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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 33

Summary

Henchard begins to drink regularly at the Three Mariner's Inn. On Sundays, it is the custom of the choir to go to the Three Mariner's for half-a pint of liquor after church. One particular Sunday while Henchard is at the inn, he happens to see Farfrae and Lucetta strolling arm-in-arm in the street. Henchard, who has imbibed quite a bit of liquor, forces the choir to sing Psalm 109. It contains a curse against the man of "ill-gotten riches." To their dismay, Henchard tells the company the curse is meant for Farfrae. When Elizabeth-Jane takes him home, she is alarmed over Henchard's threats to wreak vengeance on Farfrae. In order to ascertain how serious Henchard's threat is and to protect him, she starts working alongside Henchard.

One day Lucetta encounters Henchard in the granary, not knowing he now works for her husband. Henchard pretends to be humble, and Lucetta is upset by his cynicism. She sends him a letter asking him not to be sarcastic. Henchard knows he could use the letter against her, but he burns it instead. One day Elizabeth-Jane sees Henchard about to push Farfrae through the trap door in the granary, but he gains control and stops himself just in time. This strengthens her resolve to speak to Farfrae immediately.

Notes

Under the influence of drink, Henchard threatens Farfrae more boldly; and he never hesitates to voice his dislike of his old rival. The pub scene with the choir reveals the deep vindictiveness that Henchard harbors against Farfrae. He openly states that the curse in Psalm 109 should be meant for Farfrae. Though other people do not take Henchard's threats against Farfrae seriously, Elizabeth- Jane is genuinely alarmed and goes to work with her stepfather in order to watch him. When she witnesses Henchard trying to push an unsuspecting Farfrae from the loft into a trap door, she resolves to warn Farfrae. The loft and the trap door are doubly significant, for another drama will be enacted there later in the novel.


It does strain the reader's credulity that Lucetta is unaware of Henchard's being employed at the granary. This ignorance on her part leads to a chance encounter with him, and he treats her cynically. Upset at his behavior, Lucetta sends Henchard another letter, proving she is as indiscreet as ever. She does not realize that she has placed a possible means of blackmail in Henchard's hands. Henchard, however, burns the letter, revealing once more his good intentions, which often go unnoticed.

CHAPTER 34

Summary

Early the next morning, Elizabeth-Jane waylays Farfrae and warns him about Henchard's intention to harm him. Though he does not take her warning seriously, he does not completely disregard it. He still wants to rent a seed shop for Henchard and speaks to Lawyer Joyce about it. The latter dissuades him and tells him how Henchard had openly threatened to ruin him. This, coupled with Elizabeth-Jane's warning, makes Farfrae drop his plan for Henchard for the time being. The owner of the shop is disappointed and misrepresents the facts to Henchard, telling him that it was Farfrae who nipped the plan in the bud; therefore, because of erroneous information, Henchard's enmity grows.

That evening Farfrae talks to Lucetta about Henchard's unreasonable enmity towards him. Lucetta is terrified and wants to leave Casterbridge. Farfrae gives the thought consideration, but just then Alderman Vatt comes in and informs him of Mayor Chalkfield's death. He also tells Farfrae that the Council would like to elect him Mayor. Farfrae decides to stay in Casterbridge.

A day or two later, Lucetta meets Henchard in the market. She asks him to return her love letters. Henchard has forgotten about the letters and goes to his former house and asks Farfrae to take them out of the safe. Henchard is not quite sober at the time. He starts reading the letters aloud to Farfrae, but does not disclose they are from Lucetta.

Notes

It is ironic that Farfrae, who has never thought ill of Henchard, does not understand why Henchard would try to harm him. He still does not know about his wife's earlier affair with him. In fact, Farfrae feels beholden to Henchard and the helping hand he had extended him when he arrived in Casterbridge. It is for this reason that he wants to buy a seed shop for Henchard to manage.

When Farfrae voices his concern about Henchard to Lucetta, she is frantic and wants to move from Casterbridge. Farfrae even considers the move until he learns that the Council wants him to become the next Mayor. When given a choice between power and safety from Henchard, Farfrae chooses power. In many ways, he is as power-hungry as Henchard once was, only he conceals it behind an amiable facade. Henchard's resentment of Farfrae further increases, however, after his election as Mayor.

When Lucetta asks Henchard to return her love letters, he realizes he still has a powerful weapon in his hands. Henchard goes to Farfrae's house that evening with the deliberate intention of exposing Lucetta. When Farfrae retrieves the letters, he begins to read them. Not knowing that Lucetta is author of the letters, Farfrae remarks the "she must have had a heart that bore transplanting very readily!" This is truly an ironic statement, for Lucetta can be accused of that very deed.

Henchard's basic decency in not revealing Lucetta's name is remarkable. Although he is rash and impulsive, he repeatedly proves he is not really vindictive. He cannot contemplate anyone's ruin in cold-blood. The reader's regard for Henchard increases because of the consideration he has shown to Lucetta.

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