The Mayor of Casterbridge | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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The Mayor of Casterbridge | Chapters 7–8 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 7

This chapter features the first meeting of Michael Henchard and Donald Farfrae. In an interesting twist, the room layout at the Three Mariners allows Susan and Elizabeth-Jane to overhear the two men's conversation. Farfrae tells Henchard he is happy to give the mayor suggestions about a method for remedying the problems with the grain quality. Henchard effusively offers Farfrae a job, but the Scotchman replies he is determined to travel and see the world. Henchard persists, however, and he candidly refers to his youthful errors and his former overindulgence in strong drink.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth-Jane helps to pay for her and Susan's accommodation at the Three Mariners by assisting the landlady and staff in waiting on clients.

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 centers on various characters' reactions to Farfrae. Elizabeth-Jane, who is fond of music, is especially impressed by the young Scotchman's singing voice. The locals encourage Farfrae's singing of ballads, and he gives a rendition of Robert Burns's famous song "Auld Lang Syne." An encounter between Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae strongly foreshadows a deeper relationship later in the novel. Meanwhile, Henchard closes the chapter by registering extreme regret about Farfrae traveling to America, declaring to himself he would have offered Farfrae a third of the business to remain in Casterbridge.

Analysis

These chapters continue the juxtaposition of Michael Henchard and Donald Farfrae. Whereas Henchard is impulsive, dogged, and occasionally gloomy, Farfrae has a light touch. His youthful enthusiasm, his courtesy, and his distant origins all have the effect of captivating the locals, and Elizabeth-Jane finds him especially appealing.

The contrast between the two personalities is crystallized toward the end of Chapter 7, when Henchard asks what he should pay Farfrae for disclosing the method to improve the quality of Henchard's grain. "Nothing at all, nothing at all," replies Farfrae. "I don't value it at all." It is difficult to imagine Henchard voicing the same sentiments.

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