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Quotes

Quote #1

The poor opinion, and but ill-concealed, that he entertained of the slim Farfrae's physical girth, strength, and dash, was more than counterbalanced by the immense respect he had for his brains. (14.27)

Henchard is much more stereotypically masculine than Farfrae – he's tall and strong, while Farfrae is shorter and slighter in build. Henchard has a "poor opinion" of Farfrae's physical status, but he admires his intelligence. They represent two very different versions of masculinity.

Quote #2

Sober and discreet, she was yet so hearty, that her homespun simplicity afforded none of those piquant problems which are afforded by the simplicity that is carefully constructed by art. When she walked abroad she seemed to be occupied with an inner chamber of ideas, and to have slight need for visible objects. (15.1)

Elizabeth-Jane has a very active life of the mind, which is why none of the young men are attracted to her at first. She doesn't bother with the kinds of artificial, flashy accessories that other ladies wear. She's too earnest and serious for that.

Quote #3

Everybody was attracted, and some said that her bygone simplicity was the art that conceals art, the "delicate imposition" of Rochefoucauld; she had produced an effect, a contrast, and it had been done on purpose. As a matter of fact this was not true, but it had its result; for as soon as young Casterbridge thought her artful it thought her worth notice. (15.4)

After a while, Elizabeth-Jane starts wearing fancier gloves and bonnets, and all the young men are suddenly attracted to her. They all assume the abrupt shift to a fancier style of dressing was done on purpose in order to create a contrast. It wasn't deliberate, but it doesn't matter: the narrator implies that young men like it when ladies dress for effect.

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