Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
Why doesn't Susan resist the wife auction? Why is it so important that she believe the sale is legally and morally binding? Do you feel sympathy for her? Why or why not?
Why is Elizabeth-Jane so reluctant to be happy? Look at the last sentence of the novel: her "youth had seemed to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain." Even though Elizabeth-Jane lives happily ever after, it seems she's just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for her luck to change again. Why?
Why does Henchard like Farfrae so much at first? Why doesn't Farfrae like Henchard as much as Henchard likes him? What makes Farfrae such a likeable guy?
Hardy revised this novel many times and changed several scenes. In other versions, Henchard has already married Lucetta when Susan shows up in Casterbridge. How would this change the way you approach the rest of the novel? Consider especially Henchard's decision to take Susan back again and Lucetta's decision to reject Henchard after Susan's death and her marriage to Farfrae.
Hardy also changed the ending of the novel (see "What's Up With the Ending?" for more detail). In the ending we're using, Henchard leaves Casterbridge before Elizabeth-Jane's wedding, and they never see each other again. In the longer ending, Henchard returns on her wedding day to ask her to forgive him and she rejects him. Then he goes away and dies before she can find him again.
Why do you think Hardy chose to change the ending? Which ending makes more sense, given the way the characters have developed over the course of the novel? Which do you prefer, and why?