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PLOT ANALYSIS AND SUMMARIES
Farfrae begins to visit Lucetta regularly. Though Elizabeth-Jane is present, she is largely ignored. She feels she stands no chance with Farfrae, for she judges Lucetta to be better than herself. She sadly accepts the situation.
One day Henchard calls on Lucetta and tells her he will marry her as soon as custom permits. He asks her to fix the day or month, but Lucetta is evasive. Henchard feels it is a refusal and leaves disappointed. Lucetta has, indeed, decided not to marry Henchard, for he is hot-tempered and stern; she is also in love with Farfrae.
The reader sees Fate directly affecting the lives of both Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane. She is perceptive enough to realize that Farfrae no longer has an interest in her and believes he has chosen the better of the two women. However, Elizabeth-Jane is filled with grief at Henchard's continued neglect of her, not understanding what she has done wrong. She also notices the contrast between Lucetta's two lovers. Farfrae has the "forced passion of youth;" Henchard is "artificially stimulated," revealing his maturing age.
Although Lucetta spurns Henchard's offer of marriage, he does not yet know he has been superseded by Farfrae in Lucetta's affection. When it becomes apparent to him, it will be another grudge he will bear against Farfrae. They will then be rivals in both business and love. But Henchard is sure to lose, for Lucetta passionately declares, "I won't be a slave to the past - I will love where I choose." She is pictured as a strong-willed woman who defies social convention and pursues what she wants.
Lucetta's indifference to Henchard begins to make him suspect a rival. One day, not knowing that Farfrae and Lucetta are in love, he asks him what to do about the woman in Jersey who now refuses to marry him. Farfrae, not knowing that Henchard is referring to Lucetta, tells him he owes her nothing. Henchard's suspicion is confirmed when he meets Farfrae in Lucetta's house. Now that Farfrae has also become his rival in love, he decides to ruin the young man financially. The first step he takes in this direction is to hire Jopp, the man who was originally to be Henchard's manager. He instructs him to cut Farfrae out of the corn business through fair competition. Henchard is so bent on ruining Farfrae that he goes to Mr. Fall, the weather diviner, to forecast the weather for the harvest fortnight. He predicts rain and storms. Based on this prediction, Henchard recklessly buys all the corn in Casterbridge. Unfortunately for him, the weather clears up, and he is forced to sell his corn at a low price in order to meet his obligations. He mortgages his property and stores of produce to the bank. He holds Jopp responsible for his bad advice and discharges him on the spot. Jopp promises to avenge himself.
It is ironic that Henchard, who has been estranged from Farfrae, should seek his advice about the lady in Jersey. Henchard still does not know Farfrae is his rival, and Farfrae does not suspect Lucetta to be the lady under discussion. When Henchard finds Farfrae in Lucetta's house, he knows for certain that he is his rival. This discovery embitters and enrages Henchard to such an extent that he loses all sense of balance and seeks to financially ruin Farfrae. He hires Jopp as a foreman and instructs him to outdo his enemy.
Driven by jealousy and revenge, Henchard is not thinking clearly. Based on Mr. Fall's predictions for rain and encouraged by Jopp, he buys all the grain in Casterbridge. Unfortunately for him, the weather improves and the grain prices crash. As a result, Henchard is ruined by Fate and his own foolishness. He has to mortgage his property to pay his debts. Henchard, as always, tries to place the blame on someone other than himself and fires Jopp. The chapter closes with the premonition of some impending disaster as Jopp vows vengeance for his abrupt dismissal.