The Mayor of Casterbridge: Chapters 21,22,23

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Summary – Chapters Twenty One, Twenty Two and Twenty Three

In Chapter Twenty One, Elizabeth-Jane is drawn to looking at High-Place Hall, but fails to see Henchard entering (as he similarly does not spot her outside either). Later that day at home, he is even worse in his treatment of her and has now become coldly indifferent. She asks if he has any objection to her leaving and he says no. She gives him no details, but says an opportunity has arisen for her to become ‘more cultivated and finished’. He offers to give her a small annuity so they can be independent of each other and she agrees to this. Elizabeth-Jane visits the churchyard once more and tells the lady she will come to her. The woman introduces herself as Miss Templeman and they both agree that Elizabeth-Jane should move in at 6 pm


When Henchard returns home, he is surprised that she is leaving so quickly. As she prepares to depart, he goes up to her room and sees all of the efforts she has made at self-improvement. He comes downstairs altered and asks her to stay. He also asks that she goes on living here as his daughter and he will tell her all in time. This proposal is 10 minutes too late, though; she is in the fly and is ready to leave, and declines his offer. He asks for her new address and his face ‘stills’ at the news.


The narrative returns to the previous evening in Chapter Twenty Two in order to explain Henchard’s attitude. Whilst Elizabeth-Jane is thinking of looking at High-Place Hall, he receives a letter by hand in Lucetta’s writing. This tells him that she has come to live in Casterbridge and knows about Susan’s death. She is glad that he acted fairly to Susan, but now wants him to carry out his promise to her (implying that he should now marry her). She also apologises for not meeting him before as her plans were altered by a family event.


Henchard had previously heard that a Miss Templeman was to move into High-Place Hall and had assumed this was a relative of Lucetta’s as she used the name La Sueur (and she was not at home when he called later). When Elizabeth-Jane tells him where she is moving to, he realizes Lucetta and Miss Templeman are the same person.


Shortly after his step-daughter’s departure, he receives another note from Lucetta. In this she explains that she has inherited some of her Aunt Templeman’s property and has taken her name to escape her own. She explains that she has asked his daughter to stay with her as this will provide him with a reason to visit her too. This news excites and pleases him, but when he calls at her home he is told Lucetta is busy at present. He is also told that she will see him the next day and he takes the news quietly, but resolves not to visit then.


The narrative then shifts to Elizabeth-Jane’s arrival at High-Place Hall and a discussion between her and Lucetta. Lucetta explains she has only had this money and property for a short while and reveals she has lived in Jersey before. The next day, Lucetta dresses for the arrival of Henchard and does not tell Elizabeth-Jane about this. Both women see him out of the window (as the house overlooks the market place) and Elizabeth-Jane also notices Farfrae. She flushes when Lucetta asks if she is looking for someone in particular.


Henchard does not come to visit as Lucetta expects and does not come over on the next few days either. Although her feelings for him have chilled somewhat, she still has strong social reasons for their union and is, therefore, disappointed in him. On Tuesday, there is a Candlemas fair and Lucetta says to her new companion that she supposes her father will visit. Elizabeth-Jane replies no, and agrees that this is the one place he will avoid. At this, Lucetta bursts into hysterical sobs and thinks her scheme has failed. She also believes Elizabeth-Jane must now be dismissed.  She sends her off to various shops as a provisional measure and 10 minutes after her departure, Lucetta sends Henchard another note requesting he comes to see her. Later, a man is shown up to her room, but it is not he.


It is revealed in Chapter Twenty Three that the man is Farfrae and he has come to see Elizabeth-Jane. Lucetta finds him and his unexpected presence attractive and tells him to sit down as she will be home soon (although this is not strictly true).


Farfrae has come because of Henchard’s note that permits him to woo his step-daughter. At first he took no notice of it, but he has just completed a successful business transaction and this gives him the means to marry. He also thinks a reconciliation with his former friend (Henchard) would flow from this union.


As Farfrae tells Lucetta about the profits he has made, she is struck by his ability to be animated and sad shortly after.  She perceives the double strands of the commercial and romantic in him. Outside the window, they see that the hiring fair is in full swing and witness a farmer bargaining to take on an old shepherd if his son will come to him too. They are both moved as the son will have to be separated from his sweetheart and Farfrae decides to hire them to avoid this separation. He goes out to complete this business and returns to Lucetta immediately to tell her about it. They then hear a man outside say that he is waiting for Farfrae and he says he must go, but says he will come again if he may. He adds that he will look at her in his thoughts. She is also attracted to him and is not deterred by his being in trade. He leaves and has forgotten that he came to see Elizabeth-Jane.


Three minutes after Farfrae’s departure, Henchard comes to visit. Lucetta asks the maid to inform him that she has a headache and will not detain him today. Her view of Elizabeth-Jane has also altered and she now wants her to stay ‘as a watch dog to keep the father off’.


Analysis – Chapters Twenty One, Twenty Two and Twenty Three

Elizabeth-Jane is seen to be exploited by Henchard and Lucetta in these chapters and it is clear that she is being used as the means to bring happiness (or not) to others. She is a pawn for Lucetta as she decides to use her to bring Henchard to her and then uses her as a ‘watchdog’ to keep him away when she becomes attracted to Farfrae. Of these main characters, only Elizabeth-Jane maintains a moral outlook as even Farfrae considers the benefits of renewing his courtship of her before visiting. He is, however, instantly swayed from his feelings for her once he meets Lucetta  and this perhaps also demonstrates that Elizabeth-Jane is the only one to remain steadfast in her views and beliefs. Furthermore, this is demonstrated throughout the novel. 

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