The Mayor of Casterbridge | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Mayor of Casterbridge | Chapters 29–30 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 29

Walking on the road outside the town, Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane run into danger when they are threatened by a large bull, which has somehow wandered free of supervision. They take refuge in a barn, where the bull pursues them. Henchard rescues the women in the nick of time.

On the walk back to Casterbridge, Lucetta suddenly remembers she left her muff in the barn, and Elizabeth-Jane offers to retrieve it. While doing so she encounters Farfrae, who gives her a lift in his vehicle. Elizabeth-Jane tells him about Henchard saving her and Lucetta from the bull. Back in town Farfrae sets Elizabeth-Jane down and then proceeds to his own house, where furniture movers are busy. Apparently Farfrae is moving to a different residence.

Meanwhile, as he escorts Lucetta home, Henchard tells her he is sorry for extracting from her a marriage promise. He will be content, he says, if they wait several years to be married. Lucetta asks if she can do anything to thank him for saving her from the bull; she is specifically referring to finances. Henchard says he does not want her money but that she might aid him by persuading his chief creditor, Mr. Grower, to grant a two-week reprieve for Henchard's loan repayment. Lucetta is evasive at first, but then she breaks down, admitting she and Farfrae were married in Port-Bredy, with Grower as a witness. Henchard is both astonished and enraged, once again threatening Lucetta with blackmail. As the two go their separate ways, church bells and band music ring out to celebrate Lucetta's wedding.

Chapter 30

This chapter focuses on the fallout of Lucetta's bombshell announcement about her marriage to Farfrae. The chapter mainly features Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane. Lucetta tries to break the news tactfully, referring to the old fictional story she had told Elizabeth-Jane shortly after they first met. Elizabeth-Jane counsels her friend to behave honestly and to remain single. A misunderstanding ensues: Elizabeth-Jane mistakenly assumes Lucetta has married Henchard, but Lucetta corrects this impression, admitting she has married Farfrae. Lucetta wants Elizabeth-Jane to remain at High-Place Hall, but Elizabeth-Jane decides to leave immediately.

Analysis

Chapter 29 is among the most action-packed sections of the novel. Two episodes predominate: the bull's threat to Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane, from which they are saved by Henchard, and Lucetta's admission to Henchard about her secret marriage to Farfrae. Both episodes show Hardy at his best in a melodramatic, or a highly emotional and suspenseful, vein.

Chapter 30 emphasizes Elizabeth-Jane's honesty and straightforwardness, which stand in sharp contrast to the other characters' penchant for deception.

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