The Mayor of Casterbridge | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Mayor of Casterbridge | Chapters 21–22 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 21

This chapter offers Elizabeth-Jane's impressions of High-Place Hall, the imposing mansion where the stranger, Lucetta, has taken up residence in Casterbridge. The place has stood vacant for several years because some of its rooms overlook the market. Elizabeth-Jane decides to accept Lucetta's invitation to move there, and she asks Henchard for his approval. Indifference has now replaced irritability in Henchard's attitude toward Elizabeth-Jane. Seemingly happy to have her off his hands, Henchard acquiesces and even offers her an allowance.

Typically for Henchard, though, he has a wave of regret and second thoughts. When the time for the move has arrived, he begs Elizabeth-Jane to stay with him, but his entreaty comes 10 minutes too late. Meanwhile, Lucetta has told Elizabeth-Jane her name is Miss Templeman.

Chapter 22

This chapter begins with a flashback revealing that Miss Templeman and Lucetta (or Lucette) Le Sueur are the same person. Lucetta writes Henchard to tell him her invitation to Elizabeth-Jane to live as her companion at High-Place Hall was intended to make it easier and more convenient for Henchard to visit there without provoking local gossip. Upon learning this, Henchard cheers up.

After Elizabeth-Jane arrives at High-Place Hall with her possessions, she and Lucetta chat, with Lucetta disclosing some—but not all—of her background on the island of Jersey. The following morning the two women sit together watching the market. Elizabeth-Jane spots Farfrae, but she does not comment on him to Lucetta. Instead she identifies some of the locals for the newcomer.

Lucetta grows disappointed as the days pass without a visit from Henchard. She feels there now should be no impediment to their marriage, especially considering the fortune she has recently inherited from her wealthy relative in Bristol. Elizabeth-Jane tells her new friend that Henchard is probably avoiding the house because he has taken a dislike to her. This comment unnerves Lucetta, since it means her carefully prepared plans have been made in vain. Lucetta decides Elizabeth-Jane will have to be sent outside the house on some trumped-up errands so the way can be cleared for a visit from Henchard. Lucetta promptly follows through on this plan, writing Henchard yet another note to tell him the coast is clear. A visitor arrives and Lucetta eagerly greets him; it turns out to be Farfrae rather than Henchard.

Analysis

In an apparently minor vignette early in Chapter 21, Hardy wrings an effective variation on the theme of deception when he has Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane almost meet in the darkness near High-Place Hall. Neither character recognizes the other—perhaps an emblem of the persistent misunderstanding and misconceptions between them. As the narrator comments, "Henchard passed in as ignorant of her presence as she was ignorant of his identity."

In Chapter 21 Hardy also draws attention to Henchard's mood swings, which have already been noted above. For example, Henchard's "absolute indifference" to Elizabeth-Jane "had taken the place of irritability." He seems "relieved to get her off his hands." Once again, as with the payment of five guineas to Susan, an "arrangement" appears the expedient way to Henchard to solve his emotional problems or conflicts. Toward the end of the chapter, his mood changes yet again, as he comes to regret his acquiescence to Elizabeth-Jane's move to High-Place Hall. As is typical with Henchard, his regret is belated and ineffectual.

Chapter 22 includes three letters from Lucetta to Henchard. Along with other facets of her characterization, it is strongly implied that Lucetta possesses a voluble and somewhat mercurial personality. Readers will recall her original contact with Henchard—also in a letter—was to request the return of potentially compromising letters she had written him when they lived on the island of Jersey.

In the scene describing Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane's observation of the marketplace in Chapter 22, Hardy foreshadows the two women's rivalry for Farfrae's affections. Elizabeth-Jane is careful to conceal any interest she feels in Farfrae's presence at the market.

Chapter 22 is also notable for the semi-comic irony with which Lucetta's carefully laid plan for Henchard's visits to High-Place Hall is upset. Lucetta had assumed Elizabeth-Jane's presence there would facilitate Henchard's visits. Now, however, she learns Henchard is estranged from his stepdaughter. Lucetta's solution is to send Elizabeth-Jane on trumped-up errands and to apprise Henchard of the situation in yet another letter.

Chapter 22 concludes on a suspenseful note as Farfrae, not Henchard, appears at High-Place Hall. The explanation will come in the next chapter.

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