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PLOT SUMMARY AND NOTES
When Susan and Elizabeth-Jane arrive at the Three Mariner's, they realize the lodging, though modest, is way beyond their means. Elizabeth-Jane decides to work as a barmaid to cover some of the expenses, and Mrs. Stannidge, the landlady, agrees to the proposal. Coincidentally, she sends Elizabeth-Jane up to Farfrae's room with his supper.
When Elizabeth-Jane returns to her room, she finds her mother eavesdropping on a conversation in the adjoining room between Farfrae and Henchard. Henchard is under the impression that Farfrae is the person who had responded to his advertisement. When the mistake is cleared up, Farfrae tells him that he is going to America to try his fortune in the wheat-growing district, obviously the Midwestern United States. He tells Henchard about an innovative process that can practically restore bad wheat. Henchard offers him the management of the corn branch, promising a commission in addition to his salary. Farfrae declines Henchard's generous offer saying that his plans are fixed. The disappointed Henchard departs for home.
The fateful meeting between Henchard and Farfrae at the Three Mariner's Inn is one of the most critical aspects of the story. During the rest of the novel, the lives of the two men will be entwined and lead to the tragic outcome of the story. Susan and Elizabeth-Jane are also at the Three Mariner's because the daughter has insisted upon staying there when she learns the Scotsman is there as well. When Elizabeth-Jane realizes that she and her mother cannot afford this inn, she offers to serve as a barmaid to pay their bill.
The impulsive Henchard quickly forms opinions of people and immediately judges whom he likes and dislikes. He is instantly attracted to Farfrae and is openly disappointed that he is not the gentleman who responded to his advertisement for a corn manager. Henchard is further impressed by the renovating process for wheat that Farfrae shows him. The determined mayor does not want Farfrae to slip through his fingers, for he realizes what an invaluable asset this man can be for him. He offers Farfraie the job of manager, proposing a good salary plus a commission.
From this first encounter, Henchard and Farfrae are pictured as contrasts to each other. Besides the obvious difference of build and size between them, Farfrae is a man of science, who is knowledgeable and good at figures. Henchard, on the other hand, is "a rule-o-thumb sort of man." Farfrae is innovative, while Henchard is traditional, sticking to the old ways. Henchard also reveals that he is still haunted by his youthful misdeed and tells Farfrae that he does not drink.
Another significant aspect of this chapter is the meeting between Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae. Although it is a coincidental meeting and Farfrae barely notices her, Elizabeth-Jane is once again impressed by his striking looks. This attraction will resurface again in the book.
Farfrae, attracted by the lively conversation and singing he hears, goes down and enters into the gaiety. He entertains the crowd by singing a sentimental song about longing for home. From a distance, Elizabeth-Jane watches and feels further drawn towards Farfrae. Henchard, who is pacing the streets, also hears Farfrae's singing and is further drawn toward him. At this stage, Henchard feels he would be willing to offer him one third of his business in order to make him stay on as corn manager.
In this chapter, Farfrae is revealed to be a genial, likable person who is not afraid to socialize with those who are beneath him in society or intelligence. He easily wins over the group at the Three Mariner's with his singing. His melodies are so plaintively rendered that even the locals, who are used to giving sneers and derision, are moved by it. Elizabeth-Jane and Henchard are also separately drawn towards his singing.
Elizabeth-Jane admires Farfrae for "the serious light in which he looked at serious things." Both of them appear to be akin in thought, believing that life is "a tragedy rather than a comedy." When they meet accidentally on the staircase, Farfrae is attracted by her "earnestness and soberness." Their meeting reveals that Elizabeth-Jane is shy and modest.
Henchard is attracted to Farfrae for his knowledge. He desperately needs a smart and dependable corn manager and believes this Scotsman is the right man for the job. The locals at the inn humorously make Farfrae out to be some exotic stranger. They admire and talk about him in their simple, rustic way.