The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
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 he would never hear from again. This woman, Lucetta, apologizes for her past behavior of pestering him with letters of passion and frustration and knows that he has not wronged her, and that the only course available to him is to re-marry his long-lost wife. She asks that he keep their past a secret, so that she may hope for a happier future. She also wishes that the letters she sent to him be returned to her, as she travels back through Casterbridge after visiting her remaining relative in Bristol.
Susan’s first fleeting illness shows her weak health and foreshadows her death. Lucetta, Henchard’s woman from Jersey, wishes to receive the love letters she once sent to Henchard in order to hide their past connection. The letters are incriminating evidence of what, in this time period, would have been considered a scandal. Lucetta is concerned enough about her reputation to want to hide any mark of what society considers misbehavior.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
Loyalty to Duty and Commitments Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
Henchard is moved by Lucetta’s letter and vows that if he is ever in a position to carry out the proper marriage with her 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 not there. With relief, Henchard believes her plans must have changed and is glad that he did not have to see her in person.
In another moment foreshadowing Susan’s death, Henchard vows to marry Lucetta if he ever finds himself able to do so. The missed connection between Lucetta and Henchard does not seem to be the end of their story, despite Henchard’s belief that he will not have to see Lucetta.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
Loyalty to Duty and Commitments Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Susan’s health worsens. One day, after much distressed thought, she wishes 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 in her desk.
Susan’s act of writing this letter shows she believes she will not be alive as long as her daughter’s wedding day. Her need to leave some secret behind her demonstrates that she is not as naively straightforward as she seems.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
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 with the hope that they would get 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.
Susan’s confession that she wrote the notes sending Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae to the granary together is another indication of Susan’s subtly. This also shows Susan’s support for a match between the two young people, despite Henchard’s wishes.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
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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 weigh down her eyes. The maid buried these pennies according to Susan’s wishes, but another villager, Christopher Coney, dug them up and spent them. Mother Cuxsom’s listeners agree that Coney’s deed went against the wishes of the dead, but Solomon Longways argues that death shouldn’t rob the living of money, which is so hard to come by.
The novel includes this seemingly trivial story of a villager who dug up the pennies buried with Susan and spent them. This side story, however, reflects the perspective that the villagers have of the wealthier families in town. The villagers treat them with some irreverence and are willing to get involved in their business. It also shows the different lifestyles of the rich and poor: the rich can use money in non-monetary ways; the poor can't afford to behave that way.
Themes
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon