The Mayor of Casterbridge By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Chapter 15 - Henchard and Donald Quarrel

Summary

Elizabeth-Jane begins experimenting with fine clothing and before long realizes that she is considered the town beauty. Donald Farfrae becomes even more interested in her as time passes. She balances her exhilaration by reflecting sadly on her own intellectual shortcomings.

One morning, vexed out of all patience by the continual tardiness of Abel Whittle, one of his workers, Henchard goes to Whittle's cottage, touts him out of bed, and forces him to go to work without his britches. Whittle is mortified but must go through with it since he needs the employment. Donald sees the embarrassing spectacle, reverses Henchard's orders, and tells Whittle to go home and get his britches. When Henchard hears of this, he and Donald quarrel in front of the men. Donald threatens to quit but gets his way.

As time goes by, Henchard is bothered by Farfrae's popularity among the workers and townspeople. He learns one day from a boy that the people prefer Farfrae's business judgment to his own and consider Donald his superior in every way. While going to estimate the value of some hay, Henchard meets Donald, who has been summoned to the same task. Henchard accuses Donald of indiscriminately hurting his feelings. Donald sincerely denies that such a thing could be. Henchard parts from his friend on good terms once again, but now always thinks of him "with a dim dread."

Analysis

This chapter demonstrates not only Elizabeth-Jane's increasing awareness that she is a mature, beautiful woman but also her essential lack of vanity and giddiness. It also shows that Donald has acquired more than a passing interest in her. (Henchard, of course, does not suspect that Donald secretly admires Elizabeth-Jane.) After the quarrel, Henchard treats Donald more formally, and his overbearing friendship diminishes to a more courteous but distant relationship. As time passes, Henchard regrets having told Donald about his life. His regret is intensified when he learns the townspeople prefer Donald to him. Even though the quarrel is mended, Henchard still feels a "dim dread" concerning Farfrae.

Glossary

the prophet Baruch in the Apocrypha. The sense is that Elizabeth-Jane was not considered a truly great beauty adulated by all.

Rochefoucauld French author whose philosophy states that human conduct is motivated by selfishness.

fretted my gizzard worried.

diment diamond.

sotto voce under one's breath, in a low voice (Italian).

scantling a little bit, a tiny piece.

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