The Mayor of Casterbridge | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Mayor of Casterbridge | Chapters 33–34 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 33

Henchard chooses the Three Mariners Inn as the venue for resuming his consumption of alcohol. He bullies the locals assembled there into singing a choral version of Psalm 109, the theme of which is bitter revenge on enemies.

Henchard's violent bluster leads Elizabeth-Jane to fear her stepfather will try to injure Farfrae. In a brief encounter Henchard treats Lucetta with withering sarcasm. Finally, Elizabeth-Jane decides to warn Farfrae about Henchard because of her stepfather's drinking.

Chapter 34

When Elizabeth-Jane acts on her resolution to caution Farfrae, he is puzzled, saying he and Henchard are friends once more. In a conversation with Lawyer Joyce, the town clerk, Farfrae broaches the topic of setting Henchard up in business at a small shop. Joyce cautions him, saying Henchard regards Farfrae with hatred. Farfrae decides to drop the idea for the moment. A rumor causes Henchard to misinterpret the situation, and his enmity toward Farfrae grows as a result.

Alderman Vatt sounds Farfrae out on the subject of being chosen as the new mayor. Meanwhile, in a chance meeting with Henchard, Lucetta renews her request for the letters she wrote him long ago. In an ominous conversation with Farfrae—who is now married to Lucetta—Henchard opens some of the letters, quoting various extracts.

Analysis

These chapters are heavily laced with dramatic irony. In Chapter 33 the use of Psalm 109 at the Three Mariners Inn is intended not for religious purposes, but rather to reveal Henchard's obsession with revenge on Farfrae. In Chapter 34 Henchard's misinterpretation of Farfrae's decision about the little seed-shop serves as another example of irony. Finally, Henchard's conversation with Farfrae and his quotations from Lucetta's letters raise the possibility that Henchard will reveal all the details of Lucetta's past to her current husband. Henchard, however, is said to shrink from such "oral poison."

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