The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Elizabeth-Jane’s imagination fills with the prospect of the fine lady, her new house in Casterbridge, and the possibility of her living there. One early evening, Elizabeth-Jane decides to walk up to the house, High-Place Hall, which she had passed many times, but which had never before taken on particular meaning. The new lady now occupies the house, and Elizabeth-Jane sees lights in the upper rooms. The architecture of the house is fine, but it overlooks the marketplace, which might be seen to be undesirable.
High Place Hall occupies Elizabeth-Jane’s mind as her future home and as the residence of her new friend. High Place Hall overlooks the market place, which continues to be significant while Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane live there. The house places them at the center of events in Casterbridge, as the village depends on the weekly market day.
Themes
Character Theme Icon
Moving men are going in and out of the house and Elizabeth-Jane enters as well through an open door. Startled by her own brazenness, Elizabeth-Jane quickly exits through another open door and finds herself in a little-used alleyway. Turning to look back at the door by which she had exited, Elizabeth-Jane sees that is was an old doorway, older than the house itself, decorated with a masked face decayed and worn away by age. The secret doorway with its grim face constitutes the first unpleasant aspect of Elizabeth-Jane’s visit.
Elizabeth-Jane's brazenness at entering the house shows her already strong feeling of connection to this woman she barely knows. Finding a companion marks a distinct change in her life. Yet the hidden door that she encounters represents a darker side to High Place Hall, a signal that there are secrets she doesn't understand.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
Hearing approaching footsteps, Elizabeth-Jane hides from another passerby in the 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 decides to ask him if he would allow her to move out of the house. He has no objection and offers to make her an allowance, so she can live independently. He seems relieved to part from Elizabeth-Jane and any responsibility toward her.
It is not unintentional that Henchard enters the house through this secret doorway. His business there and his connection to the woman are both secrets. Elizabeth-Jane’s request to move out pleases Henchard. His offer to support her financially is generous for him because he believes he is not responsible for the young woman who is not his daughter.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
Elizabeth-Jane returns to the graveyard to meet the lady and finds her there despite the poor weather. The woman invites her to move in immediately. The two women overhear voices from beyond the churchyard wall, one of which Elizabeth-Jane identifies as her father’s. The woman suddenly asks whether or not Elizabeth-Jane told her father where she was moving. After Elizabeth-Jane negative reply, the woman realizes she never gave her name and introduces herself as Miss Templeman.
Elizabeth-Jane and the woman both arrive at the graveyard, despite the poor weather. This demonstrates that both are eager to start their new living arrangements, and the woman reveals her motivation when she asks if Henchard knows where Elizabeth-Jane is moving. Elizabeth-Jane, however, is not suspicious.
Themes
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
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Miss Templeman 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 if departing with so little warning is any way to treat him for his trouble taking care of her. Henchard goes to her room to look over the moving of her things and sees all her efforts to study and improve herself. In a sudden change of temperament, he implores Elizabeth-Jane to stay with him saying that something specific has grieved him, which he cannot yet confess to her.
Henchard’s last minute change of heart is motivated by his selfishness. He sees that Elizabeth-Jane has tried to change herself through study, which proves the influence Henchard has over her. It is only when he realizes that he’ll lose her that Henchard sees some of her value and importance, even as only his stepdaughter.
Themes
Self-Destruction Theme Icon
Familial and Romantic Love Theme Icon
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon
Henchard’s change of heart comes too late and Elizabeth-Jane is determined to leave. She promises she will return though, if her father needs her, and she leaves, saying she is headed to High-Place Hall.
Elizabeth-Jane sticks with her plan to leave, for once doing something for her own happiness rather than another’s.
Themes
The Past and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Character Theme Icon