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The Mayor of Casterbridge | Chapter Summaries

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Timeline of Events

  • Around 1830

    Michael Henchard impulsively sells his wife, Susan, and infant daughter at a country fair.

    Chapter 1
  • 18 years later

    Susan Henchard and her daughter, Elizabeth-Jane, come to Casterbridge, where Henchard is now a wealthy mayor.

    Chapter 5
  • Soon after

    Henchard hires Donald Farfrae as his business manager.

    Chapter 9
  • Some months later

    Henchard and Farfrae quarrel and split up.

    Chapter 17
  • Soon after

    Susan, remarried to Henchard, falls ill and dies; Henchard learns he's not Elizabeth-Jane's father.

    Chapter 19
  • Soon after

    Lucetta Templeman, an old flame of Henchard's, moves to Casterbridge.

    Chapter 20
  • Soon after

    In court the furmity-woman reveals Henchard's shameful past.

    Chapter 28
  • Harvest time

    Lucetta and Farfrae are secretly married.

    Chapter 29
  • Soon after

    Henchard's oath of abstinence expires and he resumes drinking.

    Chapter 33
  • Soon after

    Malicious townsfolk stage a skimmity-ride to disgrace Henchard and Lucetta for their affair.

    Chapter 39
  • Soon after

    Richard Newson, Elizabeth-Jane's real father, appears in Casterbridge.

    Chapter 41
  • About a year later

    Henchard, impoverished and homeless, dies a lonely death in Abel Whittle's shabby cottage.

    Chapter 45

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Author's Preface Writing in the years 1895 to 1912, some years after The Mayor of Casterbridge was published (in 1886), Thomas Hardy comm... Read More
Chapters 1–2 The setting for the novel's opening scene is southwestern England in the 1820s. On an afternoon in late summer, a youn... Read More
Chapters 3–4 This chapter takes up the story after a gap of 18 years. In a mirror image of the conclusion of Chapter 2, when Michae... Read More
Chapters 5–6 Susan and Elizabeth-Jane make their way to the King's Arms, the chief hotel in Casterbridge, where a great public dinn... Read More
Chapters 7–8 This chapter features the first meeting of Michael Henchard and Donald Farfrae. In an interesting twist, the room layo... Read More
Chapters 9–10 Donald Farfrae's departure from Casterbridge is imminent. Henchard proposes they take a walk together before saying fa... Read More
Chapters 11–12 This chapter begins with a brief history of the Ring at Casterbridge, which is the local name for an ancient Roman amp... Read More
Chapters 13–14 This chapter focuses on Henchard and Susan's remarriage, as well as on the townspeople's gossip about the event. The l... Read More
Chapters 15–16 The first part of this chapter records the growing attraction between Elizabeth-Jane and Donald Farfrae. Elizabeth-Jan... Read More
Chapters 17–18 This chapter recounts the complete break between Henchard and Farfrae, who had previously been "inseparable." Farfrae ... Read More
Chapters 19–20 Susan neglected to properly seal her letter to Henchard, and seeing no reason to delay, he opens the letter and learns... Read More
Chapters 21–22 This chapter offers Elizabeth-Jane's impressions of High-Place Hall, the imposing mansion where the stranger, Lucetta,... Read More
Chapters 23–24 It turns out Farfrae is acting on the note Henchard recently wrote him, declaring Henchard would not object if Farfrae... Read More
Chapters 25–26 Donald Farfrae attends now almost entirely to Lucetta, with Elizabeth-Jane having to take a back seat. As for Henchard... Read More
Chapters 27–28 This chapter continues and extends the saga of the rivalry between Henchard and Farfrae, in both business and romance.... Read More
Chapters 29–30 Walking on the road outside the town, Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane run into danger when they are threatened by a large b... Read More
Chapters 31–32 This chapter focuses on Henchard's rapidly sinking fortunes. He is forced to declare bankruptcy. Confronting the situa... Read More
Chapters 33–34 Henchard chooses the Three Mariners Inn as the venue for resuming his consumption of alcohol. He bullies the locals as... Read More
Chapters 35–36 The action in this chapter directly picks up from the preceding one. Lucetta overhears Henchard's reading of extracts ... Read More
Chapters 37–38 Casterbridge is all agog because a member of the royal family is scheduled to visit. At a meeting of the town council,... Read More
Chapters 39–40 This chapter focuses on the skimmity-ride (also called the skimmington). As is suggested at the end of Chapter 37, som... Read More
Chapters 41–42 This chapter follows up on the foreshadowed meeting between Henchard and the long-absent—and presumed lost-at-sea—Rich... Read More
Chapters 43–45 Faced with prospects of a dismal future and disconcerted by the sight of Newson on the approach to town from Budmouth,... Read More
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