The Mayor of Casterbridge Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


The Mayor of Casterbridge: Chapters 6,7,8

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Summary – Chapters Six, Seven and Eight

The group outside the window of the hotel grows in Chapter Six and a stranger is among the new arrivals. He hears Henchard say that bad wheat cannot be turned into ‘sound grain’ and writes a note for a waiter to pass to him. The stranger then disappears to the Three Mariners, which is a less grand hotel than the King’s Arm.


Susan and Elizabeth-Jane also go to the Three Mariners, whilst Henchard considers the information passed to him in the note. He asks about the man who wrote it and is told where he is staying. He goes there and leaves the others to carry on with the meal. This chapter ends with him entering the inn door.


In Chapter Seven, Elizabeth-Jane and Susan are shown to their rooms. Susan thinks that Henchard has become ‘too high’ for them and they will have to make their own way (in life). Elizabeth-Jane offers to help the landlady with serving in order to help pay for their stay. This is agreed upon and she has to take the stranger (who is referred to as the Scotchman) his meal. When she returns to her mother with their food, Susan signals her to be quiet as she is listening to the Scotchman talking to Henchard in the adjoining room.


They hear him introduce himself as Donald Farfrae and listen as he explains he is on his way to Bristol and then America. He insists that he is not the man who has applied for the corn-factor manager’s job and Henchard then thanks him for the note in which Farfrae claims to be able to renovate grown wheat into wholesome wheat. As Farfrae is not staying, he demonstrates how to improve it to make it ‘good seconds’. In return, Henchard thanks him and offers him the manager position, but Farfrae turns it down. He is also unable to accept Henchard’s invitation to his home as he is leaving early the next day and refuses payment for the information about the wheat. Henchard tries to persuade him to stay and says he (Farfrae) reminds him of his dead brother. Farfrae declines again, but asks if he will have a drink with him. Henchard explains this is not possible as he has taken an oath to not drink on account of a deed that he performed which he will be ashamed of until he dies. Their conversation ends with Farfrae saying he wishes he could accept the job, but he wants to see the world, and Henchard leaves.


Elizabeth-Jane takes their supper trays downstairs in Chapter Eight and watches the guests in the general room. She sees Farfrae among the drinkers and she listens as he sings to the others. He captivates them all (including Elizabeth-Jane) and there is a sense of regret when he says that he is not staying in the area. He decides to retire and the landlady asks her to turn his bed down for him. On her way back down, she passes Farfrae on the stairs and he sings to her.


She hastens on and then returns to her mother. Susan says she should not have worked at the inn tonight for the sake of ‘him’ (Henchard). If he should befriend them, it would hurt his ‘natural pride’ as Mayor to know of this.


Outside the Three Mariners, Henchard has also heard Farfrae singing and considers how much he is drawn to him. He supposes that this is because he is lonely, but would give a third share in his business to have him stay on.


Analysis – Chapters Six, Seven and Eight

These chapters introduce the influential and charismatic Scotchman, Farfrae, to the plot and he immediately captures the attention of Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane and the drinkers in the Three Mariners. Just in these three chapters it is possible to see that others are drawn to him for both his business sense and geniality.


The demarcation between Susan and her husband also becomes more apparent in Chapter Eight as she considers how he would not be pleased to know that Elizabeth-Jane has worked in the inn. She is aware that he has escaped the poverty trap he was once in and, in terms of class, he must have disassociated himself with his past.


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