The effigies are symbols in several ways within this novel. Most simplistically, the effigies are symbolic within the story and for the characters who construct them and see them. The poor folk of Mixen Lane who learn of Lucetta
’s secret past wish to harm the wealthy folk by bringing the secret into the open. By constructing the effigies of Lucetta and Henchard, and parading them through the town together, the poor folk are using the effigies to symbolize Lucetta and Henchard’s improper relationship. Lucetta, Henchard, and the other folk who witness the skimmington must understand the symbolism behind the figures in order to understand what is implied about Lucetta and Henchard. In a more complex way, the effigies function as distinct symbols for Lucetta and Henchard. Lucetta panics and faints when she sees the effigies. This reaction eventually leads to her death. The effigies threaten her happiness and the love she shares with her husband. For her, they are symbolic of the dangers of public scandal, words, and knowledge. Lucetta’s death shows that immaterial things, like fear and emotion, are as dangerous as physical weapons like swords and guns. For Lucetta, the effigies symbolize the power of secrets and information. For Henchard, the effigy of himself saves his life at the second bridge
. Seeing the effigy appears to Henchard to be a miracle, an intervention in a dark moment. The effigy symbolizes the power of situations and events to change human lives. Without the effigies, Henchard may have had a different fate.