The Mayor of Casterbridge | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Mayor of Casterbridge | Chapters 35–36 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 35

The action in this chapter directly picks up from the preceding one. Lucetta overhears Henchard's reading of extracts from the letters she wrote him long ago, and she is terrified Henchard will tell all to Farfrae. In desperation Lucetta now writes to Henchard, begging him to have pity on her and to meet her at the Ring just before sunset.

Henchard keeps the appointment, promising Lucetta she shall have the letters and her secret will be safe.

Chapter 36

The principal interaction in this chapter is between Lucetta and Joshua Jopp. At the beginning of the chapter, Jopp asks Lucetta to put in a good word for him to Farfrae regarding a job application. He says he lived in Jersey for several years and knew her by sight. She coldly rejects his request, prompting his resentment.

Henchard gathers Lucetta's letters in a package and entrusts the parcel to Jopp for delivery. Henchard neglects, however, to seal the package properly. On his way Jopp encounters Nance Mockridge and Mother Cuxsom. They all adjourn to an inn named Peter's Finger in the neighborhood of Mixen Lane, a Casterbridge street with an unwholesome reputation.

Once at the inn, Jopp reveals the contents of the love letters, and Nance Mockridge suggests the letters furnish a suitable occasion for a skimmity-ride. Jopp gathers up the letters and delivers them to Lucetta, who receives the package with great relief and burns the correspondence.

Analysis

These chapters present two significant echoes of prior events in the novel. The first is the setting of the Ring in Chapter 35 for Henchard's meeting with Lucetta. This is the sinister place where Henchard had his first reunion with Susan in Chapter 11. Both meetings turn out to have unpredictable and unfortunate results. The second echo arises when Henchard carelessly neglects to seal the package of letters properly. This recalls Susan's error when she fails to properly seal her letter revealing Newson is Elizabeth-Jane's real father.

The contents of Lucetta's letters set the stage for the novel's climax: the skimmity-ride. This is the point of strongest emotional intensity and the pivotal turning point in the plot. Lucetta receives Henchard's package with such relief at the end of Chapter 36, but Jopp's malignity, unbeknownst to her, has already done its work.

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