The Mayor of Casterbridge

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Michael Henchard’s simple, but good-hearted wife. Susan is persuaded that her sale to Richard Newson is a legitimate transaction. When a neighbor to whom she confesses the past tells her that her “marriage” to Newson is not binding, she is tortured by the conviction that she ought to return to Henchard. She conceals the truth of her history with Henchard from her daughter, Elizabeth-Jane. The long-lost husband and wife reunite at a secret place outside of Casterbridge, the Ring. When she and Henchard re-marry, she doesn’t want Elizabeth-Jane to change her name from Newson to Henchard, as she knows that Elizabeth-Jane is in fact Newson’s biological daughter. As she lays dying, Susan writes a note to Henchard, which she indicates should not be read until Elizabeth-Jane is married, that reveals the truth of her parentage.

Susan Henchard Quotes in The Mayor of Casterbridge

The The Mayor of Casterbridge quotes below are all either spoken by Susan Henchard or refer to Susan 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 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 19 Quotes

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.

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Susan Henchard Character Timeline in The Mayor of Casterbridge

The timeline below shows where the character Susan 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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...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 cynical air... (full context)
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Michael and Susan arrive at the Weydon Fair. Michael tries to lead his family to a food tent... (full context)
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Despite Susan’s reminder that they must seek lodgings for the night, Michael continues to speak animatedly with... (full context)
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Susan attempts to control her husband. He has made such jokes before in public places, but... (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 as the auction progressed.... (full context)
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Michael takes the money, and, as Susan leaves with Newson, she whirls back to her former husband and hurls her wedding ring... (full context)
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...sharply to the scene that took place inside the tent. The other customers feel that Susan’s departure has served her husband right for his behavior. Michael exclaims that she shouldn’t have... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...have revealed his own name the previous evening. He is both surprised and angered by Susan’s willingness to go along with her own sale, and he realizes that she must, in... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...his wife and child at the Weydon fair. On this early fall day, a much-changed Susan and Elizabeth-Jane take the little-changed road to Weydon-Priors. Susan is dressed in black as a... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane questions her mother as to why they are stopping at the fair. Susan says she first met Newson at this very fair, and Elizabeth sighs over the death... (full context)
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At the fair, Susan spots the same furmity-woman, now grown old and poor. Her furmity pot is outside, without... (full context)
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Susan purchases a small bowl of furmity and the woman offers to add rum to it,... (full context)
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...if a woman every inquired about him to say that he had gone to Casterbridge. Susan returns to her daughter to report that she has heard about their long-lost relative, and... (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.... (full context)
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The news of Newson’s loss at sea relieved Susan’s conscience and made her free to seek out her husband, Henchard. Susan tells Elizabeth-Jane that... (full context)
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...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 his... (full context)
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In the square before the church, a few women taste pieces of bread. Susan inquires after the nearest bakery, but the pair learns from the woman about the shortage... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Following the sounds of the brass band, Susan and Elizabeth-Jane arrive outside of the chief hotel in Casterbridge, the Golden Crown. The blinds... (full context)
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...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 the hotel room. Henchard... (full context)
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As Susan looks at Henchard, she is overcome with emotion and withdraws into the shadows. Elizabeth-Jane asks... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Just after Susan and Elizabeth-Jane leave the crowd outside, Henchard leaves the table and asks the waiter about... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Susan and Elizabeth-Jane enter The King of Prussia after debating about whether or not even this... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Elizabeth-Jane and Susan finish their meal in silence, consumed by their own thoughts. Donald Farfrae descends to the... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane returns to her room to find Susan distraught at the idea that Elizabeth-Jane lowered herself to waiting in the inn, for this... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Susan says she has been thinking of Henchard’s sudden liking for the young Scottish man, and... (full context)
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Susan decides to send Elizabeth-Jane to Henchard with a note telling him of Susan’s arrival in... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...she may speak with him on a personal matter. She informs him that his relative Susan Newson is in town and wishes to see him. Elizabeth-Jane introduces herself as Elizabeth-Jane Newson,... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane returns with the note and money to The King of Prussia. Susan is moved at the sight of the note and asks Elizabeth-Jane to recount her experience... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...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 as the... (full context)
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...pair meets in the middle of The Ring and does not speak at first, but Susan leans against Henchard who holds her in his arms. His first words are to tell... (full context)
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Susan explains her confusion and the fact that she believed her commitment to Newson was binding.... (full context)
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...they are perceived as genteel. Henchard repeats his anxiety about Elizabeth-Jane discovering the truth, and Susan assures him of how unlikely the young woman is to ever dream of the real... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...community. Henchard told her he could not marry her, out of concern that his wife Susan may yet be living. Recently, however, believing Susan to be no longer living, he decided... (full context)
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Henchard’s agreement to marry the woman who had cared for him was followed directly by Susan’s reappearance. Farfrae is baffled by Henchard’s complicated circumstances, which far exceed his own straightforward experiences.... (full context)
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...for her forgiveness, Henchard says that he will not do so, and that he and Susan will pretend to meet and remarry before renewing their lives together. (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... (full context)
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...Mrs. Newson. Henchard continues to keep up appearances despite his lack of emotional attachment to Susan. He is motivated not by love, but by his resolve to make amends to Susan,... (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 so long... (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... (full context)
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...morning at breakfast, Henchard comments upon Elizabeth-Jane’s hair, which is light brown. He says that Susan had once remarked that her daughter’s hair would turn out black. Susan gives him a... (full context)
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Henchard then shares with Susan that he would like to have Elizabeth-Jane called Miss Henchard rather than Miss Newson. Susan... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...angrily storms by him. Farfrae’s name is no longer used in Henchard’s household, and if Susan accidently mentions the young man, Henchard accuses her of also being his enemy. (full context)
Chapter 18
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Susan falls ill, but recovers after a few days. Henchard is surprised to receive a letter... (full context)
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...then he ought to do so. Such a situation would, of course, only occur if Susan died. Henchard arrives with the letters to meet Lucetta’s coach through Casterbridge, but she is... (full context)
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Susan’s health worsens. One day, after much distressed thought, she wishes to write something down. She... (full context)
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Elizabeth-Jane sits up with her sick mother through the night. During the night, Susan confesses that she was the one who sent the matching notes to Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae... (full context)
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Mrs. Cuxsom recounts the events of Susan’s death to the other townsfolk. Susan had prepared her own funeral clothes and pennies to... (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... (full context)
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...papers to prove Elizabeth-Jane’s parentage to her. He uncovers the letter addressed to him by Susan before her death. Supposing the restriction “not to be opened til Elizabeth-Jane’s wedding day” to... (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... (full context)
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...is upset and sits aimlessly in the room for a couple hours. He realizes that Susan’s stubbornness about changing Elizabeth-Jane’s last name is now explained. Eventually, he steals into Elizabeth-Jane’s room... (full context)
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Henchard’s is furious at the irony of the situation: that he would not have found Susan’s letter had he not revealed what he thought to be the truth of Elizabeth-Jane’s parentage... (full context)
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...had waited for so long, is now miserable and pointless, as he had only re-married Susan to reconnect with his daughter. The whole scheme has turned out to mean nothing to... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...received a letter from Lucetta. In this letter, Lucetta wrote that she had heard of Susan’s death and felt in these circumstances that she must reach out to Henchard in the... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...that she has his full consent to their being married, as they had planned before Susan’s return. Lucetta replies that it is still early for any such plans. He says he... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...second woman from his story, who he had planned to marry should he ever lose Susan, no longer wishes to marry him. Farfrae’s advice is that Henchard no longer owes her... (full context)
Chapter 35
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...marks a change in his demeanor when he sees her. Henchard remembers his meeting with Susan in this same place, and the similarity between Lucetta’s appearance and Susan’s appearance at that... (full context)
Chapter 41
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...Richard Newson, and a chill goes through Henchard upon hearing this name. Newson speaks of Susan’s innocence in the matter of her own sale; how she did not realize that the... (full context)
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Newson says that eventually Susan realized she was not bound to stay with him and was tormented by her sense... (full context)