One spring morning, Henchard and Farfrae pass each other on the street. Despite their cold relationship, Henchard stops to ask Farfrae a question, explaining how the 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 anything. Because Henchard looks up from reading a letter before asking about this woman, and because of Lucetta’s dramatically altered situation, Farfrae does not suspect them to be one and the same. And while Henchard suspects a rival for Lucetta’s affections, he does not realize it is Farfrae.
Henchard and Farfrae’s passing encounter on the street reveals that the friendship that once existed between the two men has not been completely lost. Farfrae does not realize that that advice he gives Henchard—to give up on the woman who is no longer interested in him—benefits his own situation. Henchard’s discernment about Lucetta’s character only acknowledges that her lack of interest in him must be because she is interested in someone else.
Henchard seeks another meeting with Lucetta and at this visit he intentionally mentions Farfrae’s name in order to see her reaction. During Henchard’s visit, Farfrae himself arrives, and during the tense visit, Henchard attempts to discern whether Farfrae is his rival. Despite Lucetta’s nervous behavior, he cannot be certain. Elizabeth-Jane, on the other hand, present, but outside of the game, observes everything. She can tell that Lucetta likes Farfrae and is unable to keep her eyes off him at certain points, which Henchard does not observe.
When the principle players in this confusing love triangle are all in the same room, Elizabeth-Jane is more discerning than Henchard. She realizes the truth, whereas Henchard cannot be sure. Henchard is both less subtle than Elizabeth-Jane and more blinded by his own interests in the situation.
Henchard decides to hire the man who he had originally considered for the position of his business manager before meeting Farfrae, Joshua Jopp. Jopp has remained in Casterbridge living in poor circumstances, and readily accepts the job. Jopp is the only other person who knows Lucetta’s origin in Jersey, having lived there when Henchard did business in that area.
Henchard’s decision to hire Jopp reintroduces him into the story, despite his presence in Casterbridge all along. The detail about Jopp’s knowledge of Lucetta’s past in Jersey foreshadows his connection to the secret between Lucetta and Henchard, and his ability to reveal the truth.
Henchard tells Jopp that they must drive Farfrae out of business by fair competition. Jopp dislikes Farfrae for having previously claimed his position as manager and is happy to go along with this plan. Elizabeth-Jane is troubled by Henchard’s choice of a new manager, but Henchard will not listen to her advice.
Henchard, although wishing to defeat Farfrae, plans to do so through fair competition. He believes himself the superior businessman. Elizabeth-Jane, once again, has an intuitive sense of the arising problems.
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 Casterbridge and the surrounding area depend entirely upon the weather, and its effect on the growth of the wheat, for their livelihood and way or life.
The weather and nature form a backdrop for this novel, an infrequent, but recurring reminder of the town’s dependency on the harvest for their basic survival needs.
Henchard decides to seek confirmation of the future bad weather from a hermit living outside the town who is famous for his weather predictions. Those who seek out this weather-prophet’s advice always pretend that they will not take him seriously, and yet his services are sought, nonetheless. Henchard visits this man who predicts that the last fortnight in August will be rainy.
The weather hermit is both scoffed at and believed by the local people. The way his visitors pretend they will not take him seriously reflects a surface-level distrust of superstitious information. However, these people are, at heart, deeply superstitious.
On the security of this information, Henchard buys a large amount of grain, planning to sell at great profit, once the bad weather means a poor harvest and not enough wheat and corn available. After this purchase, the weather suddenly becomes sunny and the price of grain drops. Henchard is forced to sell his grain before it rots when the price is much lower than the price he paid.
Henchard’s purchasing and selling of grain is exactly what he ought not to have done given the weather. By trying to predict the weather, his business is hurt more dramatically, which shows that the weather is a force beyond human control.
Farfrae sees Henchard in the marketplace and expresses his concern over Henchard’s business situation, hoping that his losses are not too bad. Despite his cheerful response to Farfrae at the time, Henchard has to go to the Casterbridge bank later that day. Leaving the bank, he sees Jopp who he shoves up against the wall, blaming the manager for bad advice and for his current situation. Jopp swears that Henchard will be sorry for this accusation.
Although Henchard pretends his losses are not too dramatic in front of Farfrae, they are, in fact, very significant. Henchard blames Jopp for the failure, showing his inability to recognize and admit his own faults in the face of Farfrae’s continued success.