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Susan is a purposely vague character who seems to endure all she has undergone with stoicism. She is shown to have a weak constitution and a dim mind, expecting little from life. Her daughter appears to be the only light in gloomy existence, and she is very protective of her. Despite her seeming ignorance about the world, Susan is very cunning when it comes to affairs concerning Elizabeth-Jane. She purposefully does not disclose Henchard's relationship to her, but tells her daughter he is a distant relative. In truth, Susan seeks him out to see if he can provide financial assistance for Elizabeth-Jane. Since she is sickly, Susan wants to make certain her daughter is cared for.
When she realizes that Henchard is financially well off, she makes him believe that Elizabeth-Jane is really his daughter. Hardy explains the contradiction in Susan as an "honesty in dishonesty." At heart, Susan wants to do what is right. That is why she opposes Elizabeth-Jane's name being changed from Elizabeth-Jane Newson to Elizabeth-Jane Henchard. It is also the reason that she writes a letter to Henchard telling him the truth of Elizabeth-Jane's paternity; however, she instructs him not to read it until the girl's wedding day. Unfortunately, the impulsive does not follow Susan's instructions and opens the letter early. The explanation in the letter causes Henchard to disown Elizabeth-Jane, leading to his own misery.
Hardy does not develop Susan's character fully enough for the reader to feel real pity for her. Her real function in the novel appears to be to get the plot moving in the story. She dies conveniently once her function is over.
When Elizabeth-Jane is introduced, she is described as a woman who is "possessed of that ephemeral precious essence of youth", but she is modest about her beauty and goodness. She is also a proper young lady who seeks to act correctly and to be judged as respectable. She shudders when her mother goes to the tent of the old "'furmity woman'", because respectable people do not go there. Any departure from convention shocks her. When she is seeing Farfrae, everything is done within the bounds of propriety. It is, therefore, not surprising that Elizabeth-Jane finds Lucetta's marriage to Farfrae improper, for she had already promised to marry Henchard.
Elizabeth-Jane is modest and unassuming. When she realizes the Three Mariner's is too expensive for her mother's pockets, she does not hesitate to defray the expenses by working as a maid. Even when she is established as the Mayor's stepdaughter, she does not let that fact go to her head but continues to live in a modest way, displaying a silent, sober manner. Elizabeth-Jane is also a reflective girl who is aware of her own drawbacks. She knows there is a painful lack of learning in her, but she does not let this lack of education defeat her. With laborious and painstaking effort, she tries to teach and better herself.
Despite her lack of education, she has a true ability to grasp the meaning of situations. She watches and observes the "tigerish affection" Henchard displays towards Farfrae. She also observes their estrangement, a fact her mother does not notice in the beginning. At the Three Mariner's, she notices the likeness between her and Farfrae of sobriety and seriousness. She also quickly grasps the state of affairs between Lucetta and Farfrae. Rather than resenting the fact that she has been replaced in Farfrae's affections, she thinks that he has chosen the better woman, for she has no self-confidence.
Elizabeth-Jane tends to see the best in people and is loyal to them. When Lucetta steals Farfrae from her, Elizabeth-Jane does not abandon Lucetta, but continues to shower her with love and affection. Once Lucetta marries Farfrae, she refuses to take charity and move in with them, proving her independence. She also handles Henchard in a resourceful and independent manner. When he accuses her of being ungrateful by leaving him, she answers with spirit, "O father, how can you speak like that? It is unjust of you". Similarly, when Henchard forces Lucetta into giving a promise to marry him, Elizabeth-Jane courageously tells him not to compel her to do anything against her will.
The most striking quality in Elizabeth-Jane is her compassion. Early in the novel, she watches over her dying mother. Later, she tries to shield Lucetta from witnessing the skimmity-ride and the ridicule it will cause her. When Lucetta falls into a swoon, it is Elizabeth-Jane who takes care of her and gives directions to the servants to find Farfrae and the doctor. In a similar manner, Elizabeth-Jane is willing to shower all her love and affection on Henchard. When he deserts her, she does not understand his coldness. When Henchard, in a moment of contrition, asks her not to leave his house, she assures him she would always be there by his side if he needed her, a promise that she fulfills later in the novel. When Henchard is so depressed about his life that he is considering suicide, Elizabeth-Jane ministers to his needs like a guardian angel. When Henchard starts drinking again, Elizabeth- Jane is there to try and control him. She is also always willing to forgive him his faults.
This silent, reserved girl does not want any harm to come to anyone, be it Lucetta, Henchard, or Farfrae. She even warns Farfrae of Henchard's intention to harm him. With such a compassionate nature, it is, therefore, hard to understand her harsh treatment of Henchard after he lies to Newson about her dying. Her inability to forgive Henchard obviously comes out of her love for Newson. When she finds the dead goldfinch, however, she realizes it was a present from Henchard, a statement of repentance, and she is filled with remorse over her poor treatment of him. She rushes out to find him and beg forgiveness; but it is too late.
Although Elizabeth-Jane has not been treated kindly by life, she is not a bitter person. Instead, she tries to better herself and help others. When she finds happiness with Farfrae at the end of the book, the reader is delighted.
Lucetta Templeman (Le Sueur)
Indiscreet, flighty, scheming and vivacious are qualities of Lucetta's character. Indeed, when the reader is first introduced to her through Henchard, she appears to be rather indiscreet and careless of appearances. Her ruined reputation dogs her everywhere she goes, and she is constantly reminded of her sordid past. Like Henchard, everything she sets out to do to right her past backfires.
In Casterbridge, Lucetta comes off as an accomplished lady who speaks French and Italian fluently, who dresses elegantly, and who has proper social etiquette. She is ambitious like Henchard and wants to marry well in order to live a good life. To make sure she can win Henchard to her, she cleverly employs Elizabeth-Jane, hoping Henchard will come often to her house to see both of them.
Lucetta proves herself to be fickle. She comes to Casterbridge seeking Henchard, but when she learns the truth of his past, she abandons him. She then openly flirts with Farfrae and quickly convinces him to marry her secretly. She pushes for the marriage because Henchard is threatening to expose her past if she does not marry him. It is ironic that she wants respect more than anything, but she constantly acts in ways that are not acceptable. Like Henchard, her downfall is the result of her own shortcomings.
Lucetta has a tenuous connection with society. She has been granted access to society only due to her newly found inheritance and her marriage to Farfrae. But her tenuous position is noted in her deep-rooted fear that she will be discovered as being disreputable. She wants respect yet acts in ways that are counter intuitive and therefore like Henchard, her downfall is a result of her actions.
Jopp is representative of the worst that small-town life offers. He is small-minded and unforgiving of people. He is immoral and unscrupulous in acting out his anger in ways that fatally hurt people. He has no compunction about his deeds and feels they are justified. He enjoys nothing more than bringing people down to his level. Jopp is a true blue villain and represents the dark side of village life. His only redeeming quality is that he lets Henchard stay with him at the end of the novel when he has lost everything.
The Rustic Group
The rustics in Hardy's novels are always local folk; the ones in this book are born and bred in Casterbridge and know everyone who lives in town and everything that is going on. They provide a two- fold function. The first is to introduce an element of humor in an otherwise tragic novel. The second is to comment on the actions of the main characters. The rustics act as the voice of social mores and conventions and also spread gossip like wildfire. They are sometimes divided in their allegiance to people, as can be seen in the skimmity-ride. Taken as a whole, the rustics represent a cornucopia of voices, attitudes, and values of 19th century village life.