The Mayor of Casterbridge

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Michael Henchard Character Analysis

protagonist Michael Henchard works as a poor hay-trusser until, in drunken anger, he sells his wife and daughter for five guineas at the Weydon-Priors fair. Unable to find his lost family members, Henchard moves to Casterbridge where, over the next eighteen years, he makes a name for himself in the hay and corn business and rises to become mayor of the town. After his long-lost wife and daughter reappear in his life, he remarries Susan and takes Elizabeth-Jane into his home. Through Susan’s eventual death, and a note she leaves behind, he discovers that Elizabeth-Jane is not his biological daughter. After his wife’s death, Henchard hopes to marry Lucetta, a young woman who fell in love with him during his long separation from his first wife. Henchard’s life spirals into chaos as he loses his excellent business manager, Farfrae, and Lucetta marries Farfrae instead. Henchard’s attempt to under-cut Farfrae’s business backfires and Henchard is eventually homeless and very poor. After Lucetta’s death, Henchard tries to reunite with Elizabeth-Jane, but Richard Newson, her true father, reappears, having faked his death in order to release Susan from her commitment to him. Henchard is tempted to kill himself in the river near the second bridge, but is discouraged by the image of his own effigy from the skimmington. Henchard lies to Newson about Elizabeth-Jane, but eventually leaves Casterbridge, knowing that he cannot keep Elizabeth-Jane from the truth of her parentage forever. Henchard dies in a cottage outside of Casterbridge leaving behind a will that asks for no funeral service and that no one mourn or remember him.

Michael Henchard Quotes in The Mayor of Casterbridge

The The Mayor of Casterbridge quotes below are all either spoken by Michael Henchard or refer to Michael Henchard. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Self-Destruction Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Mayor of Casterbridge published in 2003.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“For my part I don’t see why men who have got wives, and don’t want ‘em, shouldn’t get rid of ‘em as these gipsy fellows do their old horses…why shouldn’t they put them up and sell ‘em by auction to men who are in want of such articles? Hey? Why, begad, I’d sell mine this minute, if anybody would buy her!”

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Susan Henchard
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Early in the novel, Michael Henchard and his wife and child are traveling and stop at a country fair for a meal, where Henchard, intoxicated, grows angry with his lot in life. Henchard turns his bitterness on his wife, as he no longer wishes to be married. In this passage, he wonders aloud to the listening occupants of the food tent why unhappy men cannot sell their wives to other men. Henchard’s complaints are set against the sounds of a horse auction, which he mentions as a point of comparison. The language of this passage is quite obviously belittling and hurtful. Not only does Henchard compare his wife to an “old horse” that could be auctioned off, but he calls this “getting rid” of her because he doesn’t “want her.” This language treats women as the property of men as well as material possessions (Henchard refers to wives as “articles,” like articles of clothing).

Henchard’s "character" is established early in the novel, though he later grows into a more complex figure, and is haunted by this scene of extreme boorishness. To the modern audience, this scene is horrifying, but it is also upsetting to the other people who witness Henchard’s behavior, particularly the kind man Richard Newson who takes in Henchard’s wife and child. Henchard’s cruelty is attributed in part to his drunkenness, as he later, when sober, regrets his actions. His drinking problem results in self-destructive behavior. While drunk, he foregoes the sense of duty he has to his family, particularly to his young daughter, which resurfaces later in the novel.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

“I, Michael Henchard, on this morning of the sixteenth of September, do take an oath before God here in this solemn place that I will avoid all strong liquors for the space of twenty-one years to come, being a year for every year that I have lived. And this I swear upon the book before me; and may I be stricken dumb, blind, and helpless, if I break this my oath!”

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker)
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

In a pivotal moment for his character, Henchard vows to give up drinking any alcohol for twenty-one years after seeing the effect of his drunkenness at the country fair. Henchard acts partly out of regret for his poor treatment of his wife and child, and partly out of embarrassment about his publicly humiliating behavior. Despite these mixed motives, Henchard’s vow is a productive one. He has identified an aspect of his character that has been self-destructive and hurtful to others and he seeks to improve. And indeed, he upholds this vow loyally for twenty-one years because he has made a commitment.

The “solemn place” in which Henchard makes his oath before God is a church, which lends significance to his vow because it occurs in a place that is traditionally the site of praying and seeking repentance. Henchard later asks Susan directly for forgiveness, which demonstrates some true feeling of guilt and desire to repent. However, Henchard, true to his character, is also inclined to exaggerated and theatrical behavior. It is not enough to seek to change himself in private—instead he makes an extreme oath, featuring a full twenty-one years of abstinence from alcohol and the condition that he be struck “dumb, blind, and helpless” if he doesn’t follow his promise. Ironically, Henchard ends the novel in a helpless state, despite having kept his oath, because he returns after twenty-one years to the self-destructive behavior of drinking.

Chapter 5 Quotes

"If anybody will tell me how to turn grown wheat into wholesome wheat I'll take it back with pleasure. But it can't be done."

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker)
Related Symbols: Restoring Wheat
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard becomes the mayor of Casterbridge and a successful wheat merchant, but his business is criticized one summer when he sells a large amount of rotten wheat to farmers and citizens in Casterbridge. In this scene, Henchard defends his actions, arguing that he cannot change the bad wheat back into wholesome wheat. This is a significant passage because a comment about a literal problem—the rotten wheat—provides commentary on a larger problem: the inability of any person to turn back time. Henchard wished he could turn back time after he sold his wife and daughter. He saw that he had made something that was once wholesome—his family and his marriage—into something rotten. This passage shows his life philosophy, as well as his understanding of wheat. The past cannot be changed, Henchard believes; something rotten cannot be made wholesome again.

This quote also shows Henchard’s rather underhanded business dealings. He is not willing to take the blame or the responsibility for having sold bad wheat, and he will not replace the product he sold with good wheat. He sees that the sale, once complete, is finished, regardless of the outcome for his costumers. Instead, he blames the problem on the impossibility of restoring wheat that has gone by, encouraging others to blame fate, the weather, science—anything other than Henchard himself.

Chapter 10 Quotes

"Meet me at eight o'clock this evening, if you can, at the Ring on the Budmouth road. The place is easy to find. I can say no more now. The news upsets me almost. The girl seems to be in ignorance. Keep her so till I have seen you. M. H."
He said nothing about the enclosure of five guineas. The amount was significant; it may tacitly have said to her that he bought her back again.

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Susan Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane Newson
Related Symbols: Five Guineas, The Ring
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard and Susan are reunited through a letter that is brought from Susan to Henchard via Elizabeth-Jane. Henchard responds with a note asking Susan to meet him, and includes with it five guineas. Two important symbols appear in this pivotal passage: the Ring and the five guineas. The Ring is a local remnant of the ancient Roman culture in this part of England. As a landmark site, it is linked to the bloody history of the Romans would invaded England; it is an amphitheater for battle as a form of entertainment. Because of its role as a visual reminder of a painful past, the Ring seems a fateful place for Henchard and Susan to meet and address their own painful past.

The second symbol of the five guineas is acknowledged by Henchard, who remembers that this is the sum Newson paid to buy Susan from him years earlier. By enclosing this amount, Henchard intentionally suggests that he wishes Susan to return to him, that he symbolically wishes to “buy her back.”

The language of Henchard’s note focuses on his commitment to and concern for Elizabeth-Jane. He wants to keep her ignorant of his connection to her, which suggests that he feels guilt over his past wrongs. But he also feels a duty to her and to Susan because of their family connection. This sense of duty seems more prevalent than any feelings of real love or attachment, as the language of his letter to Susan is matter-of-fact, rather than romantic or apologetic. Duty to family also influences Susan when she reaches out to her past husband, once Richard Newson is supposedly dead. 

Chapter 11 Quotes

"Right," said Henchard. "But just one word. Do you forgive me, Susan?"
She murmured something; but seemed to find it difficult to frame her answer.
"Never mind--all in good time," said he. "Judge me by my future works--good-bye!"

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Susan Henchard
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

When Henchard and Susan meet at the Ring, their conversation focuses on the future and how to reintegrate Susan and Elizabeth-Jane into the life of the now-successful Henchard. Henchard does, however, turn to discussion of the past briefly when he asks if Susan forgives him. This moment shows Henchard’s unwillingness to hear an unfavorable answer, as he dismisses Susan's reply and instead requests that Susan “judge” him by his “future works.” But why does Henchard desire Susan’s good opinion at this point in the novel? Henchard is concerned throughout this scene about his current moral character and his reputation as mayor of Casterbridge, and it seems that he cannot bear to have anyone, even Susan, think ill of him. His comment about his “future works” shows Henchard’s belief that the past can be outweighed by the future. Henchard is a complex character, and this novel works to develop his nuances and changes. He argued that the past could not be changed when his wheat was rotten, but is quick to have Susan overlook the past in favor of the future.

For her part, Susan’s murmured response to Henchard’s request for forgiveness shows her conflicted feelings about her reunion with her ex-husband. As with many characters in the novel, Susan is concealing some information (here about her motives for returning to Henchard). Henchard might have foreseen this, but he is too self-focused to be troubled by her lack of a legitimate response to his question.

Chapter 15 Quotes

But Henchard continued moody and silent, and when one of the men inquired of him if some oats should be hoisted to an upper floor or not, he said shortly, "Ask Mr. Farfrae. He's master here!" Morally he was; there could be no doubt of it. Henchard, who had hitherto been the most admired man in his circle, was the most admired no longer.

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Donald Farfrae
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Farfrae works as Henchard’s manager, but the men disagree on the treatment of their workers. This disagreement comes to a head over the habitually tardy Abel Whittle. Their public disagreement shows Farfrae to be a better man than Henchard, more level-headed and kind, and he wins over the support of the other workers. The disagreement also shows that Farfrae is willing to stand up to Henchard and does not follow all his orders. Henchard responds to both aspects of this situation negatively. He is upset by what he sees to be Farfrae’s betrayal and upset that Farfrae is more popular than himself. This passage captures the shifting power dynamic between these two men. Henchard is no longer “the most admired man in his circle” because Farfrae now fills this space.

Henchard’s bitterness and childishness is obvious to everyone. Instead of taking responsibility for his actions and continuing to lead his workers, Henchard mockingly says that Farfrae is the master when he is asked questions. This behavior is petty, as is his “moody and silent” sulking. This passage reveals another aspect of Henchard’s character: he does not react well to failure. When he fails, he worsens the problem, rather than mending it, by acting childishly. His inability to address the problem of Farfrae’s popularity and leadership means that his own popularity and control fail further. This is the very beginning of a downward spiral for Henchard who, once upset and angry, makes his situation worse by acting more upset and angry.

Chapter 16 Quotes

"Mr. Farfrae's time as my manager is drawing to a close--isn't it, Farfrae?"
The young man, who could now read the lines and folds of Henchard's strongly-traced face as if they were clear verbal inscriptions, quietly assented; and when people deplored the fact, and asked why it was, he simply replied that Mr. Henchard no longer required his help. Henchard went home, apparently satisfied. But in the morning, when his jealous temper had passed away, his heart sank within him at what he had said and done. He was the
more disturbed when he found that this time Farfrae was determined to take him at his word.

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Donald Farfrae
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard’s jealousy and anger over Farfrae’s popularity and willfulness is critical in this scene, in which Henchard publically dismisses Farfrae. In company, he says that Farfrae will soon be leaving his employ. He does not talk to Farfrae about this beforehand, nor does he explicitly fire Farfrae. However, Farfrae can tell from Henchard’s mood that it will no longer work to be Henchard’s manager. Farfrae’s decency is shown in his quietness about this problem. When it is addressed, he simply tells others that “Mr. Henchard no longer required his help.” He doesn’t speak ill of Henchard, despite having been mistreated by him, which shows his respectable and kind character.

Henchard, on the other hand, has acted rashly, which he later realizes, and then attempts to retract his statement that Farfrae should leave his employ. Although Henchard is sober at the time of his rash statement, a clear parallel can be drawn between this scene and the scene in which Henchard sells his wife and child. In both cases, Henchard later regrets his behavior and attempts to reverse the situation, but without success. Farfrae’s refusal to return to Henchard’s business is notable because it shows another strong difference in the two men's characters. Farfrae has a strong resolve and does not make decisions lightly, while Henchard repeatedly makes decisions that he later regrets—a trait that mostly hurts himself rather than others.

Chapter 19 Quotes

"Don't cry--don't cry!" said Henchard, with vehement pathos, "I can't bear it, I won't bear it. I am your father; why should you cry? Am I so dreadful, so hateful to 'ee? Don't take against me, Elizabeth-Jane!" he cried, grasping her wet hand. "Don't take against me--though I was a drinking man once, and used your mother roughly--I'll be kinder to you than he was! I'll do anything, if you will only look upon me as your father!"

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Elizabeth-Jane Newson
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

After Susan’s death, Henchard feels he can tell Elizabeth-Jane the truth (as he understands it) of her parentage. When Henchard confesses that he is Elizabeth-Jane’s father, and then tells the story of his sale of wife and daughter to Richard Newson, Elizabeth-Jane begins to cry. Henchard is deeply moved by her tears, pleading with her with “vehement pathos” (expressive, pitiable sadness). He begs for her approval and recognition of the father-daughter relationship between them. As in his reunion with Susan, Henchard focuses on overcoming the woes of the past with promises for the future. He promises to be kinder to Elizabeth-Jane than "he" (either Richard Newson or Henchard's own past self) was, if she will only accept him as her father.

Notably, Henchard’s promises of kindness depend upon Elizabeth-Jane’s behavior: she must treat him as her father. Henchard also asks that she change her last name to his to reflect their relationship. These details show that Henchard sets a lot of value on their father-daughter relationship. He cares deeply for her because she is his daughter. Her worth in his eyes is based on that connection. He does not care about Elizabeth-Jane because of the person she is, independent of that connection. This is due in part to his duty to his family, and in part to happiness he derives from familial love. Henchard’s obsession with Elizabeth-Jane’s care and support escalates at the end of the novel.

I can hardly write it, but here it is. Elizabeth-Jane is not your Elizabeth-Jane--the child who was in my arms when you sold me. No; she died three months after that, and this living one is my other husband's. I christened her by the same name we had given to the first, and she filled up the ache I felt at the other's loss. Michael, I am dying, and I might have held my tongue; but I could not.

Related Characters: Susan Henchard (speaker), Michael Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane Newson
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

After Susan’s death, Henchard finds a letter left among her belongings with the instructions that it should be opened and read on Elizabeth-Jane’s wedding day. Henchard, ignoring these instructions, opens the letter and discovers that Elizabeth-Jane is not his biological child, but a child of Richard Newson's who bears the same name. This passage shows Susan’s anguish at her confession. She “can hardly write” the truth and might have kept to herself, but feels a need to let it be known because she is dying. Susan’s reluctance to admit the truth, and her instructions on the letter, show an awareness of how Henchard will react to the news. She knows he is capable of bitterness and spite, and she must have labeled the letter in order to save this news until Elizabeth-Jane’s wedding day, because only at that point will Elizabeth-Jane be
"free" (because technically "belonging" to her husband) from Henchard’s protection and influence.

Why does Susan confess the truth? The pair has each behaved unfairly in the past and sought forgiveness. The love Susan feels for a child is clear in this quote, as she speaks of the “ache” she felt at the loss of her first daughter. It seems clear that her loyalty and love belongs first and foremost to Elizabeth-Jane, but it does not exclude a sense of familial duty to her husband Henchard.

Henchard bent and kissed her cheek. The moment and the act he had prefigured for weeks with a thrill of pleasure; yet it was no less than a miserable insipidity to him now that it had come. His reinstation of her mother had been chiefly for the girl's sake, and the fruition of the whole scheme was such dust and ashes as this.

Related Characters: Michael Henchard, Susan Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane Newson
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

Elizabeth-Jane has reconciled herself to the truth of her parentage as told to her by Henchard, just as Henchard has learned that she is not, in fact, his daughter. The irony of this—that Elizabeth-Jane should accept him as her father, just as Henchard rejects her because she is not his biological daughter—is not lost on Henchard. He feels the bitterness of a situation that he had longed for as he embraces his daughter, who is not his daughter. Henchard’s bitterness also reveals his motivation for taking in Susan and Elizabeth-Jane, for the “reinstation of her mother had chiefly been for the girl’s sake.” This means that Henchard was eager for Susan’s goodwill and forgiveness primarily because of Elizabeth-Jane, and was eager to support Elizabeth-Jane because she was his biological daughter. He refers to this process of reconciliation as a "scheme," which implies some strategic effort on Henchard’s part. He is partly frustrated in this scene because a plan of his, into which he put effort, is foiled. Henchard’s character is not generous. He expects to get his way when he inputs money and resources.

Henchard places a lot of value on familial “love,” although his feelings about Elizabeth-Jane focus on himself and his needs, which does not seem like a very expansive kind of love. He wants his daughter to be a part of his life, and sees Elizabeth-Jane’s connection to him as part of his identity as a father. He treats her less like an independent person than a possession, and he now feels little affection for her or duty to her without their biological connection.

Chapter 25 Quotes

"I will love him!" she cried passionately; "as for him--he's hot-tempered and stern, and it would be madness to bind myself to him knowing that. I won't be a slave to the past--I'll love where I choose!"

Related Characters: Lucetta Templeman (speaker), Michael Henchard, Donald Farfrae
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

Lucetta appears in Casterbridge after Susan’s death and meets Elizabeth-Jane, as well as Henchard, whom she once loved. At first, Elizabeth-Jane is unaware of the connection between Henchard and Lucetta, but when she comes to understand it she and her father agree for once: Lucetta is duty-bound to Henchard because she confessed her love to him and publically displayed her affection. Lucetta’s feelings change when she meets Farfrae and when she witnesses Henchard’s true character, which she refers to as “hot-tempered” and “stern.” After Henchard forces Lucetta to promise to marry him by threatening that he will otherwise reveal their past relationship, Lucetta must make a pivotal decision.

In this passage, Lucetta is torn between the emotion she feels in the present and her sense of duty to actions in the past. Tension between past and present, in which the past influences the present, is a common motif in this novel. Henchard and Susan feel guilt about the past and let it guide their actions in the present. Lucetta rejects this—throwing away her sense of duty to Henchard—and chooses to follow romantic love for Farfrae. She says she won’t be “a slave to the past,” as she believes that to live according to the past leads to unhappiness. It is certainly true that Elizabeth-Jane, guided by feelings of duty, is unhappy. Lucetta rejects duty in favor of happiness, partly because of romantic love and partly because she sees Henchard’s poor character and feels it would be “madness” to marry him.

Chapter 29 Quotes

Married him?" said Henchard at length. "My good--what, married him whilst--bound to marry me?" "It was like this," she explained, with tears in her eyes and quavers in her voice; "don't--don't be cruel! I loved him so much, and I thought you might tell him of the past--and that grieved me! And then, when I had promised you, I learnt of the rumor that you had--sold your first wife at a fair like a horse or cow! How could I keep my promise after hearing that?”

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Lucetta Templeman (speaker), Donald Farfrae
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

The truth of Henchard’s treatment of Susan in the past is revealed to the occupants of Casterbridge when the furmity-woman is on trial. One consequence of this is Henchard’s further decline in popularity, and another is Lucetta’s secret marriage to Farfrae. Lucetta confesses the truth to Henchard with “tears in her eyes” and a “quaver in her voice.” Her emotions may be the result of fear of Henchard’s reaction, guilt over her actions, or an attempt to gain his sympathy for her plight. She implores him to not be cruel and to attempt to understand that she saw herself released from her promise once she learned the truth about his past.

Lucetta’s motivation for her secret marriage shows in two ways that the past cannot ever be entirely overcome, overlooked, or forgiven. First, she is unable to think that Henchard might have changed in twenty-five years. She sees the actions of his past as a permanent mark of his character. She speaks of his actions in the most horrifying terms, equating his sale of his wife to treating her like a horse or cow. This is an accurate assessment, but one that overlooks Henchard’s later reunion with and kindness toward Susan and Elizabeth-Jane. Henchard’s past has come back to haunt him, preventing him from being with this woman he loves and wants to marry. Second, Lucetta’s secret marriage shows that she believes the past connection between herself and Henchard will mark her unfavorably in the present. She married Farfrae quickly because she worried that he would see her in a negative light if he learned of her past, just as she sees Henchard in a negative light because of his past.

Chapter 32 Quotes

"I have heard that you think of emigrating, Mr. Henchard?" he said. "Is it true? I have a real reason for asking." Henchard withheld his answer for several instants, and then said, "Yes; it is true. I am going where you were going to a few years ago, when I prevented you and got you to bide here. 'Tis turn and turn about, isn't it! Do ye mind how we stood like this in the Chalk Walk when I persuaded 'ee to stay? You then stood without a chattel to your name, and I was the master of the house in corn Street. But now I stand without a stick or a rag, and the master of that house is you."

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Donald Farfrae (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Second Bridge
Page Number: 223-224
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard has fallen dramatically: he has lost his role as mayor, his business, his love, and his home. Farfrae purchases Henchard's home and moves there with Lucetta, strangely reversing his and Henchard’s situations. When these two men meet and share a few words on the street, Henchard acknowledges the irony of this reversal of situation and status. Farfrae is kind to Henchard, as he always has been. He asks about Henchard’s plans to leave Casterbridge, and this highlights another reversal in situation between the two men, who once stood on the street discussing Farfrae’s plans to travel on from Casterbridge. Henchard’s acknowledgement of this situation attributes these changes to fate. It is “turn and turn about,” he says, as if the passage of time alone has caused this change in fortunes. He does not admit any fault of his own character in his fall from grace, excluding his bitterness and jealousy, his rash decisions, or his drinking habit that continues to haunt him. His self-destructive tendencies are unacknowledged, and he is left bitter at Farfrae’s rise and his fall.

"Michael Henchard have busted out drinking after taking nothing for twenty-one years!"

Related Characters: Michael Henchard
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:

The moment Henchard’s twenty-five year oath ends he begins drinking again. Not only does he drink, but he drinks in excess, casting himself into a downward spiral of bitterness and rash decisions. This new behavior is the talk of the town, which once respected its mayor for his notable restraint. This is a key turning point in the novel for a few reasons. First, Henchard’s drinking has already been strongly equated with cruel and rash behavior. Therefore, when he begins to drink again, the reader expects that this self-destructive tendency will cause his fortunes to take a turn for the worse, even though he has already lost a lot. Second, Henchard has been anticipating this moment in recent weeks, whereas he once seemed settled in his habit of abstaining from alcohol. He seeks refugee in alcohol because he is unhappy, and looks forward to drinking as a way of relieving or escaping from his unhappiness. Finally, this quote shows that Henchard, despite years of change for the better because of his oath, cannot escape his past and his character. He returns to his old habits, even though he has lived for as many years as a sober man as he did as a drinking one.

Chapter 34 Quotes

The truth was that, as may be divined, he had quite intended to effect a grand catastrophe at the end of this drama by reading out the name, he had come to the house with no other thought. But sitting here in cold blood he could not do it. Such a wrecking of hearts appalled even him. His quality was such that he could have annihilated them both in the heat of action; but to accomplish the deed by oral poison was beyond the nerve of his enmity.

Related Characters: Michael Henchard, Donald Farfrae, Lucetta Templeman
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard plans to tell Farfrae of his past romantic connection with Lucetta in the hope of turning Farfrae against his wife and poisoning their relationship. To this end, he reads some of Lucetta’s letters aloud to Farfrae, pretending he simply wants to share these stories with a friend. Farfrae isn’t suspicious of his actions, and is indulgent of a friend’s oddity in reading old love letters. Henchard finds that he cannot, in a calm and measured way, reveal the hurtful truth by reading Lucetta’s name aloud at the end of one of the letters. This quote shows a key aspect of Henchard’s character. He could have “annihilated them both in the heat of action,” meaning he is capable of great cruelty in moments of heightened emotion, but he cannot be cruel when his emotions are not stirred. In this calm atmosphere, when he is not provoked by Farfrae, it is “beyond the nerve of his enmity” to inflict great pain. “Enmity” means hostility, which he feels towards both Farfrae and Lucetta, and the “nerve of his enmity” describes what Henchard is capable of doing due to his hatred.

This passage draws an important distinction about Henchard's character. Henchard is more likely to be self-destructive than destructive to others, because he cannot inflict pain “in cold blood.” Hurting others often requires forethought, but Henchard mostly lashes out when emotional, and his anger is often public, which turns other people against his anger to hurt himself more than anyone else.

Chapter 38 Quotes

"Now," said Henchard between his gasps, "this is the end of what you began this morning. Your life is in my hands." "Then take it, take it!" said Farfrae. "Ye've wished to long enough!" Henchard looked down upon him in silence, and their eyes met. "O Farfrae!--that's not true!" he said bitterly. "God is my witness that no man ever loved another as I did thee at one time....And now--though I came here to kill 'ee, I cannot hurt thee! Go and give me in charge--do what you will--I care nothing for what comes of me!"

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Donald Farfrae (speaker)
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard attempts to interrupt the proceedings of a formal event greeting a royal personage in Casterbridge, but he is bodily removed by Farfrae, and then he overhears Lucetta speaking ill of him to others. This is the final straw for Henchard who, in anger and bitterness, seeks out Farfrae and attacks him. The two men struggle and Henchard gains the upper hand, but finds that he cannot kill Farfrae. Farfrae says that he knows Henchard has long desired to take his life. This comment interrupts Henchard’s anger because it isn’t true. This is a turning point in Henchard’s understanding of himself: he moves past anger at another to anger at himself. He realizes how much he is to blame for his own situation because he once loved a man he now wants to kill. Farfrae has not changed, but Henchard has changed how he feels about him.

Henchard’s is not generally a sympathetic character, because he brings many of his misfortunes upon himself through self-destructive behavior and cruelty toward others. This quote is a rare moment of vulnerability for Henchard, which shows him in a new light to the reader and evokes more sympathy than usual. Henchard must have been deeply hurt in order to want to lash out against someone he cared for. He cannot overcome his past actions, but he begins to feel a new type of remorse, self-hatred, and self-awareness.

Chapter 40 Quotes

When within a few yards of Farfrae's he saw the door gently opened, and a servant raise her hand to the knocker, to untie the piece of cloth which had muffled it. He went across, the sparrows in his way scarcely flying up from the road-litter, so little did they believe in human aggression at so early a time.
"Why do you take off that?" said Henchard. She turned in some surprise at his presence, and did not answer for an instant or two. Recognizing him, she said,
"Because they may knock as loud as they will; she will never hear it any more."

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Lucetta Templeman
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:

Lucetta falls sick after she witnesses the villagers of Casterbridge publically reveal the truth about and mock her amorous past with Henchard. Henchard fearfully awaits news of Lucetta’s condition, only to learn that she has died when the muffler on the door knocker is removed. Henchard’s way of learning about Lucetta’s death is a poignant metaphor for suffering. The knocker was muffled to protect the dying woman from any stressful sounds, but it is removed once “she will never hear it any more.” While alive, Lucetta suffered from external interference—gossip and rumors about her, Henchard’s threats, and the skimmington-ride. She overheard Henchard reading her letters aloud to her husband. What she could hear and witness brought Lucetta much suffering in life, as the knocking of the doorbell might. Once dead, Lucetta won’t be able to hear anymore, neither the door knocker nor any of the vicious rumors that impacted her life.

This passage uses the detail about the sparrows in the street to again bring nature in close relationship to the life and death of humans. The presence of the sparrows, and their calm lack of fear, places them near Lucetta’s death, but unaware of it. Nature is unconcerned with human suffering. At the same time, the sparrows might fear “human aggression,” which shows that humans and nature certainly do impact each other.

Chapter 41 Quotes

He watched the distant highway expecting to see Newson return on foot, enlightened and indignant, to claim his child. But no figure appeared. Possibly he had spoken to nobody on the coach, but buried his grief in his own heart. His grief!--what was it, after all, to that which he, Henchard, would feel at the loss of her? Newson's affection cooled by years, could not equal his who had been constantly in her presence. And thus his jealous soul speciously argued to excuse the separation of father and child.

Related Characters: Michael Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane Newson , Richard Newson
Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:

Richard Newson arrives in Casterbridge and seeks his daughter Elizabeth-Jane. Newson was not dead, but lost at sea, and has spent a long time searching for his missing family, guided by love for Susan and Elizabeth-Jane. Henchard, overwhelmed to meet him, tells him in a spur of the moment decision that both women have died. Newson’s grief at this news shows the true love he feels for both women. Henchard again exhibits his characteristic rash decisions and his anxiety about these decisions after the fact. Henchard dreads Newson’s return because he has grown close to Elizabeth-Jane and expects her to be a part of his life. He is once again guided by jealousy, which also motivated him in his treatment of Farfrae.

This moment is established as a parallel to Henchard’s discovery of the truth of Elizabeth-Jane’s parentage. In that moment, Henchard had achieved what he wanted—Elizabeth-Jane’s love and loyalty—only to find it lose meaning for him. In this moment, Henchard has found meaning in Elizabeth-Jane’s love and loyalty, only to find out that she could be separated from him. He had her by his side for a long time when he didn’t care to, and now that he cares for her, he may lose her. Like so many other plot twists in Hardy's work, the irony is clear and tragic.

In the circular current imparted by the central flow the form was brought forward, till it passed under his eyes; and then he perceived with a sense of horror that it was himself. Not a man somewhat resembling him, but one in all respects his counterpart, his actual double, was floating as if dead in Ten Hatches Hole. The sense of the supernatural was strong in this unhappy man, and he turned away as one might have done in the actual presence of an appalling miracle. He covered his eyes and bowed his head. Without looking again into the stream he took his coat and hat, and went slowly away.

Related Characters: Michael Henchard
Related Symbols: The Second Bridge, The Effigies
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard reaches new levels of despair when he thinks he will lose Elizabeth-Jane to Newson, just as he has grown to depend on her as his only source of happiness. Henchard’s character grows more sympathetic through this relationship: he loves Elizabeth-Jane and begins to see her virtues and value her as a person, but fears he will lose her. Newson’s reappearance emphasizes that Henchard cannot escape from his past. Having once given up his wife and daughter, it seems fated that he will not be able to keep them by his side forever. In his despair Henchard considers throwing himself into the river, but he is confronted with the effigy of himself from the skimmington-ride. The image of himself in the water seems to show him the future. This is what he will look like if he floats dead in the river. This surreal image changes his mind, and effectively saves his life.

The confrontation between man and effigy awakens Henchard from his despair because it seems to him that a miracle has occurred. He understands that the effigy is from the skimmington-ride, but it seems to him more than chance that it would appear in that place at that time. This gives him hope, or at least startles him out of his despair, because it seems that some mysterious force has intervened to protect him. And regardless of whether or not God or Fate has placed the effigy there, it has certainly appeared at that place because of the currents of the river. Therefore, although it seems a miracle to Henchard, the mysterious force at work is most notably nature itself. Nature has helped Henchard, whereas at other points in the novel it has harmed him.

“That performance of theirs killed her, but kept me alive!”

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Lucetta Templeman
Related Symbols: The Effigies
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard realizes that witnessing the effigy from the skimmington-ride has saved him, whereas witnessing the effigy of herself killed Lucetta. This is the type of irony that appears multiple times in the novel: the same event can have the opposite effect for different characters, and characters can completely reverse situations in life. While Hardy is certainly rather heavy-handed in the ironies of his plotting, his characters also witness these ironies within the plot itself: particularly Henchard, as in this passage. Henchard is awed by these ironies, and his reaction is due to his sense that something beyond his control is occurring. Irony often seems like fate because the reversal or change is so dramatic and complete. And yet despite this fatalistic quality of many of the events in this book, there are always other explanations provided for these events, such as the choices characters make or chance events of nature. 

Chapter 44 Quotes

Very often, as he wandered on, he would survey mankind and say to himself, "Here and everywhere be folk dying before their time like frosted leaves, though wanted by the world, the country, and their own families, as badly as can be; while I, an outcast, an incumbrance, wanted by nobody, I live on, and can’t die if I try.”

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker)
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:

Henchard leaves Casterbridge once Elizabeth-Jane learns the truth of her parentage and is reunited with her father Richard Newson. He is friendless and homeless, and, once again, aware of the irony of his situation. In this passage, he points out the irony that many who are loved die before their time, yet he, who is unloved, does not die. This highlights the role of chance and the indifference of nature. Chance guides life and death, rather than some rationale, such as the one Henchard suggests here: that loved people should live and the unloved should pass quietly away. Death is part of nature, as the language of this quote reminds the reader. Henchard compares the deaths of people who pass on before their time to “frosted leaves” that whither and die in the fall. Just as leaves die according to the patterns of nature, and according to the fickle behavior of the weather, so too do people die seemingly without rhyme or reason. The relationship between humans and nature, sometimes one of impact, sometimes one of coexistence, is repeatedly highlighted in the work.

Toward the end of the novel, Henchard is walking through the countryside, just as he was at the beginning of the novel. Once again he is poor, despite having passed through a period of wealth and success. His life has completed a full circle, and this isolation seems to be partly his fate and partly the result of his self-destructive behavior throughout the book.

Chapter 45 Quotes

MICHAEL HENCHARD'S WILL

"That Elizabeth-Jane Farfrae be not told of my death, or made to grieve on account of me.
"& that I be not bury'd in consecrated ground.
"& that no sexton be asked to toll the bell.
"& that nobody is wished to see my dead body.
"& that no murners walk behind me at my funeral.
"& that no flours be planted on my grave,
"& that no man remember me.
"To this I put my name.

MICHAEL HENCHARD

Related Characters: Michael Henchard (speaker), Elizabeth-Jane Newson
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel ends with Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae seeking out Henchard and finding news of him from Abel Whittle after his death. All Henchard has left behind is a will, in which he cannot bequeath anything—having no possessions, nor offspring—so what he leaves is an absence of things. He asks that nothing be done—that he not be buried, mourned, or remembered. Therefore, this “will” serves the purpose of capturing Henchard’s isolation, loneliness, and despair at the end of the novel. He has been brought to this place through his self-destructive characteristics, through the chance events of nature, and through past cruelties that were not forgiven by others.

But, Hardy suggests, forgiveness is sometimes possible against all odds. Henchard is tended in his last hours of life by Abel Whittle, whom he once treated cruelly. Elizabeth-Jane also forgives Henchard and attempts to find him, although her forgiveness comes too late to be expressed to him during his life.

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Michael Henchard Character Timeline in The Mayor of Casterbridge

The timeline below shows where the character Michael Henchard appears in The Mayor of Casterbridge. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...a man, wife, and child approach the village of Weydon-Priors on foot. The married couple, Michael and Susan Henchard, is silent as they walk. Michael is a skilled countryman with a... (full context)
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Michael and Susan arrive at the Weydon Fair. Michael tries to lead his family to a... (full context)
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Despite Susan’s reminder that they must seek lodgings for the night, Michael continues to speak animatedly with the crowd in the furmity tent. He bemoans his early... (full context)
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...public places, but she feels he is carrying his complaints with his marriage too far. Michael begins an auction for his wife, as a short man offers himself as the auctioneer.... (full context)
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Suddenly a voice from the doorway accepts Michael’s offer to sell Susan for five guineas. A sailor, named Richard Newson, has appeared there... (full context)
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Michael takes the money, and, as Susan leaves with Newson, she whirls back to her former... (full context)
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...The other customers feel that Susan’s departure has served her husband right for his behavior. Michael exclaims that she shouldn’t have taken his child with her. As the other customers depart,... (full context)
Chapter 2
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The morning sun awakens Michael Henchard the next day. He groggily recalls the events of the previous evening, as he... (full context)
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Henchard worries that he might have revealed his own name the previous evening. He is both... (full context)
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Henchard walks on until he sees a village and towering church spire. He heads to the... (full context)
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Henchard seeks his wife and child, but as the weeks turn to months and he continues... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Exactly eighteen years have passed since Michael Henchard sold his wife and child at the Weydon fair. On this early fall day,... (full context)
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...that at this fair she last saw the relative she and her daughter are seeking: Michael Henchard. When questioned further by Elizabeth-Jane about their relation to Henchard, Susan says he is... (full context)
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The furmity-woman does remember Henchard, but only because, she says, he returned to the fair the following year. At that... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Susan has never told Elizabeth-Jane the truth about Henchard and the events at the Weydon-Priors fair. Susan has also innocently believed her sale to... (full context)
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...loss at sea relieved Susan’s conscience and made her free to seek out her husband, Henchard. Susan tells Elizabeth-Jane that they are seeking a relative to ask for his support in... (full context)
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...Two talking men pass them on the road, and Elizabeth-Jane overhears them use the name “Henchard.” Susan wishes to make more private inquiries than to ask the men about Henchard and... (full context)
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...Susan withdraws, not wishing to be to be too closely observed before she learns of Henchard’s situation and whereabouts. (full context)
Chapter 5
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...room of the hotel. Susan encourages Elizabeth-Jane to make some inquiries of his group about Henchard. (full context)
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...watching a dinner of the foremost men in town, including the councilmen and the mayor, Henchard. Surprised, Elizabeth-Jane and Susan climb the steps across the street, so they can look into... (full context)
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As Susan looks at Henchard, she is overcome with emotion and withdraws into the shadows. Elizabeth-Jane asks her mother if... (full context)
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...their connection to the mayor, and watches the scene inside with interest. She notices that Henchard’s wine glass is never filled and points this out to the old man in the... (full context)
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...of the minor tradesmen seated at the foot of the table in the hotel asks Henchard about the bad bread. Despite this man’s lower social standing, others take up his question.... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...by his pleasant air and his carpetbag, which marks him as a traveler. He overhears Henchard’s final words about restoring wheat and stops to write a note, which he gives to... (full context)
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...Prussia. The young man leaves for the hotel and Elizabeth-Jane sees his note brought to Henchard at the table. Henchard is visibly affected by the note and stays quiet, thinking, as... (full context)
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Just after Susan and Elizabeth-Jane leave the crowd outside, Henchard leaves the table and asks the waiter about the young man who sent the note.... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Henchard is grateful for the note Farfrae gave him, and asks if he’d be willing to... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...lowered herself to waiting in the inn, for this would cast a poor light on Henchard, if he did connect himself with them, and this information was public. Elizabeth-Jane says she... (full context)
Chapter 9
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The next morning, Elizabeth-Jane opens their window to discover a conversation occurring between Henchard, in the street, and Farfrae, at the next-door window. Farfrae is departing and Henchard offers... (full context)
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Susan says she has been thinking of Henchard’s sudden liking for the young Scottish man, and wondering if he takes so kindly to... (full context)
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Susan decides to send Elizabeth-Jane to Henchard with a note telling him of Susan’s arrival in town, her status as a sailor’s... (full context)
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...in this old market town are exciting and fresh sights to Elizabeth-Jane. Elizabeth-Jane arrives at Henchard’s home, one of the best in town, and finds the front door open revealing a... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane enters the office to find not Henchard, but Farfrae, pouring over some samples. Momentarily confused, Elizabeth-Jane recovers and asks to see Henchard.... (full context)
Chapter 10
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As Henchard opens the door of his office to admit Elizabeth-Jane, a newcomer enters and steps forward... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane asks Henchard if she may speak with him on a personal matter. She informs him that his... (full context)
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...at the sight of the note and asks Elizabeth-Jane to recount her experience of meeting Henchard. The note asks Susan to meet Henchard at eight o’clock that evening at The Ring... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...history is The Ring, a fine amphitheater existing from this earlier civilization. The Ring in Henchard and Susan’s day serves primarily as a spot for furtive encounters, however, it never serves... (full context)
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Henchard chose The Ring as the meeting location for himself and his long-lost wife. He hopes... (full context)
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...explains her confusion and the fact that she believed her commitment to Newson was binding. Henchard says that he thinks Susan innocent in her past actions, but he is frustrated by... (full context)
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Henchard insists that the pair take nicer lodgings, so that they are perceived as genteel. Henchard... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Henchard returns home, and sees a light on in the office where Farfrae is still hard... (full context)
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Henchard wishes to tell Farfrae about a family matter, saying that he is a lonely man,... (full context)
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Henchard tells Farfrae of his commitment to another woman who had nursed him one autumn when... (full context)
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Henchard’s agreement to marry the woman who had cared for him was followed directly by Susan’s... (full context)
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Henchard concludes his tale by telling Farfrae about his daughter and her ignorance of her own... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Susan and Elizabeth-Jane live in a nice cottage paid for by Henchard. Henchard visits regularly, with business-like commitment, seeming to have schooled himself to follow his duty... (full context)
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The town of Casterbridge gossips about Henchard’s delayed choice of a wife in such a pale and fragile woman as the widowed... (full context)
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The villagers Christopher Coney, Solomon Longways, Buzzford, and their friends gather on Henchard and Susan’s wedding day to gossip. They are surprised to see Henchard has waited to... (full context)
Chapter 14
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Henchard then shares with Susan that he would like to have Elizabeth-Jane called Miss Henchard rather... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Henchard’s business thrives with Farfrae’s management. Farfrae meticulously replaces Henchard’s method of making verbal promises and... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...the townspeople until her dress evolves to contrast the plainness, which had marked her before. Henchard purchased her a fine pair of gloves, and she bought a bonnet to match them,... (full context)
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Henchard and Farfrae continue their close friendship, and yet the disagreement that would break apart their... (full context)
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The next morning at six, Abel does not arrive at work. Henchard finds the other man who was to work with him that day waiting with their... (full context)
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...Vale, so the other workers arrive at four, but there is no sign of Abel. Henchard rushes to his house and yells at the young man to head to granary—never mind... (full context)
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Farfrae and Henchard privately converse, and Farfrae entreats him not to behave in this tyrannical way. Henchard is... (full context)
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Henchard, who was once the most admired man among his workers and in Casterbridge, is the... (full context)
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Henchard goes to value the hay in Durnover and meets Farfrae along the route. Farfrae accompanies... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Henchard grows more reserved toward Farfrae, no longer putting his arm around the young man, or... (full context)
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Henchard begins preparing for his celebrations, which everyone in the town applauds when they heard that... (full context)
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Henchard’s celebrations feature a number of physical activities and games. He has greasy poles set up... (full context)
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...day arrives, overcast and gray, and it starts to rain at noon. Some people attend Henchard’s event, but the storm worsens, and the tent he had set up for the tea... (full context)
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Henchard moodily closes down his celebrations and returns home. At dusk, he walks outside and follows... (full context)
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Back in the tent, Elizabeth-Jane is dancing with Farfrae. After the dance, she looks to Henchard for fatherly approval, but instead he fixes an antagonistic glare on Farfrae. A few good-natured... (full context)
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By the next morning, Henchard’s jealous temper has passed and he regrets his pronouncement that Farfrae would soon leave his... (full context)
Chapter 17
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After Henchard’s departure from Farfrae’s celebrations, Elizabeth-Jane remains for a brief while, distressed that she in someway... (full context)
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...and has instead set himself up as an independent businessman in the same business as Henchard. Elizabeth-Jane persuades herself that Farfrae does not care for her. She dresses up in her... (full context)
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Henchard is furious at what he perceives to be Farfrae’s betrayal in setting up competition with... (full context)
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Farfrae sets up his business far from Henchard’s, on Durnover Hill. He feels there is room enough for both of them in Casterbridge... (full context)
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Every Saturday, the once-friends encounter each other at the marketplace. Whereas Farfrae is always friendly, Henchard angrily storms by him. Farfrae’s name is no longer used in Henchard’s household, and if... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Susan falls ill, but recovers after a few days. Henchard is surprised to receive a letter from the woman in Jersey whom he had thought... (full context)
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Henchard is moved by Lucetta’s letter and vows that if he is ever in a position... (full context)
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...to write something down. She puts this writing in a sealed envelope addressed to Mr. Michael Henchard, and labeled, “not to be opened until Elizabeth-Jane’s wedding day.” She locks the envelope... (full context)
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...to know each other, and one day marry. She regrets that this won’t happen given Henchard’s new hatred of Farfrae. Not long after, on a Sunday morning, Susan passes away. (full context)
Chapter 19
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Three weeks after Susan’s funeral, Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane are sitting before the fire in the evening. Henchard asks about Richard Newson’s... (full context)
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Once the truth of this story has been impressed upon Elizabeth-Jane, she begins to cry. Henchard, in distress, vows he’ll do anything to make Elizabeth-Jane happy, so long as she’ll look... (full context)
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...her mother and for Richard Newson to whom she feels she is doing some wrong. Henchard, meanwhile, goes upstairs to find some papers to prove Elizabeth-Jane’s parentage to her. He uncovers... (full context)
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Susan’s final letter reveals that Elizabeth-Jane is not, in fact, the Elizabeth-Jane whom Henchard fathered. Her first daughter with Henchard died three months after the pair was sold to... (full context)
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Henchard is upset and sits aimlessly in the room for a couple hours. He realizes that... (full context)
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Henchard’s is furious at the irony of the situation: that he would not have found Susan’s... (full context)
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Henchard decides as the next day dawns that he will not tell Elizabeth-Jane of the letter.... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Elizabeth-Jane must endure Henchard’s sudden change in behavior towards her. He confessed the truth of her parentage with affection... (full context)
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One evening when Henchard is meeting with a gentleman on business, he calls Elizabeth-Jane in to write down an... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane natural consideration for others also sparks Henchard’s anger when she thanks the maid or does something herself instead of ringing for assistance.... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane often provides a small meal or drinks for one of Henchard’s workers, a woman named Nance Mockridge. Henchard sees this and exclaims that Elizabeth-Jane will shame... (full context)
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From that day onward, Henchard showed an obvious distaste for the girl who is not his own daughter. He often... (full context)
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At home, Henchard is particularly upset. His term for mayor is ending and Farfrae will be selected as... (full context)
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Henchard contemplates his decision to warn Farfrae away from Elizabeth-Jane when he thought her his own... (full context)
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...her dead mother and then inquires after her father, who she knows to be Mr. Henchard. (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane tells the woman of her history and her quarrel with Henchard. The woman seems strangely unable to criticize Henchard, insisting that he cannot be a bad... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...alleyway before heading home. Had she lingered, she would have seen the other person was Henchard who enters by the secret doorway. He returns home not long after Elizabeth-Jane and she... (full context)
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...arranges for Elizabeth-Jane to arrive at her house and move in at six that evening. Henchard is surprised when he arrives home to see Elizabeth-Jane departing so promptly. He asks her... (full context)
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Henchard’s change of heart comes too late and Elizabeth-Jane is determined to leave. She promises she... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Henchard’s stunned reaction to Elizabeth-Jane’s new address is explained by the events of the previous evening.... (full context)
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When Henchard visited High-Place Hall the previous evening, he inquired after Miss La Sueur (the last name... (full context)
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Henchard’s excitement and hopes for Lucetta are greatly increased by her letters and he sets out... (full context)
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The next day, Lucetta dresses for Henchard’s visit and waits for him all day. She does not tell Elizabeth-Jane for whom they... (full context)
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Lucetta is disappointed that Henchard did not visit, despite having spent the day so nearby in the square. She supposes... (full context)
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Lucetta starts to cry as she realizes that she has prevented Henchard from visiting by inviting Elizabeth-Jane to live with her. Lucetta says she likes Elizabeth-Jane’s company... (full context)
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As soon as Elizabeth-Jane has departed, Lucetta writes to Henchard explaining that she has sent Elizabeth-Jane away that morning so that he may visit. Finally... (full context)
Chapter 23
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The man in the drawing room is years younger than Henchard and well dressed. The stranger is immediately apologetic, saying that he is calling upon Miss... (full context)
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Farfrae’s appearance at High-Place Hall is the result of Henchard’s note to him that he could court Elizabeth-Jane. His recent business success has made him... (full context)
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Minutes after Farfrae’s departure, Henchard calls with the message that he is only able to make a brief visit. Lucetta... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...window. The pair decides to go look at the new purchase, and, while observing it, Henchard appears and greets Elizabeth-Jane who, unknowingly, introduces him to Lucetta. As Henchard leaves, Elizabeth-Jane sees... (full context)
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...to watch the scene outside their house. Elizabeth-Jane bemoans the fact that, as she believes, Henchard does not think her respectable. Lucetta comments upon women who get themselves into compromising situations... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Henchard, meanwhile, has found his affections for Lucetta increasing due to her inaccessibility and her growing... (full context)
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Henchard says his proposal of their marriage will silence the gossip in Lucetta’s home town of... (full context)
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A wagon of Farfrae’s, accompanied by the man himself, passes by the window, and if Henchard had been looking at Lucetta’s face at that moment, he would have seen the love... (full context)
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After Henchard leaves, Lucetta passionately exclaims that she will not be a slave to the past by... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane observes both Farfrae and Henchard’s love for Lucetta and her own invisibleness in comparison. She feels that such a situation... (full context)
Chapter 26
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One spring morning, Henchard and Farfrae pass each other on the street. Despite their cold relationship, Henchard stops to... (full context)
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Henchard seeks another meeting with Lucetta and at this visit he intentionally mentions Farfrae’s name in... (full context)
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Henchard decides to hire the man who he had originally considered for the position of his... (full context)
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Henchard tells Jopp that they must drive Farfrae out of business by fair competition. Jopp dislikes... (full context)
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The bad weather seems to indicate a poor wheat crop that year, which favors Henchard and Jopp’s plan for driving Farfrae out of business. The farmers and the villagers of... (full context)
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Henchard decides to seek confirmation of the future bad weather from a hermit living outside the... (full context)
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On the security of this information, Henchard buys a large amount of grain, planning to sell at great profit, once the bad... (full context)
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Farfrae sees Henchard in the marketplace and expresses his concern over Henchard’s business situation, hoping that his losses... (full context)
Chapter 27
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The low prices of grain cause Farfrae to buy after Henchard has resold his grain and lost a significant amount of money. After three days of... (full context)
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Henchard frets that Farfrae will soon be mayor, stepping up to fill the leadership position in... (full context)
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Henchard arrives and, seeing the state of his wagon, yells at Farfrae’s man. Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta... (full context)
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As Henchard stands in the street, the constable arrives and asks him to fill in for the... (full context)
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Henchard follows them, but to avoid meeting them face-to-face hides in the field where they are... (full context)
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Lucetta returns and Henchard presses her about her connection to him, alluding to their past in Jersey. He says... (full context)
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Lucetta bitterly agrees, and had she settled upon any man other than Farfrae, Henchard might have taken pity upon her in that moment. Elizabeth-Jane is sent for to serve... (full context)
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After Henchard leaves, Elizabeth-Jane asks Lucetta how Henchard can have this much power over her, and why... (full context)
Chapter 28
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The next day, Henchard goes to the Town Hall to fill in for Dr. Chalkfield, the mayor for that... (full context)
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Finally impatient with these proceedings, Henchard interrupts and asks the old woman if she has anything to say. She says yes,... (full context)
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The other members of the court protest, but the furmity-woman says the story shows that Henchard is no better than she, and therefore unfit to pass judgment on her. Henchard confirms... (full context)
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...so curious about. The servant says that an old woman in court has revealed that Henchard once sold his wife and child for five guineas. Lucetta is greatly disturbed to hear... (full context)
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...for a few days. Elizabeth-Jane, perceiving her unhappiness, encourages this plan. While Lucetta is away, Henchard calls at the house only to learn of her absence. He calls the next day,... (full context)
Chapter 29
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...by the stick attached to its nose, and wrenches its head violently. Their rescuer is Henchard. (full context)
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Henchard consoles a frantic Lucetta, saying that he has returned the favor of saving her, as... (full context)
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...what has happened and he gives her a ride back to town. Although they see Henchard and Lucetta ahead of them, Farfrae does not hurry his horse in order to catch... (full context)
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Henchard and Lucetta’s conversation on the walk back begins with Henchard’s apology for his insistence the... (full context)
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Henchard suggests something else she could do to help him. His primary creditor Mr. Grower expects... (full context)
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Henchard bursts out angrily that Lucetta would marry Farfrae while bound in agreement to him. Lucetta... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...at being found out, Lucetta attempts to explain how her commitment to the first man (Henchard) was brought about the circumstances of their situation and the gossip of others. Elizabeth-Jane asks... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane says that she ought to marry Henchard, given how far they are entangled. If Lucetta cannot marry Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane feels that the... (full context)
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...ring on her finger, at which Elizabeth-Jane happily assumes that Lucetta has, in fact, married Henchard. Lucetta corrects her, and invites her to still live in the house with herself and... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane finds lodgings nearly across the street from Henchard’s home and arranges to move there that very night. She knows that the annual sum... (full context)
Chapter 31
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The story about Henchard’s sale of his wife and child revealed by the furmity-woman spreads throughout town, and from... (full context)
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Henchard willingly gives everything that he has to his creditors in order to settle his debts,... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane alone feels for Henchard and attempts to reconnect with him. She writes to him, but he does not reply.... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane sees that Henchard’s wagons have been painted over with Farfrae’s name. She sees Abel Whittle at work, and... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...middle of their misfortunes. Jopp often stood on this bridge after losing the position as Henchard’s manager. The second bridge is the place for unfortunate souls of a more privileged background.... (full context)
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Henchard walks to the second bridge and is gazing into the water when Jopp arrives and... (full context)
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After Jopp leaves and Henchard remains at the bridge, a gig passes and Farfrae jumps out. He stays to speak... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane’s new apartment, situated as it is across from Henchard’s old home, is now in close proximity to the lives of Farfrae and Lucetta. Elizabeth-Jane... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane hears that Henchard has fallen ill and she arrives at Jopp’s cottage. Despite Henchard’s initial protests that he... (full context)
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Henchard appreciates and cares more for Elizabeth-Jane. He is able to seek work at Farfrae’s business,... (full context)
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Henchard hears a rumor that Farfrae will be elected as mayor soon. As Henchard works, Farfrae’s... (full context)
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...by her window when she overhears voices in the street, and one that exclaims that Michael Henchard has started drinking again after twenty years of sobriety. (full context)
Chapter 33
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...Sunday afternoons. The conversation reflects the finer occasion, and that day’s sermon is often discussed. Henchard chooses The King of Prussia to that day begin his drinking. The other workingmen remark... (full context)
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Henchard requests the hundred-and-ninth psalm and when the choir leader protests and says the fourth instead,... (full context)
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...the words were meant for a living man. Elizabeth-Jane arrives and is able to convince Henchard to leave The King of Prussia. As they walk home, Henchard repeats the ending of... (full context)
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...him in order to do so. After a few days, Lucetta happens to stumble upon Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane working together. Henchard says to Lucetta that humble workmen are honored to have... (full context)
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The next day, Henchard receives a note from Lucetta asking him not to speak to her in such a... (full context)
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...from going out to drink alcohol. One day, on this errand, she arrives to find Henchard and Farfrae both working on the top floor of the corn stores. As she watches,... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...as he leaves his house. She says that she has something to tell him about Henchard and did not want to alarm Lucetta by calling at the house. She says that... (full context)
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...lightly. Later that day, Farfrae meets the town clerk about his kind plan to set Henchard up in a new shop. The clerk, Lawyer Joyce, tells Farfrae that others see what... (full context)
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Farfrae feels obligated to keep Henchard in his employ, as the man was his friend for so long, but he decides... (full context)
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...is visibly troubled. He confesses to Lucetta that he is worried about and confused by Henchard’s hatred of him. He says that he cannot understand why Henchard feels so strongly about... (full context)
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Lucetta is very troubled from that evening onward. Imprudently, she asks Henchard when she next encounters him about the parcel of love letters she had sent him... (full context)
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Henchard later realizes that the letters are most likely still in a safe in his old... (full context)
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Henchard calls the next evening to pick up the papers from the safe, having had some... (full context)
Chapter 35
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...decides to get up and see where he is. She hears voices downstairs and overhears Henchard and Farfrae. She stands transfixed by horror as she hears her own words read aloud... (full context)
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...on her bed, waiting, unable to undress or move in her state of anxiety. Had Henchard revealed the truth before leaving? She wonders. Farfrae arrives upstairs and upon observing that he... (full context)
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The next day, Lucetta wonders how to parry Henchard’s next attack. She considers telling Farfrae the truth, but is too afraid that he will... (full context)
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Lucetta prepares for the meeting with Henchard by wearing her drabbest clothes and attempting to heighten her tired and worn look that... (full context)
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When Henchard says he is sorry to see her looking so ill, Lucetta says that he is... (full context)
Chapter 36
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As Lucetta arrives at home after her secret meeting with Henchard, Jopp stops her outside. He asks her to put in a good word for him... (full context)
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Jopp returns to his cottage where Henchard asks him to do him a favor by delivering a package to Mrs. Farfrae. He... (full context)
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...morning and Lucetta promptly burns them, grateful than no evidence of her unlucky situation with Henchard remains. (full context)
Chapter 37
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...town prepares an address, and the council meets to discuss the proceedings. At this meeting, Henchard appears and asks to be able to walk with the rest of the council. (full context)
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...town, and, in this position on the council, he is the one who must refuse Henchard’s request. Henchard’s interest in walking with the council to greet the royal personage was only... (full context)
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...celebratory day arrives and all the villagers appear at their best to welcome the visitor. Henchard sees Elizabeth-Jane in the street after he has primed himself with a glass of rum.... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane sees Henchard go into a store and reappear with a small union jack flag and a large... (full context)
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...the royal carriage arrives, a walking procession of the council is formed around it. Suddenly Henchard appears among them and steps directly up to the carriage, reaching out his hand to... (full context)
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Mrs. Blowbody, a lady sitting next to Lucetta, asks whether Henchard wasn’t once Farfrae’s patron when he first arrived in Casterbridge. Lucetta exclaims that Farfrae could... (full context)
Chapter 38
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After Henchard’s failed greeting of the royal personage, he stood behind the stand where the ladies sat.... (full context)
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Henchard, without forethought and bent on taking drastic measures, goes looking for Farfrae after supper. Henchard... (full context)
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Farfrae arrives, singing the old tune he had once sung at The King of Prussia. Henchard is moved by the song and draws back saying, “No, I can’t do!” Eventually, Farfrae... (full context)
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Henchard says that Farfrae should not have insulted him as he did by bodily dragging him... (full context)
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Eventually, Henchard pins Farfrae at the edge, the young man’s head and arm dangling out the door.... (full context)
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Farfrae leaves and Henchard sits in the loft for a long time, filled with self-reproach. He says aloud that... (full context)
Chapter 39
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After his fight with Henchard, Farfrae decided to follow his plan of heading to Budmouth, until the letter requesting that... (full context)
Chapter 40
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Henchard returns to town after standing and thinking on the second bridge. He witnesses the skimmington-ride... (full context)
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Henchard resolves to seek Farfrae himself. He intercepts Farfrae’s gig on the road from Weatherby as... (full context)
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Henchard returns to Farfrae’s house alone, dismayed at this failed attempt to do something for Farfrae’s... (full context)
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Henchard returns home to Jopp’s cottage. Jopp’s face is anxious as he mentions the bad news... (full context)
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Farfrae returns home late and is greatly distressed to see his misinterpretation of Henchard’s motives. Another doctor is sent for, and Farfrae stays by Lucetta’s side throughout the night.... (full context)
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Henchard calls at Farfrae’s throughout the night, to check on Lucetta’s condition, but also to see... (full context)
Chapter 41
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Not long after Henchard learns of Lucetta’s death, he is sitting up at home when Elizabeth-Jane arrives. She gives... (full context)
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Henchard answers a knock at the door and is greeted by the stranger who stopped at... (full context)
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...to stay with him and was tormented by her sense of duty to return to Henchard. Therefore, when a storm at sea meant that many sailors were supposed dead, Newson decided... (full context)
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Henchard doggedly replies that Elizabeth-Jane has also died. He says she is buried next to her... (full context)
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Henchard realizes that perhaps Newson’s grief at believing Elizabeth-Jane dead has also prevented him inquiring further.... (full context)
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Henchard thinks about his life, in which he may live on for many more years, and... (full context)
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Henchard returns home to find Elizabeth-Jane waiting to see him, saying that he had appeared sad... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane comprehends the seriousness of Henchard’s situation and asks if she might come and live with him. He says he wishes... (full context)
Chapter 42
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Henchard lives in constant anxiety that Newson will return to Casterbridge, but as time wears on... (full context)
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...life with her could never have been the same. By the end of the year, Henchard’s seed business is doing very well. Elizabeth-Jane takes long walks most days in the direction... (full context)
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Henchard notices Elizabeth-Jane spending more money than she used to. Although her room is humble, it... (full context)
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From that point onward, Henchard keeps a close eye on Elizabeth-Jane. By hiding in The Ring, he observes the two... (full context)
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Henchard vows to himself that he will do nothing to hinder Farfrae’s courtship of Elizabeth-Jane, despite... (full context)
Chapter 43
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Henchard is tormented by Elizabeth-Jane’s silence on the matter of her relationship with Farfrae. He supposes... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane confesses to Henchard that she has received a letter from a strange man about meeting her on the... (full context)
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...loved her and cared for her. She promises not to forget him. That very evening, Henchard secretly leaves town, with only Elizabeth-Jane accompanying him as far as the second bridge. As... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane meets Farfrae on her walk back. She tells him that Henchard is gone. Farfrae has a friend that he wishes her to meet at home, and... (full context)
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Newson expresses his happiness to be involved in their lives now that Henchard is gone. He feels that he has already inserted himself into Henchard’s family life too... (full context)
Chapter 44
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Henchard travels back to Weydon-Priors and visits the location of the fair where he made the... (full context)
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Henchard obtains work again as a hay-trusser and so finds himself in exactly the same circumstance... (full context)
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One day, Henchard hears the word “Casterbridge” spoken by someone in a passing wagon and runs to the... (full context)
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Henchard decides to arrive at the wedding, in the evening, so as to make as little... (full context)
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...can hear Farfrae’s voice singing. The door is open and everything inside is brightly lit. Henchard’s courage fails him. He does not want to appear among such splendor as an embarrassment... (full context)
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Henchard watches the dance underway in the other room, and sees one man who dances particularly... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane appears, having been summoned by the servant. She tells Henchard she might once have cared for him, but she no longer can knowing that he... (full context)
Chapter 45
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...had been found starved to death, had been brought to the wedding and forgotten by Henchard. Realizing that the bird had been a gift from Henchard causes Elizabeth-Jane to reflect and... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane tells Farfrae that she wishes to find Henchard, but when he cannot be found, Elizabeth-Jane remembers that he once considered suicide and worries... (full context)
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...they enter the cottage, they find Abel who is deeply saddened. He reports that Mr. Henchard has died just before their arrival. Henchard, Abel says, was kind to his mother, and... (full context)
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Abel shows Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae a will that Henchard produced before he died. The will does not describe any inheritance, as Henchard owned nothing... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane is moved by Henchard’s bitterness in his will and regrets her unkindness at their last meeting. For a long... (full context)