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Free Study Guide for The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy-MonkeyNotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 15

Summary

In this chapter, Elizabeth-Jane becomes the center of public discussion, and her growing love for fancy clothes gives her the epithet of the "town beauty." Farfrae, in particular, is attracted to her loveliness. Although she is beautiful, she discredits herself by noting her lack of learning.

The beginnings of a rift occur between Henchard and Farfrae over an employee, Abel Whittle. Because he does not come to work on time, Henchard takes action by going to his home and demanding he come to work without his breeches on as punishment. Farfrae counters this order and says he must wear his breeches. In this clash of personalities, Farfrae wins; Henchard, however, does not conceal his lack of grace. Later on, his jealousy is further aroused when a message comes for Farfrae, not Henchard, from a farmer who wants an opinion on the value of his haystack. Henchard manages to overcome his bitterness and jealousy, and the two men continue with a renewed friendship.

Notes

As this chapter unfolds, the reader witnesses Elizabeth-Jane's dilemma. Although she attracts attention with her beauty and stylish dress, she perceives her own shortcomings. She does not feel smart or educated enough and feels shallow that her outward appearance does not match her intellect. Her internal conflict is paralleled in the outward conflict between Henchard and Farfrae. Henchard is overbearing and brusque towards his farm hands, as can be seen with his handling of Abel Whittle. In contrast, Farfrae is more considerate and tactful. He accuses Henchard of being tyrannical. After finding out that Henchard supplied Abel's old mother coal the previous winter, Farfrae seems more kindly disposed towards his boss, but another rift occurs when Henchard finds out that people want Farfrae's opinion and not his.


Henchard begins to worry about Farfrae. He thinks that his manager speaks to him on an equal footing because he has bared his heart to him regarding Susan and Lucetta. Henchard also worries that he is no longer the most admired man in town. In fact, he feels he is being upstaged by the more gracious, dignified presence of Farfrae, who is a true businessman with a measure of compassion.

CHAPTER 16

Summary

In this chapter, Henchard's manner towards Farfrae becomes increasingly more reserved. A day of public rejoicing is planned, and Farfrae borrows some rick-cloth from Henchard, for he wants to make arrangements for entertainment that requires a shelter. At first Henchard indifferently gives his permission, but later he is fired with enthusiasm to rival Farfrae's arrangements.

Unfortunately, rain ruins Henchard's planned celebrations, which are to be free and outdoors. Farfrae's celebration is a total hit, for he has made use of the canvas to provide shelter from the weather. The whole town of Casterbridge converges on his entertainment; they dance and celebrate with gay abandon. Henchard becomes jealous and gloomy, especially when he overhears the praise Farfrae receives for his arrangements and his management skills. Henchard is also upset by Elizabeth-Jane dancing with Farfrae. When Alderman Jubber teases Henchard about Farfrae outdoing him in business, he has had enough. He announces he no longer needs Farfrae as manager; Farfrae agrees. The next day Henchard wakes up and regrets his rash decision.

Notes

The reader notices a marked change in Henchard's attitude towards Farfrae. Not only is his attitude reserved but also tinged with an overbearing jealousy. When Farfrae arranges a celebration, Henchard wants to rival his preparations. This conveys an unreasonable jealousy on Henchard's part; he cannot bear praise and admiration heaped on someone else. In making his arrangements, Henchard does not take into account the possibility of rain. Here, Hardy shows the reader how Fate intervenes in the form of nature to further the antagonism between the two men. While Henchard's way of working is the rule of thumb method, Farfrae, in his pragmatic way, leaves nothing to chance, including rain.

The people of Casterbridge claim that 'Fortune' has sent Farfrae to Henchard. When Henchard overhears this, he grows jealous, resenting the man's success in business and in socializing. Henchard's hostility towards the manager comes to the surface when Alderman Jubber praises Farfrae's superior planning. Henchard can no longer contain himself and, acting on impulse, he tells Farfrae that his term as manager is drawing to a close, and he will no longer be needed. Farfrae agrees. The next day, Henchard regrets his rashness in terminating Farfrae, but it is too late.

Throughout the chapter, the reader sees that Henchard cannot seem to do a thing right, while Farfrae handles everything in an impeccable way. Additionally, the reader understands that the growing competitiveness and acrimony between the two men foreshadows trouble later in the novel.

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