Study Guide

The Mayor of Casterbridge Quotes

  • Marriage

    That the man and woman were husband and wife, and the parents of the girl in arms, there could be little doubt. No other than such relationship would have accounted for the atmosphere of domesticity which the trio carried along with them like a nimbus as they moved down the road. (1.4)

    This is the opening image of the novel: a man and woman walking down a road together, a child in the woman's arms. No one speaks. The man seems contemptuously indifferent to the wife and child. And yet, the narrator assures us that it's obvious that the two are married, because a marriage brings with it a kind of "nimbus" of "domesticity" that any outside person can detect. Why should marriage bring with it a "nimbus" (a cloud)? Sounds pretty ominous.

    The ruin of good men by bad wives, and, more particularly, the frustration of many a promising youth's high aims and hopes, and the extinction of his energies, by an early imprudent marriage, was the theme. (1.25)

    The man (who still hasn't been named yet) keeps harping, in public and in front of his wife, about what a pain marriage is. He makes generalizations about how wives ruin their husbands. We don't directly hear what the man is saying; the narrator describes it in general terms. This could have the effect of making the man's complaints seem more reasonable, or at least fairly commonplace.

    For my part I don't see why men who have got wives, and don't want 'em, shouldn't get rid of 'em as these gipsy fellows do their old horses. (1.30)

    The man takes things a little far when he makes a comparison between wives and "old horses."

    "Will anybody buy her?" said the man.
    "I wish somebody would," said she firmly. "Her present owner is not at all to her liking." (1.43-44)

    From the beginning of the auction scene, it's clear that Susan thinks of her husband as a "master" in an economic sense, as well as a legal and moral one – she refers to him, with possible irony, as her "present owner".

    Seizing the sailor's arm with her right hand, and mounting the little girl on her left, she went out of the tent, sobbing bitterly, and apparently without a thought that she was not strictly bound to go with the man who had paid for her. (1.80)

    Susan's innocence is important: she doesn't realize that the "wife sale" that just took place isn't legally binding. After all, you couldn't just buy and sell people like slaves in 19th century England. But Susan doesn't understand this. If she did, her departure with the sailor would be like running away with someone to commit adultery. Since Susan thinks the marriage has been legally and morally transferred, she is innocent of any intentional wrongdoing.

    The sailor was now lost to them; and Susan's staunch, religious adherence to him as her husband, till her views had been disturbed by enlightenment, was demanded no more. (4.9)

    We're never told that Susan loves the sailor, but she thinks it's her duty to stay with him "as her husband."

    In 1705, a woman who had murdered her husband was half-strangled and then burnt there in the presence of ten thousand spectators. Tradition reports that at a certain stage of the burning her heart burst and leapt out of her body to the terror of them all. (11.5)

    This is an odd and gory detail for the author to include in the description of the history of the Casterbridge Ring (the old Roman amphitheater). It's about a woman's sins being publicly punished, and the almost supernatural way her remorse and sorrow are shown to the world (her "heart burst").

    He pressed on the preparations for his union, or rather re-union, with this pale creature in a dogged unflinching spirit which did credit to his conscientiousness. (13.8)

    Henchard clearly thinks it is his duty to remarry Susan, even though he doesn't really care for her anymore. His "conscientiousness" and sense of duty are strong enough to force him to do what he can to make amends for the past.

    Poor thing – better you had not known me! Upon my heart and soul, if ever I should be left in a position to carry out that marriage with thee, I ought to do it – I ought to do it, indeed! (18.9)

    Again, Henchard feels that marriage is a matter of duty – something he ought to do to make amends for the past.

    It was an odd sequence that out of all this wronging of social law came that flower of nature, Elizabeth. Part of his wish to wash his hands of life arose from his perceptions of its contrarious inconsistencies – of Nature's jaunty readiness to support bad social principles. (44.8)

    This is a funny way of describing the wife sale – it was a "wronging of social law." Note that the narrator doesn't call marriage a "moral" or "religious" law. It's purely a social institution.

  • Love

    The sailor was now lost to them; and Susan's staunch, religious adherence to him as her husband, till her views had been disturbed by enlightenment, was demanded no more. (4.9)

    Susan's loyalty to the sailor, Captain Newson, is not based on love but on a sense of religious duty.

    She looked at him quite coolly, and saw how his forehead shone where the light caught it, and how nicely his hair was cut, and the sort of velvet-pile or down that was on the skin at the back of his neck, and how his cheek was so truly curved as to be part of a globe, and how clearly drawn were the lids and lashes which hid his bent eyes. (7.13)

    This is Elizabeth-Jane's first good look at Farfrae. He's reading a newspaper and hardly notices that she's there, so she's able to check him out without his realizing it. Her eyes rove over his entire face and neck – it's a surprisingly intimate description, especially from the point of view of an innocent young girl.

    He seemed to feel exactly as she felt about life and its surroundings – that they were a tragical, rather than a comical, thing; that though one could be gay on occasion, moments of gaiety were interludes, and no part of the actual drama. It was extraordinary how similar their views were. (8.33)

    Elizabeth-Jane has never personally spoken with Farfrae – she's only heard him chatting with the townspeople. She has developed a crush on him from a distance and assumes they were made for each other. They think the same way about everything!

    This young creature was staying at the boarding-house where I happened to have my lodging; and when I was pulled down she took upon herself to nurse me. From that she got to have a foolish liking for me. Heaven knows why, for I didn't encourage any such thing. But, being together in the same house, and her feelings warm, there arose a terrible scandal, which did me no harm, but was of course ruin to her. (12.23)

    Love can ruin a girl's reputation, so watch out. Henchard isn't very delicate in his description of how Lucetta fell in love with him; he calls it a "foolish liking" that he didn't "encourage" at all.

    Nobody would have conceived from his outward demeanour that there was no amatory fire or pulse of romance acting as stimulant to the bustle going on in his gaunt, great house; nothing but three large resolves: one to make amends to his neglected Susan, another to provide a comfortable home for Elizabeth-Jane under his paternal eye; and a third to castigate himself with the thorns which these restitutory acts brought in their train. (13.8)

    Henchard isn't in love with Susan; he's only marrying her because he feels obligated to.

    But Donald Farfrae admired her, too; and altogether the time was an exciting one; sex had never before asserted itself in her so strongly, for in former days she had perhaps been too impersonally human to be distinctively feminine. (15.5)

    Once Elizabeth-Jane starts wearing fancier clothes, all the young men of Casterbridge (including Farfrae) start to admire her.

    He was the kind of man to whom some human object for pouring out his heat upon – were it affective or were it choleric – was almost a necessity. The craving of his heart for the re-establishment of this tenderest human tie had been great during his wife's lifetime, and now he had submitted to its mastery without reluctance and without fear. (19.29)

    Henchard needs human interaction as a vent for his passionate nature, whether it's someone to yell at ("choleric") or someone to be kind to ("affective").

    But in the interval she – my poor friend – had seen a man she liked better than him. Now comes the point: Could she in honour dismiss the first? (24.57)

    Lucetta makes up a story about "a friend" in order to ask Elizabeth-Jane what she should do. She has basically promised to marry Henchard, but that was a long time ago. Now she's met a man "she liked better" – Farfrae. What's a girl to do?

    'I won't be a slave to the past – I'll love where I choose!' (25.24)

    Lucetta asserts her freedom here. She won't "be a slave" to promises she made in the past; she'll choose her own path. This is a pretty radical thing for a woman to say back when it wasn't considered proper for a woman to show that she loved a man in any obvious way until after the man had already proposed.

    Yet to Elizabeth-Jane it was plain as the tow-pump that Donald and Lucetta were incipient lovers. More than once, in spite of her care, Lucetta had been unable to restrain her glance from flitting across into Farfrae's eyes like a bird to its nest. (26.21)

    Elizabeth-Jane can see right through Lucetta, in part because she's in love with Farfrae herself. Hardy is fond of using bird imagery, and this is one instance where the imagery isn't totally depressing: Lucetta's eyes are like birds, and Farfrae's are like a cozy little nest. When their eyes meet, it feels like home to Lucetta. Isn't that a sweet metaphor?

  • Friendship

    The face of Mr. Henchard beamed forth a satisfaction that was almost fierce in its strength. "Now you are my friend!" he exclaimed. (9.43)

    Henchard both loves and hates with fierceness. He's hardly met Farfrae, yet he proclaims that they're friends with "fierce" satisfaction.

    "I am the most distant fellow in the world when I don't care for a man," he said. "But when a man takes my fancy he takes it strong." (9.44)

    Henchard realizes this about himself – he loves passionately, strongly, and suddenly. He tends to go with his gut about people. It sometimes guides him well (such as when he trusts Farfrae to manage his business when he hardly knows him) and sometimes guides him badly (such as when he suspects that Farfrae is trying to undermine his authority and flies into a jealous rage).

    He was plainly under that strange influence which sometimes prompts men to confide to the new-found friend what they will not tell to the old. (12.9)

    Henchard trusts Farfrae completely from the very beginning of their friendship – not only with his business, but with his personal secrets. The narrator describes this as a fairly commonplace, if "strange" impulse. It's something that could happen to many people.

    "Now what would you do – I want your advice?"

    "I think I'd run the risk, and tell her the truth. She'll forgive ye both."

    "Never!" said Henchard. "I am not going to let her know the truth." (12.31-33)

    Henchard asks for Farfrae's advice, but when Farfrae doesn't tell him what he wants to hear, he rejects the advice instantly: "Never!"

    Her quiet eye discerned that Henchard's tigerish affection for the younger man, his constant liking to have Farfrae near him, now and then resulted in a tendency to domineer, which, however, was checked in a moment when Donald exhibited marks of real offence. (14.27)

    Henchard's fierce affection for Farfrae is now described as "tigerish." Sounds like he could become dangerous.

    "'Od d--n it," cried Henchard, "what's all the world! I like a fellow to talk to. Now come along and hae some supper, and don't take too much thought about things, or ye'll drive me crazy." (14.27)

    If you're confused about the beginning of Henchard's speech here, don't worry – you're not alone. "'Od" is just Henchard's dialect: it's his way of saying "God" when he's going to swear. D--n is the way writers and publishers wrote the word "damn" to avoid censorship. Henchard invites Farfrae to supper because he wants the company – he "like[s] a fellow to talk to." Henchard was lonely for a long time before Farfrae showed up.

    She looked from the window, and saw Henchard and Farfrae in the hay-yard talking, with that impetuous cordiality on the mayor's part, and genial modesty on the younger man's, that was now so generally observable in their intercourse. Friendship between man and man; what a rugged strength there was in it, as evinced by these two. And yet the seed that was to lift the foundation of this friendship was at that moment taking root in a chink of its structure. (15.7)

    Once again, Henchard and Farfrae's friendship is observed from above by Elizabeth-Jane. She notices that it has a "rugged strength" in it. The narrator warns us that something is about to come between them.

    Henchard's manner towards Farfrae insensibly became more reserved. He was courteous – too courteous – and Farfrae was quite surprised at the good breeding which now for the first time showed itself among the qualities of a man he had hitherto thought undisciplined, if warm and sincere. (16.1)

    Henchard begins to feel jealous of Farfrae's popularity and superior intelligence. He starts acting overly polite to him. Farfrae, though, is so far from being suspicious that he just thinks that Henchard is showing "good breeding" by being polite and courteous.

    Henchard was a little moved. "I – sometimes think I've wronged ye!" he said, in tones which showed the disquietude that the night shades hid in his face. He shook Farfrae abruptly by the hand, and hastened away as if unwilling to betray himself further. (32.38)

    Even after their friendship has collapsed, Farfrae is capable of acting with generosity toward Henchard. After all, he never did anything to deserve Henchard's hatred, and he never understands where it came from. So when he offers to give Henchard any of his household furniture that he still wants, Henchard is touched by his generosity.

    Henchard looked down upon him in silence, and their eyes met. "O, Farfrae – that's not true!" he said, bitterly. "God is my witness that no man ever loved another as I did thee at one time. [. . .] And now – though I came here to kill 'ee, I cannot hurt thee! Go and give me in charge – do what you will – I care nothing what comes of me!" (38.34)

    Henchard has beaten Farfrae in a fight, even with one hand tied behind his back. Farfrae tells him to go ahead and kill him, since he's wanted to for so long. But Henchard can't bring himself to do it. Even though they're no longer friends, he can't forget how close they used to be.

  • Gender

    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.

    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.

    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.

    He showed a respect for the young girl's sex and years worthy of a better man. (19.14)

    Henchard doesn't tell Elizabeth-Jane the whole story of the wife sale because (a) she's young, and (b) she's a girl. The narrator says this is a virtue in Henchard.

    She started the pen in an elephantine march across the sheet. It was a splendid round, bold hand of her own conception, a style that would have stamped a woman as Minerva's own in more recent days. But other ideas reigned then: Henchard's creed was that proper young girls wrote ladies'-hand – nay, he believed that bristling characters were as innate and inseparable a part of refined womanhood as sex itself. (20.14)

    Elizabeth-Jane's handwriting is very masculine – it's what was described in those days as "round-hand." She taught herself to write and did an excellent job by almost anyone's standards. But back in the day, most people thought that a proper, upper-class young lady should write in "ladies' hand," which was a fancier-looking (and harder to read) script. Check out the "Best of the Web" section for a link to what ladies' handwriting was supposed to look like.

    The room disclosed was prettily furnished as a boudoir or small drawing-room, and on a sofa with two cylindrical pillows reclined a dark-haired, large-eyed, pretty woman, of unmistakably French extraction on one side or the other. She was probably somewhat older than Elizabeth, and had a sparkling light in her eye. (22.20)

    Lucetta is extremely feminine, even sultry. Notice the dark hair and the large eyes, and that fact that she is "reclining" among pillows on a sofa. Lucetta is also introduced as being "unmistakably French." Check out Lucetta's "Character Analysis" section for more on her Frenchness.

    Lucetta's face became – as a woman's face becomes when the man she loves rises upon her gaze like an apparition. (25.24)

    The narrator suggests that women are unable to control their facial expressions when they're in love and the object of their affections appears.

    She arranged herself picturesquely in the chair; first this way, then that; next so that the light fell over her head. Next she flung herself on the couch in the cyma-recta curve which so became her, and, with her arm over her head, looked toward the door. (22.79)

    Lucetta is very conscious of her femininity, and tries to use it to her advantage. She artfully arranges herself like the subject of a painting so that Henchard's first impression when he comes in will be a good one. We find the preciseness of this description pretty funny.

    His old feeling of supercilious pity for womankind in general was intensified by this suppliant appearing here as the double of the first. (35.27)

    Henchard, as a tall, strong, bullish man, tends to feel superior to women since they are generally smaller and physically weaker. He feels a general "pity" for all of "womankind" because of their perceived weakness.

    that flower of Nature, Elizabeth. (44.8)

    In contrast to Lucetta, Elizabeth-Jane is very natural. Her beauty, like a flower's, comes from nature. She doesn't have to resort to the kind of artifice that Lucetta does to attract people.

  • Memory and the Past

    The high road into the village of Weydon-Priors was again carpeted with dust. The trees had put on as of yore their aspect of dingy green, and where the Henchard family of three had once walked along, two persons not unconnected with that family walked now. (3.1)

    Susan and Elizabeth-Jane are walking along the same road that Susan traveled with Henchard the day that he sold her. The narrator uses words like "again," "of yore," and "once" partly to connect the past with the present and perhaps to emphasize how connected things are, even across the years.

    Casterbridge announced old Rome in every street, alley, and precinct. It looked Roman, bespoke the art of Rome, concealed dead men of Rome. It was impossible to dig more than a foot or two deep about the town fields and gardens without coming upon some tall soldier or other of the Empire, who had lain there in his silent unobtrusive rest for a space of fifteen hundred years. (11.2)

    Casterbridge is very much connected with the ancient past. Even though people don't think too much about it, their town is sitting on the ruins of a Roman city. There are skeletons under their town, not to mention in their closets. Like Henchard's personal past, the city's past is hidden just below the surface, and just a tiny bit of digging will expose it.

    They had lived so long ago, their time was so unlike the present, their hopes and motives were so widely removed from ours, that between them and the living there seemed to stretch a gulf too wide for even a spirit to pass. (11.3)

    The narrator suggests that the ancient Roman inhabitants of Casterbridge were totally unlike the people there now. Their "hopes and motives" were totally different from "ours." Do you think this is true? Do you think the narrator is being serious or ironic?

    She began the study of Latin, incited by the Roman characteristics of the town she lived in. (20.30)

    Elizabeth-Jane starts learning Latin because she's inspired by all the Roman history around her. It's a small detail, but it's another example of the way the past can influence the present.

    She seized on these days for her periodical visits to the spot where her mother lay buried – the still-used burial ground of the old Roman-British city, whose curious feature was this, its continuity as a place of sepulture. Mrs. Henchard's dust mingled with the dust of women who lay ornamented with glass hairpins and amber necklaces, and men who held in their mouths coins of Hadrian, Posthumus, and the Constantines. (20.32)

    Here's another example of the ancient Roman history of the town mingling with the present. The Roman dead share the same burial ground with the recently dead; their dust "mingles."

    I won't be a slave to the past – I'll love where I choose! (25.24)

    Lucetta tries to break with the past and escape it. Of course, that doesn't work out so well for her.

    Had the incident been well known of old and always, it might by this time have grown to be lightly regarded as the rather tall wild oat, but the single one, of a young man with whom the steady and mature (if somewhat headstrong) burgher of to-day had scarcely point in common. But the act having lain as dead and buried ever since, the interspace of years was unperceived; and the black spot of his youth wore the aspect of a recent crime. (31.1)

    Because Henchard doesn't tell anyone about the wife sale when he first arrives in Casterbridge, when the truth comes out many years later, it's as though it happened yesterday. The news is new, and so the long intervening years don't temper it.

    Her figure in the midst of the huge enclosure, the unusual plainness of her dress, her attitude of hope and appeal, so strongly revived in his soul the memory of another ill-used woman who had stood there and thus in bygone days, and had now passed away into her rest, that he was unmanned, and his heart smote him for having attempted reprisals on one of a sex so weak. (35.17)

    Henchard's meeting with Lucetta at the Casterbridge Ring is an echo of his meeting with Susan there. The two scenes have a lot of parallels, and Henchard senses it himself.

    A quarter of a mile from the highway was a pre-historic earthen fort, of huge dimensions and many ramparts, within or upon whose enclosures a human being, as seen from the road, was but an insignificant speck. (43.9)

    The ancient fort the narrator describes is prehistoric – it's even older than the ancient Roman ruins around Casterbridge! In part because of its size, but also because of its extreme age, the fort makes "human beings" seem "insignificant" next to it.

    Hither Henchard often resorted, glass in hand, and scanned the hedgeless Via – for it was the original track laid out by the legions of the Empire – to a distance of two or three miles, his object being to read the progress of affairs between Farfrae and his charmer. (43.9)

    Again, the past and the present collide here: the road Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane walk on is the ancient Roman Via, or road. They're walking where many "legions" of Roman soldiers walked before them.

  • Man and the Natural World

    At that moment a swallow, one among the last of the season, which had by chance found its way through an opening into the upper part of the tent, flew to and fro in quick curves above their heads, causing all eyes to follow it absently. (1.37)

    The swallow (a small bird, for those of you not into bird-watching) is a distraction to the people in the furmity-tent. They absent-mindedly watch it fly around and forget about the wife auction for a few minutes.

    Hardy uses a lot of bird imagery in his novels and poems, and the birds almost always mean something. What is this swallow doing? It enters the tent by accident and is trapped there. No one tries to help it, but the people are distracted and momentarily entertained by its struggles. Hmm...this could be a parallel for Susan, couldn't it? Of course, the bird manages to free itself, and Susan does not, so the parallel doesn't work entirely. What do you think?

    The sun had recently set, and the west heaven was hung with rosy cloud, which seemed permanent, yet slowly changed. To watch it was like looking at some grand feat of stagery from a darkened auditorium. In presence of this scene, after the other, there was a natural instinct to abjure man as the blot on an otherwise kindly universe; till it was remembered that all terrestrial conditions were intermittent, and that mankind might some night be innocently sleeping when these quiet objects were raging loud. (1.84)

    The narrator compares the beauty of the sunset with the ugliness of the wife sale, suggesting that it's only "natural instinct" to feel like humans are a "blot" on the universe for allowing something so horrible to take place. But the narrator then reminds us that nature isn't always so beautiful and peaceful either.

    The dense trees of the avenue rendered the road dark as a tunnel, though the corn-land on each side was still under a faint daylight; in other words, they passed down a midnight between two gloamings. (4.25)

    Susan and Elizabeth-Jane enter Casterbridge through a darkened avenue of trees, and it's like walking through "a midnight between two gloamings." ("Gloaming" is twilight or dusk.) Sounds like a pretty ominous way to enter the town, doesn't it?

    The mellow air brought in the feel of imminent autumn almost as distinctly as if she had been in the remotest hamlet. Casterbridge was the complement of the rural life around; not its urban opposite. (9.1)

    Casterbridge is a pretty sizable town, but it's not filled with mills and factories. It doesn't feel like a big city because it's surrounded by nature: rural, agricultural land.

    Thus Casterbridge was in most respects but the pole, focus, or nerve-knot of the surrounding country life; differing from the many manufacturing towns which are as foreign bodies set down, like boulders on a plain, in a green world with which they have nothing in common. (9.26)

    Casterbridge is connected to the surrounding country as strongly as the "nerve-knot," or brain, is connected to the body. It's not like the industrial cities up north, which share nothing with the countryside around them.

    Casterbridge, as has been hinted, was a place deposited in the block upon a corn-field. There was no suburb in the modern sense, or transitional intermixture of town and down. It stood, with regard to the wide fertile land adjoining, clean-cut and distinct, like a chess-board on a green table-cloth. (14.29)

    Although Casterbridge might be connected with the surrounding countryside more intimately than most large towns, it still is completely separate and distinct from the farmland that surrounds it.

    Among the rest of the on-lookers were Elizabeth and her mother – the former thoughtful yet much interested, her eyes beaming with a longing lingering light, as if Nature had been advised by Correggio in their creation. (16.23)

    Elizabeth-Jane is completely natural, as the narrator keeps assuring us, but she's so beautiful that she looks like she could have been painted by Correggio (a Renaissance Italian painter). Which is it: is she like nature or art?

    This, she decided, was the best position after all; and thus she remained till a man's step was heard on the stairs. Whereupon Lucetta, forgetting her curve (for Nature was too strong for Art as yet), jumped up, and ran and hid herself behind one of the window-curtains in a freak of timidity. (22.79)

    Unlike Elizabeth, Lucetta isn't so natural. She is like an artist herself, arranging her own body to create the greatest possible effect. But she still has enough "Nature" in her to be embarrassed and shy.

    It was an odd sequence that out of all this wronging of social law came that flower of nature, Elizabeth. Part of his wish to wash his hands of life arose from his perceptions of its contrarious inconsistencies – of Nature's jaunty readiness to support bad social principles. (44.8)

    The narrator suggests that what Henchard did – selling his wife – wasn't a violation of natural or moral law, but a "wronging of social law." What he did was wrong, but it didn't violate any natural laws. And so "Nature" doesn't punish him, but instead creates Elizabeth, "that flower of nature."

  • Fate and Free Will

    When she plodded on in the shade of the hedge, silently thinking, she had the hard, half-apathetic expression of one who deems anything possible at the hands of Time and Chance, except, perhaps, fair-play. (1.4)

    We don't learn anything about Susan's background, but we learn enough from this passage to figure that her past wasn't very happy. She knows that life isn't fair, and she blames it on "Time and Chance" – things over which she has no control.

    Lucetta seemed to reflect on this as on an unalterable, impartial verdict. (24.71)

    Lucetta knows she has no control over her own aging, but it seems strange that she should accept Elizabeth-Jane's opinion as "an unalterable, impartial verdict."

    It is not by what is, in this life, but by what appears, that you are judged; and I therefore think you ought to accept me – for your own good name's sake. (25.19)

    Again, events in Lucetta's life seem to be outside her own control – she is judged by "what appears," not by "what is." Society's judgment on her dictates what she can and cannot do.

    But the momentum of his character knew no patience. (27.4)

    Henchard makes a lot of mistakes, but they are the fault of his personality. The narrator describes Henchard's "character" as if it were its own entity. He doesn't say, "Henchard had no patience," but rather that his "character knew no patience."

    The movements of his mind seemed to tend to the thought that some power was working against him. (27.4)

    Henchard is superstitious, and so many bad things happen to him that he can't help but wonder whether some force outside himself – some "power" – might be plotting against him. Of course, it isn't some abstract Fate that's causing Henchard's misfortunes – it's his own flaws and mistakes. (And the fact that he's a main character in a Hardy novel.)

    "I wonder," he asked himself with eerie misgiving; "I wonder if it can be that somebody has been roasting a waxen image of me, or stirring an unholy brew to confound me! I don't believe in such power, and yet – what if they should ha' been doing it!" (27.5)

    This is one of the rare moments when Henchard looks for a cause for his misfortunes outside himself. Generally he takes the whole blame for everything that happens to him; he doesn't try to shift it onto anyone else.

    The retort of the furmity-woman before the magistrates had spread; and in four-and-twenty hours there was not a person in Casterbridge who remained unacquainted with the story of Henchard's mad freak at Weydon Priors Fair, long years before. (31.1)

    Isn't it a strange coincidence that the old woman who sold Henchard the rum-spiked furmity the night he sold Susan should show up in Casterbridge years later? And that Henchard should be the justice of the peace listening to the complaint against her in court? Coincidence starts looking an awful lot like fate in this novel.

    But her strong sense that neither she nor any human being deserved less than was given, did not blind her to the fact that there were others receiving less who had deserved much more. (45.32)

    Fate is unkind to a lot of people in this novel, and Elizabeth-Jane seems more aware of the unfairness of this than any other character.

  • Dissatisfaction

    "I sank into one of those gloomy fits I sometimes suffer from, on account o' the loneliness of my domestic life, when the world seems to have the blackness of hell, and, like Job, I could curse the day that gave me birth." (12.21)

    Job is a figure from the Old Testament. He is a good man who goes through a series of increasingly horrible misfortunes because God is testing his faith. How is Henchard like Job? His description of his gloom here sounds a lot like what we would call clinical depression.

    Henchard bent and kissed her cheek. The moment and the act he had contemplated for weeks with a thrill of pleasure; yet it was no less than a miserable insipidity to him now that it had come. His reinstation of her mother had been chiefly for the girl's sake, and the fruition of the whole scheme was such dust and ashes as this. (19.48)

    Henchard has looked forward to claiming Elizabeth-Jane as his own daughter for a long time. But when it finally happens, he discovers she's not his real daughter after all. More broken dreams!

    "After that they were much apart, heard nothing of each other for a long time, and she felt her life quite closed up for her." (24.53)

    Lucetta describes her past life to Elizabeth-Jane here. She felt hopeless when Henchard said he couldn't marry her, because her reputation was ruined and all of her friends had abandoned her. No wonder she felt that "her life was quite closed up for her."

    "Here and everywhere are folk dying before their time like frosted leaves, though wanted by the world, the country, and their own families, as badly as can be; while I, an outcast and an incumbrance, wanted by nobody, I live on, and can't die if I try." (44.10)

    Henchard feels like an outcast; no one cares whether he lives or dies, and yet he "live[s] on." He uses the simile of "frosted leaves" to describe people "dying before their time," perhaps because people have as little control over their deaths as they do over the weather.

    The expression of her face was one of nervous pleasure rather than of gaiety. (44.14)

    Even after she has married Farfrae and gotten everything she ever wanted, Elizabeth-Jane has a hard time being happy.

    Michael Henchard's Will

    That Elizabeth-Jane Farfrae be not told of my death, or made to grieve on account of me.

    & that I be not bury'd in consecrated ground.

    &that no sexton be asked to toll the bell.

    &that nobody is wished to see my dead body.

    &that no murners [sic] walk behind me at my funeral.

    &that no flours [sic] be planted on my grave.

    & that no man remember me.

    To his I put my name.

    Michael Henchard. (45.27)

    Henchard's final will and testament sums up the dissatisfaction of his life. He doesn't want to be remembered or mourned; he doesn't even want a grave marker.

    "What bitterness lies there!" (45.29)

    Elizabeth-Jane is saddened but not surprised by the "bitterness" expressed in her stepfather's final will. She knows how much disappointment there was in his life.

    She knew the directions to be a piece of the same stuff that his whole life was made of, and hence were not to be tampered with to give herself a mournful pleasure, or her husband credit for large-heartedness. (45.29)

    Elizabeth-Jane respects her stepfather's final wishes. She knows that he meant what he said – he really was that bitter in his final hours.

    And in being forced to class herself among the fortunate she did not cease to wonder at the persistence of the unforeseen, when the one to whom such unbroken tranquility had been accorded in the adult stage was she whose youth had seemed to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain. (45.32)

    The final lines of the novel reflect the pervading sense of dissatisfaction. Elizabeth-Jane, we're told, has learned that "happiness" is the exception in life, not the rule. Most of life is filled with "pain." Not a very cheerful note to end on, is it?