The Mayor of Casterbridge Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


The Mayor of Casterbridge: Chapters 9,10,11

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Summary – Chapters Nine, Ten and Eleven

The next morning, in Chapter Nine, Elizabeth-Jane looks out of the window and hears Henchard talking to Farfrae at his window as he asks him again to stay. After breakfast, Susan sends Elizabeth-Jane with a message for Henchard that says his relative Susan, ‘a sailor’s widow’, is in town. Susan decides that if he says no to them, they will leave Casterbridge. If he says yes, she tells Elizabeth-Jane to ask him to write her a note explaining when he will meet  with her. She also wants her daughter to inform him that she (Susan) makes no claims on him. Elizabeth-Jane finds his house and is shown to his office. She is told to enter and finds Farfrae there and he asks her to wait for Henchard.


The narrative then shifts back to explain Farfrae’s presence. Henchard has asked him to stay and work for him and Farfrae has agreed. Henchard has taken him to his house to make the terms clear and he is not satisfied until Farfrae writes off to Bristol for his luggage. He then informs Farfrae he may stay at his home until more suitable lodgings can be found.


Before Elizabeth-Jane talks to Henchard, Joshua Jopp arrives to take the position of corn-factor manager in Chapter Ten. Henchard tells him he is too late, although Jopp had been informed that he could come on Thursday or Saturday for his interview.


She sees Jopp leave and notices the bitter disappointment on his face.  She then talks to Henchard alone and tells him that Susan Newson, his distant relative by marriage, is in town. After he asks, she replies that she is her daughter, Elizabeth-Jane Newson. He realizes she does not know she is his daughter and that she is unaware of the family history. He thinks this is more than he could have expected and his wife has behaved kindly towards him in return for his unkindness.


He is given more details about what they have been doing and he gives her a note to give to her mother. He remarks aloud that Susan cannot be well off and puts five pounds and five shillings in the envelope too. When Elizabeth-Jane leaves, he begins to wonder if he has been tricked but then recalls her demeanour. He thinks of how his arrangement to meet Susan (in the note) will settle his worries anyway.


Susan opens the envelope from Henchard and is moved by the sight of it. Henchard asks to meet her at the Ring at 8 pm and also asks her to keep the girl in ignorance until after they have talked. He makes no mention of the enclosed five guineas, but ‘it may tacitly have said to her that he bought her back again’.


Chapter Eleven begins with a reference to the Ring, which is described as one of the finest Roman amphitheaters in Britain. The readers are also told that present day inhabitants of Casterbridge are unconcerned by the findings of the remains of the ‘dead men of Rome’ as they are from a far too distant past.


The Ring is a ‘frequent spot for appointments of a furtive kind’, but happy lovers rarely meet there. This is perhaps because of the sinister history of the place as the gallows had been on one corner and in 1705 a woman who had murdered her husband had been half-strangled and burned there in front of a crowd of 10,000.


Henchard has chosen the place for its privacy and because it is relatively easy for a stranger to find. When they meet, neither speaks at first and he has to support her. He explains about his oath not to drink and how he advertised and travelled to find her, but gave up after presuming she might have drowned on her voyage out to a colony. He asks why she kept silent and she explains she did this for Newson. She believed she owed him faithfulness and ‘foolishly’ believed her sale had been binding and makes no claim on Henchard now.


He asks how she could have been so ‘simple’ and she replies she does not know, but if she had not the situation with Newson would have been ‘very wicked’.  They both agree to not tell Elizabeth-Jane everything as she will despise them and he does not want to be seen to have acted disgracefully by others in the town. He tells her his plan to court her (as widow Newson) and then marry (again); Elizabeth-Jane shall come to his house as his step-daughter. Before this time, he wants them to live in more genteel surroundings and says she is to look to him for money. After a pause, ‘Mrs. Henchard’ says she likes the idea of repeating their marriage. He asks her if she forgives him and she only murmurs something. He says never mind and asks her to judge him on his future works.


Analysis – Chapters Nine, Ten and Eleven

Henchard encloses five guineas in his note to Susan and this is a symbolic gesture of his guilt. It is also posited that this may be seen as him buying her back again. Their relationship is formed on their past and when they meet again at the Ring, which is a place known for ‘furtive’ meetings, he attempts to make amends for his actions by planning another marriage with her. This plan is made with the fear that others may discover his shameful secret, though, and it is evident that although he regrets selling his wife and daughter, he is also afraid of losing his position of respect and this plays a part in how he decides to court his wife once more. His desire for his new-found family to live in more genteel surroundings reiterates this point.  


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