The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

thank you to for the picture

Young Micheal Henchard and his wife Susan Henchard were walking side by side with a baby girl in her arms. Both spoke only a few words as their poor condition forced them to contemplate on what they would do to make ends meet. They embarked on a fair in a quite crowded market later on then stopped by to take a rest.

Emotional Henchard had a drink with unknown guests at a stall. As they began talking about nonsense, Susan was trying to get her husband out of the place but to no avail. Henchard kept on talking and talking till he came to the silliest idea of selling his wife and his sole child. At first, Susan nodded as she knew that must be a joke. But Henchard convinced her on his initiatives. Five shilling was more than enough for him to start a new life in a new place. While Susan, who was tortured by her husband’s ill-temper, said “yes” after she received confirmation from Henchard on his decision to sell her and their daughter. The bargain kicked off but no one was willing to spend the amount of money Henchard had set.

Just when all men interested at buying Susan and her daughter gave up, a handsome man came up and agreed with the bargain. Richard Newson, a young sailor, had been standing for five minutes when Henchard kicked off the sale. So, all was decided and off they went away whereas Henchard sat with the money in his hands.

The following day, Henchard woke up feeling clueless on what had happened. When he opened his eyes, the place was quiet. Soon, he realized on what he had done to his little family and started to regret it all. He began searching for their whereabouts for few days but no luck. He wandered all along till he saw a church. There he made a vow that he would not drink for twenty years ever since that day.

Years passed by. Two women, one was in her middle age while the other was in her teenage, were going along streets leading to the place where the bargain had occured. Susan took her daughter Elizabeth-Jane to the site in a hope they would discover Henchard. Luckily, they met the stall owner who gave little clue on his whereabouts. Soon afterwards, both left for Casterbridge, the place where the store owner had indicated.

Both survived on their own after Newson was missing during his duty in the sea. He was regarded to have died since no news was heard. Once reaching Casterbridge, they sought for information related to Henchard.

Susan quickly made up her mind not to extend their journey as she heard that her husband was still alive and a reputable person in the town. Furthermore, Henchard was now a successful farmer that upheld his current position as the mayor of the city. Susan felt worthless should she meet him by now. Elizabeth, on the other hand, opposed her mother’s desire as they had walked miles to find him.

As such, they went on to a hotel and encountered a group of people gathering in one of the rooms of the place.

Susan was astonished to recognize one of the faces was the man whom they were looking for. Yet she was reluctant to meet him after knowing his recent condition. She sent her daughter instead to join and listen to their conversation.

The essence of the talk was about people dissatisfaction with Henchard’s bread products that tasted bad. They urged him to improve the plantation but he insisted he knew no better method to make it better. Elizabeth-Jane did not really care about the discussion somehow. Instead, her eyes fell to those of a charming face who immediately left the hotel after he left a note for Henchard.

She persuaded her mother to stay at the King of Prussia, a modest inn nearby the hotel where the man, namely Donald Farfrae, chose to spend the night. The inn might cost them a bit, thought Susan, upon their arrival. To minimize the bill, Elizabeth-Jane offered herself to arrange the meal for herself and other guests. To this, the inn owner agreed as she had few persons to help her.

Farfrae did not notice when Elizabeth-Jane entered her room with a tray. Feeling a bit dissapointed, Elizabeth-Jane joined with her mother to discuss further ways to either meet with Henchard or not. Unintentionally, they overheard the dialogue between Henchard and Farfrae as the latter’s room was beside the women’s.

Henchard was attempting to make Farfrae to work at the former’s plantation. Henchard was sure the Scotchman was the manager he has been searching for. But Farfrae politely declined this offer even after Henchard was willing to pay him a handsome amount of salary. Farfrae preferred to leave for the U.S where he could seek better lives there.

Susan changed her mind. She would send her daughter to let him know his wife was in the town and was expecting that both should meet.

the picture is taken from

Henchard was surprised to see Elizabeth-Jane standing at the door of his big house. He then allowed her to sit while he was reading a letter from Susan. Happy yet still shocked, Henchard replied the letter while looking at the eyes of the girl whom he had been searching for so many years. But as the letter suggested, Henchard did not tell Elizabeth-Jane that he was her real father.

Like Susan, Farfrae changed his mind, too. He decided to receive Henchard’s offer as the latter seemed so earnest. Thus, he stayed at the house and led the plantation on a daily activity.

After more than 10 years, Susan and Henchard finally reunited. Henchard apologized on his foolish acts years before and stopped drinking ever since. Susan received his apology and both agreed to start a new chapter in their life.
Henchard suggested Susan and Elizabeth-Jane to stay in one of the cottages nearby his house so as he might visit her. He would pay all bills. And they would remarry in a short notice without any knowledge about their past.

Their plan ran smoothly. No suspicions aroused, including those of Elizabeth-Jane. After the marriage, Elizabeth-Jane and Susan stayed in Henchard’s house. Farfrae continously won Henchard’s heart as the latter told him about his past lives, including Henchard’s secret love with a woman who helped him to attain his success.

Farfrae’s well-behaved and smartness earned respect from his workers that they chose him over Henchard. To this, Henchard could not help his envy till finally he dimissed Farfrae and cut their relationship. Henchard even forbid Elizabeth-Jane to meet Farfrae as he sensed something special was growing in between the two.

Farfrae did not leave the town however. He bought a land from a resident then succesfully managed the plantation.

Susan’s health was worse then passed away. She left a letter for her daughter that had to be opened after her wedding day.

Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane shared mournful days after Susan’s death. In one of the evenings, Henchard encouraged himself to tell her the truth that he was his father, not stepfather as she used to know. Though initially she found it hard to believe but Elizabeth-Jane eventually accepted the fact then started to call him as “father”.

Susan was sleeping when Henchard entered her room. He was curious to open up a letter inside the drawer of the room. Even if there were warnings to not open the letter in the envelope before Elizabeth-Jane’s marriage, Henchard kept on unfolding it. He considered the cautions as trivial things.

Shocked than ever before, Henchard could only stare at the writings inside the envelope. Susan said that Elizabeth-Jane was not his. Henchard’s daughter died three months after the bargain and Elizabeth-Jane was Newson’s. She intentionally named her the same with Henchard’s.

Henchard changed his attitude toward Elizabeth-Jane after the truth was unveiled. He became ignorant, harsh, and made fun of her stepdaughter’s efforts to be a proper lady. On the other hand, he still kept his mouth close on her identity as his stepdaughter.

Feeling gloomy and lonely, Elizabeth-Jane paid a visit to her mother’s grave. There, she caught a glimpse of a woman, a bit older than she was but beautiful, elegant, and ladylike.

They befriended immediately. The woman, who was no other than Lucetta Templeman, was actually Henchard’s secret lover from the past. She offered Elizabeth-Jane to live at her place. Given Lucetta’s sympathy about her grief, Elizabeth-Jane welcomed the kind act. Henchard allowed his stepdaughter’s decision as he did not really care about her. He left her some amount of money after all.

Elizabeth-Jane did not know on her new friend’s purpose of coming to the town. Little did she know that Lucetta expected to meet with her stepfather. Lucetta now became a wealthy woman after her aunt left her with enough possessions to raise her position as a well-sought lady in the society.

Lucetta was waiting for Henchard after she sent Elizabeth-Jane away. Instead of Henchard, it was Farfrae who knocked the door. He wished to meet Elizabeth-jane on that day. Farfrae’s good-looking face bedazzled Lucetta while the Scotchman liked her smart joke and outspoken attitude. They soon fell in love and got married.

Learning all these facts, Elizabeth-Jane decided to move from Lucetta’s house after Farfrae moved in there. She made use of Henchard’s money to rent a room and started learning by herself. Meanwhile, Henchard felt dissapointed as he actually wanted to renew his relationship with Lucetta.

Mrs Farfrae, on the other hand, was not completely joyful as she feared Farfrae knew about her past. Thus, she demanded Henchard to return all of her letters containing her love toward the Mayor and how much she wanted to be his wife.
Farfrae’s business climbed and overpassed Henchard’s. The mayor eventyally filed for bankruptcy after he failed in a corn business. He was a great debt thus was forced to sell his belongings, including his large house and furniture.

Worse thing occured when he was present in a court to hear a trial involving a woman whom was accused to conduct badly toward a man in public. The trial turned out to be a nightmare for Henchard as the woman was the owner of the stall where which he made a bargain about his wife almost twenty years ago.

The woman, who was the defendant of the case, unwrapped the secret that Henchard was not worth it to be the mayor given what he did years before.
Henchard was a bit startled but admitted his wrongdoings. He left the court and let the event reached the ears of the residents days forward.

Amid his material loss and tainted image, He moved to Jopp’s house, his former worker whom he once refused, accepted, then befriended again. Elizabeth-Jane continued to search for Henchard’s updates despite his ill recipient toward her kind deeds. Being so poor did not come as a surprise for Henchard for he once built his empire from zero. But still, live was harder for him, who obviously was much older than his arrival in the town.

He eventually worked for Farfrae and left the town oftentimes so as he did not meet with his former friend and his wife. The newly wed, to Henchard’s surprise, occupied his former house. Farfrae even purchased Henchard’s belongings.

Lucetta found it hard to be at ease with her love letters was still in Henchard’s hands. Her world was too centered upon Farfrae that she was afraid she would lose her husband once he found out her past story with Henchard. Given Farfrae’s new position as the new mayor of the city, of course Lucetta was in a deep anxiety the news would ruin their reputation.

So, she sent a letter to Henchard and directly asked for them to meet in secret. There, she begged him to send all the letters back at her. Henchard, who was initially angry with their marriage, now pitied her so much. He promised he would return all letters.

Elizabeth-jane continued to visit Jopp’s house for her stepfather despite the first refusal. She even followed Henchard’s steps when he visited a pub to get his first drink after a twenty-year of self-promise. She seemed not ashamed of his bad behaviour when getting drunk during a gathering attended by high-profile figures in the town, including Farfrae. Given her sincere attitude, Henchard’s heart was melted. Their relationship was getting closer just like real father-daughter’s.

Farfrae became more often to leave Lucetta for business. Her past story still haunted Lucetta’s lives day and night. On one afternoon, a knock was heard upon the door. It was Jopp who was asking for Lucetta’s recommendation so as he could work for her husband. Knowing few about plantation, Lucetta refused to be involved. This left Jopp with a deep hurt.

He met with Henchard once he got home. The former mayor asked for Jopp’s help to hand a bundle of letters to Lucetta. Still feeling dissapointed, Jopp secretly opened the letters without Henchard’s knowledge who shortly shut the door after giving the letters to him.

Jopp did not immediately give the letters to Lucetta. Instead, he let his friends to read them when they gathered in a place thus the news were spread out quickly.

Henchard, who had been soft toward Farfrae, returned to his angry mode, as he heard that Lucetta told people her husband was a born succesful businessman, with or without the help from Henchard. As anger rose to his head, Henchard managed to come and wait for Farfrae’s return from business trip one night.

They were involved in a physical fight. Henchard quickly realized his wrong acts then released his rival. He felt ashamed of himself. Farfrae instead despised him.

Elizabeth-jane came to Lucetta’s room while the latter’s husband was still away. Lucetta finally revealed the secret that was haunting her life so far. Such a good friend Elizabeth-jane was that she continued to support her dearest fellow even after she married the man whom she loved so much. Lucetta fell ill that night and the doctor helped little for her recovery. Farfrae was demanded to come right away.

Feeling guilty, Henchard looked for Farfrae whom he met on a street in the midst of the business trip to other town. But the new mayor disbelieved Henchard’s information about his wife poor condition given earlier fight.

Farfrae soon learned Henchard’s truth once he discovered Lucetta was lying in her bed wanting so hard to meet him. In her latest minutes, she eventually told all of the secrets that no longer meant anything for Farfrae due to her worsening health.

credit for for the picture

Elizabeth-jane came to Jopp’s house to inform about Lucetta’s death to her stepfather. Henchard already knew about this then allowed her to spend the day at the house. He even made her breakfast. While she was sleeping, a figure knocked at the house’s door. Henchard’s eyes were widely opened once he heard that the man introduced himself as Richard Newson and he was looking for Elizabeth-jane.

Being afraid of losing the only person whom he loved, Henchard replied Newson’s intention by saying that the woman had passed away a year ago. Newson soon left the house and for a quite long moment did not return.
Henchard and Elizabeth-jane rebuilt their life by opening a grain store that developed well.

So it went well for the relationship between Farfrae and Elizabeth-jane that displeased Henchard but he did not forbid them after all. The view of Newson raced through Henchard’s minds though he was relieved that the sailor did not come back.

The time has finally come. Henchard received a report from Elizabeth-jane that a mysterious man wanted to see her at Farfrae’s residence and asked for his suggestion. Henchard allowed Elizabeth-jane to meet with the man.

Unable to imagine how would Elizabeth-jane react to his lies, Henchard prepared for little belongings to live for good. Nothing could be done to change Henchard’s decision. Elizabeth-jane accompanied him till the end of the road and they went separate ways after that.

All secrets were then opened when she met his real father, Captain Richard Newson. She cursed Henchard’s lies and so forth. A grand marriage took place afterwards in the house. Somehow, Elizabeth-jane did not look radiant in her happiest day after many years of waiting to win Farfrae’s heart. She insisted her husband to search for Henchard.

For some months, Henchard was wandering just like an outcast. He made life through any works he could find all alone.

The happy new couple found it so difficult to meet Henchard that Farfrae suggested his wife to give up the attempts. She could not agree more.

But just when they were about the return to Casterbridge, they met Abel Whittle, one of the workers in the plantation, who was following Henchard whenever they went. Unfortunately, Henchard passed away by the time they reached the place where he was staying due to illness. On his will, Henchard wished no one told Elizabeth-jane Farfrae about his death. He did not want anybody to see his corpse. Nor he did not want to be buried in consecreated ground. No flowers were to be put in his grave, and no one should remember his name.

She fulfilled Henchard’s last wishes though she knew the lists were mere lies as he was no more than a lonely human being. She developed herself into a prominent woman figure in the society and earned so much respect from them. She lived the life in more relaxed way by being more grateful. She came to learn that “happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.”


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