The Mayor of Casterbridge By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Chapter 14 - Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae Are Brought Together

Summary

Susan and Elizabeth-Jane fit almost inconspicuously into Henchard's large house. Henchard is most kind to Susan, and her life begins to acquire the melancholy contentment of a late Indian summer. Elizabeth-Jane, however, finds her life growing more and more pleasurable. She no longer suffers from economic distress, and all that she sees is hers for the asking. But, due to her serious nature, Elizabeth-Jane does not allow her newly acquired position to alter her sober tastes and thoughtful respectability. Moreover, she still has "that field-mouse fear of the coulter of destiny," believing it would be "tempting Providence" if she were "too gay." As times passes, she begins to develop into a physically mature and beautiful young lady.

Henchard notices Elizabeth-Jane's light hair and asks Susan if she hadn't once assured him that it would become dark. Alarmed, Susan jerks his foot, and he admits to having nearly disclosed their secret.

One day Henchard asks Susan if Elizabeth-Jane, of whom he has grown extremely fond, would consider changing her name to Henchard. Susan seems reluctant to allow it, but submits to his will and informs Elizabeth-Jane. Henchard tells Elizabeth-Jane that she need not change her name from Newson to Henchard to please him only. Upon hearing this from Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane decides to retain her own name and nothing more is said of the matter.

Elizabeth-Jane notices that Henchard has a great deal of affection and respect for Donald Farfrae, and is seen with him continually. Farfrae's quiet humor sometimes arouses "a perfect cannonade of laughter" from Henchard. Under Farfrae's expert guidance, Henchard's business is modernized in accordance with the finest business procedures and thrives most successfully. Farfrae begins to find Henchard's "tigerish affection" a bit confining and suggests that his use as "a second pair of eyes" is being wasted if both employer and employee are always in the same place. Henchard explosively rejects the idea.

One day Elizabeth-Jane receives a note requesting her to come immediately to a granary on Durnover Hill. She goes there and, as she is waiting, Donald Farfrae arrives. Too shy to meet him there alone, Elizabeth-Jane hides. As the rain falls, Donald waits patiently until Elizabeth-Jane reveals her presence by accidentally dislodging some wheat husks. After Donald acknowledges her presence, they both realize that someone else has sent them the identical letter. Donald believes that someone has played a trick upon them and that Elizabeth-Jane should not mention it in the future. He helps her remove the wheat husks from her clothing before she departs. It is obvious that he is affected by her beauty.

Analysis

A number of hints are scattered throughout this chapter that something unexpected may occur. Henchard distinctly remembers that Elizabeth-Jane's hair promised to be black when she was a child. Susan, of course, informs him that it is natural for the color to change with maturity. Susan is also reluctant to agree to Henchard's request that Elizabeth-Jane change her name to his. Furthermore, we find that Henchard is growing ever more fond of Elizabeth-Jane. With the trick played on Donald and Elizabeth-Jane — which results in Donald's acquiring an added interest in Elizabeth-Jane — it becomes obvious that fate, or someone, wants to bring them together.

Donald's mild chafing at Henchard's possessiveness, and the latter's continued "poor opinion" of Donald's physical smallness also hint at possible conflicts to come.

Glossary

Martinmas summer late or Indian summer; that is, Susan's life became more bearable in her later years.

spencer a bodice.

viva voce by voice, oral; that is, Henchard kept almost no business books or records (Italian).

winnowing machine a machine used to separate grain from the chaff.

victorine a scarf worn over neck and shoulders.

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