Summary – Chapters Twenty Seven, Twenty Eight and Twenty Nine
At harvest time, in Chapter Twenty Seven, there are three excellent days of weather and then it turns: ‘If only Henchard had waited long enough he might at least have avoided a loss even though he would not have made a profit either. But the momentum of his character knew no patience.’ He feels that some power is working against him and begins to feel (superstitiously) that someone may be roasting a waxen image of him, but even he cannot think it is Farfrae.
Simultaneously, Farfrae prospers all the more and Henchard thinks he will soon be made Mayor. After an altercation between two of their respective employees, Henchard blames Farfrae’s man without knowing the full details. Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta witnessed the incident, though, and tell him that it was his employee that caused the problem. This man says women cannot be trusted as they all side with Farfrae. Henchard becomes angry and says he has been paying attentions to Lucetta and cannot believe Farfrae would be so underhand. He knocks at Lucetta’s door, but she says she cannot speak to him as she is leaving for an appointment. He watches her door and sees Farfrae come and knock on it. Farfrae and Lucetta leave together and he decides to follow.
He follows them to a field where there are others working and Lucetta then decides to go home alone. Henchard continues his pursuit and walks straight in after her. He says he has a little matter to remind her of and she turns pale. He insists that she cannot in honor refuse him and unless she promises to marry him this very night, he will reveal their intimacy ‘in common fairness to all other men!’ She looks resigned but bitter at this news and rings the bell for Elizabeth-Jane to be brought from her room. Henchard uses her as his witness as he asks Lucetta to marry him. Lucetta replies that if he wishes it, she must agree. She then falls back in a ‘fainting state’ and Elizabeth-Jane asks ‘what dreadful thing drives her to say this’. Henchard tells his step-daughter not to be a simpleton and argues that this promise will leave ‘him’ free for her. Lucetta starts at this and asks whom he is talking about. Elizabeth-Jane says, ‘nobody, as far as I am concerned’. When they are alone together, Elizabeth-Jane enquires again about the power Henchard has over her, but Lucetta asks her to ‘let it all be’.
In Chapter Twenty Nine, it is the next morning and Henchard is sitting as a magistrate. There is only one case and it is of an old woman charged with the offence of disorderly female and nuisance. The constable gives evidence and his is interrupted by the woman. Henchard asks if she has any more questions or anything to say and she replies yes. With a twinkle in her eye, she tells them how, about 20 years ago, she was selling furmity in a tent at Weydon Fair. The clerk interrupts her and Henchard stares. She goes on to say that a man, woman and child had her furmity and the man had his seasoned with rum. She explains that he then sold his wife and child for five guineas to a sailor and points to Henchard and says this was the man.
The second magistrate argues that this is not relevant to the case, but she says that it is as it proves that Henchard is no better than she. Henchard admits that it is true and steps down (to avoid being tempted into judging her with his revenge).
Lucetta comes to hear of this story and it is the first time she has heard this (true) version. Misery spreads over her at the thought of marrying this man and decides to go to the seaside for a few days. Elizabeth-Jane stays on at High-Place Hall and informs Henchard of her absence when he calls for her. He nods with indifference and calls again the next day only to be told Lucetta has returned but has gone for a walk and will be at home at dusk.
On her walk, in Chapter Twenty Nine, Lucetta stops near a barn and sighs the word ‘Donald’. She looks round and sees Elizabeth-Jane approaching from the road from town. They are both diverted by a bull that is coming closer. They are frightened and head for the barn for shelter and the bull charges at them. A man enters the barn and grasps the staff that is attached to the ring in the bull’s nose. He leads the bull to the door and the light reveals it is Henchard.
All three leave the barn, but Elizabeth-Jane returns for Lucetta’s muff. She sees Farfrae approaching in a gig and she realizes that his presence accounts for Lucetta’s journey. She tells him what has happened and explains that Henchard has taken Lucetta home. They travel back in the gig and Farfrae returns to his home (and it is made clear that he is moving).
The narrative shifts to the conversation between Henchard and Lucetta as they walk home. He tells her he does not want to make her wretched (by marrying her) and says they can have an indefinite engagement. She is grateful that he has saved her (from the bull) and wants to help him in a practical way. He does want a favor, but not of money as she offers. His major creditor is Grower and he wants her to let Grower know that she and Henchard are to be married in the next fortnight (although this is not the case) as this will give Henchard a fortnight to pay him back (and will give him time to sort out his finances).
Lucetta says she cannot do this because Grower was a witness to her marriage to Farfrae. Henchard is angry and calls her a ‘false woman’. He has a mind to punish her by telling Farfrae about her past. She offers to help pay off his debt, but he will not take money from Farfrae’s wife and tells her to go home. She disappears as a band comes round the corner, which is celebrating Farfrae and Lucetta’s happiness.
Analysis – Chapters Twenty Seven, Twenty Eight and Twenty Nine
Events of the past return for Henchard when the old woman from the furmity tent reminds him of his moral failings. Irony is drawn upon as his story is made public in the magistrate court as he sits in judgement of others. He releases Lucetta from her enforced promise once the sale of his wife and child becomes known, but he still wants her to remain tied to him in a prolonged engagement. Her marriage to Farfrae pre-empts his desire and it is again ironic that Grower (who is Henchard’s major creditor) was their witness.
Henchard’s desire for control and kudos are seen to be his undoing in these chapters and yet he continues to attempt to keep power over others. He regards Lucetta as ‘false’, but fails to look to his own weaknesses and the part they have played in his fall from grace.
Summary – Chapters Thirty, Thirty One and Thirty Two
In Chapter Thirty, Farfrae’s boxes are being moved to Lucetta’s house. When he arrives there, Lucetta tells him that she still has not told Elizabeth-Jane of their news and will do so. She adds that she would like her to carry on living with them. Farfrae agrees, although he assumes she will not want to and recognizes that Lucetta does not know that Elizabeth-Jane once harbored feelings for him (and he for her).
Lucetta visits Elizabeth-Jane in her room and refers to the story of the woman with two lovers. Elizabeth-Jane tells her she knows Lucetta is referring to herself and says anyone caught up with a man in the past should marry him and Lucetta says he turned out to be a man she was afraid to marry. Elizabeth-Jane argues that the only course left for her is to be single. She also says she knows she is talking about her father and she should be with him or nobody. Her craving for ‘correctness of procedure’ is described by the narrator as ‘almost vicious’. Lucetta shows her her left hand and Elizabeth-Jane jumps with pleasure as she assumes she has married Henchard. She is disabused of this belief when Lucetta explains that she has married Farfrae and the church bells are ringing for them. Lucetta tells her that she has told Farfrae she wants her to stay with them and they will all move somewhere more suitable soon.
Elizabeth-Jane asks if she may think about this alone and Lucetta does not suspect the ‘bearings’ of Elizabeth-Jane’s emotions. When she is alone, Elizabeth-Jane decides instantly to leave the house. This is because of Lucetta’s conduct and because Farfrae had been so nearly her ‘avowed lover’. She finds lodgings opposite Henchard’s house and moves out that night.
The explanation of how the news spread of Henchard’s past is given in Chapter Thirty One and his esteem plummets. This incident in court marks the edge or turn in the incline of Henchard’s fortunes. He goes bankrupt and Elizabeth-Jane hears of this from a bystander outside the King’s Arms.
In the bankruptcy meeting, Henchard hands over all the money he has and his watch, but he is told to keep the latter and the commissioner commends him for his honesty. Henchard sells his watch later, though, and gives the amount to one of his smaller creditors. His possessions are also auctioned off and the reaction in town becomes quite sympathetic, which it has not been for a long time.
Elizabeth-Jane still believes in him, despite his roughness towards her, and tries to meet him. She writes to him, but he does not reply. He no longer lives in his house and is renting rooms in Jopp’s cottage. She visits there, but is told he is seeing no one. When she passes his old corn stores and hay barns, she sees that his name has been replaced with Farfrae’s.
In Chapter Thirty Two, Henchard is standing on a bridge when Jopp approaches him. Jopp informs him that Farfrae and Lucetta now live in his home and this galls Henchard ‘indescribably’. He then tells him Farfrae bought his furniture at the auction and leaves Henchard staring into the river. Farfrae then approaches and asks if it is true that he is emigrating. After hesitating, Henchard replies yes and then talks of how their fortunes have swapped. Farfrae agrees and says it is the way of the world.
Farfrae then asks him to stay and to listen to him (as he did to Henchard before). He asks him to come and live with them, but Henchard says no as they would quarrel. Henchard is a little moved when Farfrae asks if he wants any of his furniture and they shake hands before Henchard hastens away.
The narrative shifts to Elizabeth-Jane who is earning money ‘netting’ (as she did with her mother) and continues with her studies at other times. She hears that Henchard has been confined to his room with a cold and she decides to visit him again. He tells her to go away, but she remains and makes his room more comfortable. By the time she leaves, she has reconciled him to her visiting and he goes on to make a rapid recovery. He no longer thinks of emigrating and thinks of her more instead.
He asks for work as a hay-trusser at Farfrae’s yard and is engaged at once. At the beginning of winter, it is rumored that Farfrae will be made Mayor at some point and this brings back Henchard’s old feelings of rivalry. He undergoes a moral change and begins to say ‘only a fortnight more’, and then, ‘only a dozen days’. When asked what he means, he replies that in 12 days he will be released from his oath. The chapter ends with Elizabeth-Jane hearing a conversation that Henchard has begun drinking after 21 years. She jumps up and leaves her house at this news.
Analysis – Chapters Thirty, Thirty One and Thirty Two
The swap in fortunes between Henchard and Farfrae becomes more secure as the latter moves into Henchard’s former home and takes over his business. It appears that Henchard has become accepting of this fate and Farfrae’s apparent good will until he hears of the news of Farfrae becoming the Mayor in the near future. This news reminds him of his sense of rivalry and counts down the time to when he may drink alcohol again. Once more, his jealousy invites his unravelling.