greatly bothers him. Had Elizabeth-Jane fallen in love with any other man, Henchard would have been content; but he cannot bear to think about losing his daughter to his rival. He feels Farfrae would influence Elizabeth-Jane, and she in time would begin to despise him. He also fears living in loneliness again, without her in the house. In order to keep her next to him, he seriously thinks of telling Farfrae of Elizabeth-Jane's illegitimate birth, but cannot bring himself to do it.

Notes

Unlike Henchard, Farfrae is not a man given to impulse. Though his first instinct is to punish the perpetrators of the skimmity-ride, the practical side of his nature asserts itself. He knows no good would come from instituting an inquiry; it would just cause him pain and darken Lucetta's name. Because of his practicality, he accepts Lucetta's death graciously, after he learns of her past. His puritanical side makes him think that life would not have been happy with her, had she lived, because of her inconsistent behavior. Farfrae is also practical about Henchard. He remembers when Henchard was willing to help him and offered him a job; therefore, Farfrae is ready to forgive him, no matter how much he has been provoked by Henchard recently. It is also obvious that Farfrae influences the town council about purchasing the seed shop for Henchard.

Henchard has been described several times as a "lion," which connotes passion and rage, but also protectiveness. His rage has been seen several times throughout the novel, but in this chapter, Henchard becomes very protective of his relationship with Elizabeth-Jane. He realizes that her love and sympathy are essential to him for his very existence, even though she is not his daughter by birth. Her goodness has caused the remarkable change to docility in Henchard.

When Henchard realizes that Elizabeth-Jane is secretly seeing Farfrae, he is upset. He does not want to lose his daughter to the man who has stolen his business, his house, and his wife-to-be. He also worries about spending the rest of his life in friendless solitude without Elizabeth-Jane. As a result, Henchard ponders telling Farfrae about Elizabeth-Jane's illegitimacy, knowing that Farfrae would be indignant and refuse to marry her; he decides, however, that he cannot do that to his "daughter." Throughout the book, Henchard has shown an inability to destroy anything or anyone in a cold-blooded manner, and the reader respects this trait in him.

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