The Mayor of Casterbridge

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The Mayor of Casterbridge Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Both Susan and Elizabeth-Jane flourish once they move into Henchard’s home. He provides for them, improving his own home, and buying things his wife and daughter desire. Elizabeth-Jane’s beauty grows as the lines on her brow that came with poverty vanish. She does not make a fool of herself by dressing extravagantly with her new wealth and position, but instead continues to be modest, fearful that a dramatic display of her new situation would only tempt Providence to cast her and her mother down again.
An increase in wealth has a dramatic impact on both Susan and Elizabeth-Jane. Their physical appearances, as well as their possessions, improve. Elizabeth-Jane is wary, however, of this wealth because she is familiar with loss and poverty. Her unwillingness to indulge displays her prudence and her modesty, though her diffidence also stops her from seizing what she wants.
Themes
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One morning at breakfast, Henchard comments upon Elizabeth-Jane’s hair, which is light brown. He says that Susan had once remarked that her daughter’s hair would turn out black. Susan gives him a startled look, and once Elizabeth-Jane has left the room, Henchard exclaims that he almost forgot their agreement and mistakenly revealed his and Susan’s true connection. He repeats that Elizabeth-Jane’s hair had once appeared like it would be darker, and Susan looks uneasy.
Through this minor slip-up, the truth is almost revealed to Elizabeth-Jane. The difficulty of hiding complex secrets is demonstrated. Susan’s uneasiness, which Henchard interprets as anxiety about Elizabeth-Jane learning the truth, foreshadows that the secret is more complex than Henchard himself realizes.
Themes
Loyalty to Duty and Commitments Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
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Henchard then shares with Susan that he would like to have Elizabeth-Jane called Miss Henchard rather than Miss Newson. Susan protests slightly at first, but then agrees with Henchard. However, Susan goes to Elizabeth-Jane and tells her of Henchard’s proposal to change her last name. She asks her daughter whether or not she too feels this to be a slight against the deceased Newson. Elizabeth-Jane asks Henchard if the name change matters greatly to him. Henchard quickly dismisses his commitment to the change, saying Elizabeth-Jane should not do it to please him, and the matter is not discussed again.
Susan does not confront Henchard about changing Elizabeth-Jane’s name, but instead subtly convinces Elizabeth-Jane to defend her last name. This demonstrates that Susan is capable of more cleverness and subtly than is revealed by her meek appearance and personality. Henchard never suspects her of anything underhanded or manipulative.
Themes
Loyalty to Duty and Commitments Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Henchard’s business thrives with Farfrae’s management. Farfrae meticulously replaces Henchard’s method of making verbal promises and remembering everything with ledgers and written agreements. Henchard spends a large amount of time with the young man and considers him a close companion. Elizabeth-Jane frequently watches the pair in the yard at work from her bedroom window.
Farfrae’s meticulous management improves Henchard’s business and demonstrates that he is the stronger businessman. Henchard, at this point, does not realize Farfrae’s strengths and does not feel threatened. Elizabeth-Jane finds Farfrae alluring.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
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Elizabeth-Jane also notes how Farfrae looks at her and her mother, as they walk together. She is slightly disappointed and confused to see that Farfrae looks most at her mother. She dismisses this information, not suspecting the truth of her parents’ shared past or Farfrae’s knowledge of this.
Farfrae is more curious about Susan than about Elizabeth-Jane because of the secret he knows. Elizabeth-Jane’s interest in Farfrae is revealed by her disappointment at his lack of interest in her.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
A street consisting of farmer’s homesteads makes up the Durnover end of Casterbridge where those who farm corn on the uplands side of the town live. These are the men with whom Henchard primarily does business. One day, Elizabeth-Jane receives a note by hand asking her come at once to a specific granary in Durnover. She thinks the note must have something to do with Henchard’s business in that area.
Elizabeth-Jane is not suspicious about obeying the request of a note that she thinks has to do with Henchard’s business.
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Elizabeth-Jane arrives at the granary and waits, only to see Farfrae appear. She hides in the granary itself, not wishing to meet him directly, out of shyness. However, he too stops there to wait, drawing out of his pocket a note identical to her note. The situation, Elizabeth-Jane realizes, is very awkward. She does not want to reveal her hiding place as more and more time passes. Farfrae, however, hears her move in the granary and ascends the steps to see her there.
Elizabeth-Jane’s instinctual response to Farfrae’s appearance is to hide, which shows both her shyness and her particular shyness of Farfrae. Farfrae, however, does not exhibit this same shyness, and approaches her in the granary.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
Elizabeth-Jane assumes Farfrae had arranged to meet her and she shows him the note she received. He shows her the similar note that he received and the pair realizes that some third person must be wishing to see them both and decides to wait. Eventually the two young people begin a conversation. Elizabeth-Jane asks about Scotland and mentions the song Farfrae sang at The King of Prussia. Farfrae says that he does not long to return to Scotland, despite his emotion while singing of his homeland.
The pair believes they must be waiting for some third person, the sender of the notes, but as they wait, they begin to get to know each other. They are able to speak about personal matters, such as Farfrae’s emotions about his homeland, despite his assurance that he doesn’t plan to return there.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
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Farfrae delicately points out that Elizabeth-Jane’s dress is covered in wheat husks from the granary. He offers his assistance and blows the wheat husks from her clothes and hair. Farfrae no longer seems in a rush to leave the granary. Elizabeth-Jane, however, refuses his offer to get her an umbrella, and leaves promptly. Farfrae looks after her, whistling, “As I came down through Cannobie.”
Farfrae’s action of blowing the wheat husks from Elizabeth-Jane’s dress is both intimate, and able to be interpreted as subtly sexual. Elizabeth-Jane’s quick departure reflects her embarrassment, and Farfrae’s hesitation shows his newfound interest in the girl.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon