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The Mayor of Casterbridge
by Thomas Hardy
Michael Henchard Timeline and Summary
Twenty-year-old Michael Henchard is traveling with his wife and baby daughter, looking for work. They stop for dinner. He gets drunk, decides having a wife is a drag, and offers to sell her. A random sailor buys her for 5 guineas. Henchard regrets what he did the next day. He can't find his wife or daughter. He swears not to drink alcohol for twenty years. He moves to Casterbridge and starts working as a hay trusser (harvester). He eventually attains success as a hay and grain merchant and becomes the mayor of the town. He travels a lot for business and gets sick while he's in Jersey. A young lady feels sorry for him and helps nurse him back to health. She falls in love with him and doesn't worry about what anyone will think. Henchard goes back to Casterbridge, and the young lady keeps sending him love notes. She asks him to marry her since everyone in Jersey thinks they were sleeping together and her reputation is ruined. He's about to agree when his wife Susan comes back with her daughter. He hires a new manager, Farfrae, to take care of his business. He remarries Susan. Henchard becomes jealous of Farfrae and fires him. Susan dies, and Henchard finds out that Elizabeth-Jane isn't his real daughter, but rather the daughter of the sailor. Henchard sends Elizabeth-Jane away. The young lady from Jersey, Lucetta, comes to Casterbridge after hearing of Susan's death. She still seems to want Henchard to marry her, and he's ready and willing to do so. Henchard figures out that Lucetta must be in love with another man. Henchard's business fails and he declares bankruptcy. He finds out that Lucetta has married Farfrae on the sly. He gets hired as a day laborer for Farfrae. He's even more jealous of him now. He challenges Farfrae to a fight. He wins, but can't bring himself to kill his former friend. Henchard tries to help Lucetta after the skimmity-ride, but no one trusts him anymore. He makes up with Elizabeth-Jane and they move in together again. Then the sailor, Captain Newson, comes back, and Henchard lies to him to make sure Elizabeth will stay with him. Henchard worries that Newson will return and Elizabeth-Jane will find out that Newson is her real father. When Elizabeth-Jane is about to marry Farfrae, Henchard makes up an excuse to leave town. He wanders around for a few weeks and then dies before Elizabeth-Jane can find him.