The Mayor of Casterbridge

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The Mayor of Casterbridge Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Susan and Elizabeth-Jane enter The King of Prussia after debating about whether or not even this moderate inn is a place they can afford to stay. They are taken to their room where the inn, though old-fashioned and poorly constructed on the outside, is revealed to be clean and well kept with an excess of linen. Susan fears that they cannot afford to stay here, but Elizabeth-Jane insists that they must be respectable. Susan frets that Henchard is “too high” for them to make themselves known to him, and so they have only their own money to depend upon.
Susan and Elizabeth-Jane’s opposing reactions to the cleanliness and expense of The King of Prussia reveal their different priorities and personalities: Susan is intimidated by both the inn and by Henchard and feels they don’t fit in, whereas Elizabeth-Jane is willing to do whatever it takes to be “respectable.” Elizabeth-Jane’s self-control and self-regulation guide her throughout the novel.
Themes
Character Theme Icon
Elizabeth-Jane decides to sacrifice her own dignity for the sake of their situation, and so she approaches the landlady with the offer of her working at the inn, which is busy that evening, in order to help cover the cost of their accommodations. A bell rings downstairs, and the landlady directs Elizabeth-Jane to take the Scottish gentleman his supper on a tray. Elizabeth-Jane discovers that the young man is in the room next to hers and her mothers. He is reading the local paper when she enters, and she sets down the tray and goes away without a word.
Elizabeth-Jane’s decision to wait on the guests of The King of Prussia comes to light later in the novel and divides her and Henchard. Her act of waiting on the young Scottish man reveals her curiosity about him. This, in particular, angers Henchard later in the novel because in waiting on this man, Elizabeth-Jane placed herself as inferior to him and Henchard values his own reputation and that of his family. The man is eventually revealed as Farfrae.
Themes
Self-Destruction Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
Elizabeth-Jane takes her and her mother’s supper upstairs, but finds her mother is listening in on a conversation occurring in the next room. Henchard has called on the young Scottish man and asks if he is the one who sent the note at the Golden Crown. Henchard thinks the young man must be Joshua Jopp, a man who he planned to meet the next day and interview for the position of manager of his business. The Scottish man instead introduces himself as Donald Farfrae, saying he is passing through town on his way to Bristol to seek passage to America.
Susan, despite her close connection to Henchard, is cautious and gathers information before revealing herself to him. Elizabeth-Jane does not know the extent of the reason for this caution. Farfrae is introduced as a traveler, a fortune-seeker, who is passing through Casterbridge. Henchard’s insistence that he stay means that he handpicks the man who ruins his life.
Themes
Self-Destruction Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
Henchard is grateful for the note Farfrae gave him, and asks if he’d be willing to prove the contents of the note: that he has a method for restoring poor wheat to quality. Farfrae willingly demonstrates the technique with a few grains he has on hand. He is only too glad to pass on the technique to Henchard, if the older man finds it useful. Henchard is impressed and promptly offers him the position of his business manager. Farfrae, however, refuses, as he is committed to his plan to travel to America.
The method for restoring poor wheat is presented in the overheard conversation. Henchard’s insistence that this cannot be done, that time cannot be reversed, allows the bad wheat to be interpreted as a symbol for his relationship with Susan. If this bad wheat can be restored, so too can the connection between Susan and Henchard.
Themes
Loyalty to Duty and Commitments Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
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Farfrae will not accept payment for the technique, and Henchard is again impressed by this kindness from a stranger and pleads with Farfrae to accept the post. Farfrae declines, but invites Henchard to drink with him. Henchard says he cannot as he took a vow years ago after a deed he will be ashamed of for his whole life. The two amicably part ways.
Farfrae’s generosity is demonstrated in this first interaction with Henchard in which he gives him the wheat restoring technique for free. Farfrae continues his generosity toward Henchard for a large part of novel, despite their falling out.
Themes
Self-Destruction Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon