The Mayor of Casterbridge | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Mayor of Casterbridge | Chapters 13–14 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 13

This chapter focuses on Henchard and Susan's remarriage, as well as on the townspeople's gossip about the event. The locals featured include Christopher Coney, Nance Mockridge, Solomon Longways, and Mrs. Cuxsom. By and large, the townspeople are puzzled: why would an important personage such as Henchard marry someone as unprepossessing as Susan?

Chapter 14

The newly constituted Henchard family settle into life in Casterbridge. Susan and Elizabeth-Jane move from a small cottage to Henchard's grand residence, and Elizabeth-Jane undergoes a great change, as she transitions from a life of need to one of comfort. Henchard grows very fond of her. He wonders, though, about her fair features: as an infant, Elizabeth-Jane seemed as if she would have darker hair when she grew older.

Henchard tells Susan he is eager for Elizabeth-Jane to go by the surname "Henchard" rather than "Newson." Elizabeth-Jane, though, seems unenthusiastic about this suggestion, and the matter is dropped.

Elizabeth-Jane notices Henchard and Farfrae are inseparable companions. She also pays some attention to Farfrae's attractive appearance and manners. The two have what seems like a chance encounter at Henchard's granary; the meeting is somewhat awkward—but also somewhat intriguing—for both of them.

Analysis

The account of Henchard and Susan's remarriage in Chapter 13 is more notable for the townspeople's remarks than for the ceremony itself. Their comments are lightly sarcastic and are expressed in Wessex dialect. The locals' interest in marital affairs and their propensity for gossip may foreshadow the malicious skimmity-ride in Chapter 39, in which public opinion becomes a lethal weapon assaulting, and then annihilating, Lucetta's reputation.

There are two other important instances of foreshadowing in Chapter 14, both bearing on Elizabeth-Jane's true paternity. As will be revealed in Chapter 19, Henchard's real daughter died in infancy, and the present Elizabeth-Jane was actually fathered by Richard Newson. The dialogue concerning her hair color and surname serves as foreshadowing for the revelations to come.

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