The Mayor of Casterbridge By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Chapter 16 - Donald's Dismissal

Summary

On the occasion of the "celebration of a national event," Donald borrows a number of rick-cloths from Henchard for an entertainment. Spurred on by Donald's initiative, Henchard decides to provide an elaborate outdoor entertainment complete with food and games. He is sure that everyone will come to his festivities since they are free, and Donald plans to "charge admission at the rate of so much a head."

On the day of the holiday a heavy rain ruins the turnout at Henchard's free festivities. He orders the games and tables removed and later goes into Casterbridge where he sees all the people flocking to a dance. Ingeniously, Donald has used the rick-cloths as a large tent between some trees within the town.

Henchard hears the gay music and notices the warmth of the surroundings and the abandon of the dancers. Even Susan and Elizabeth-Jane have come to the dance which is, in the eyes of the people, an unqualified success far exceeding the efforts of the mayor. Donald is the center of the proceedings, and even Elizabeth-Jane dances with him. Henchard overhears the cruel remarks of the townspeople and, goaded by the taunts and jests of other town officials, states that Donald's term as manager is drawing to a close. Donald quietly corroborates the declaration. Henchard goes home that night, satisfied that he is protecting his hard-won reputation. The next morning he deeply regrets his rash statement. He soon becomes aware that Donald plans "to take him at his word."

Analysis

Once again Hardy places the reader within the mind of Henchard. We see the total failure of Henchard's plans, and for a moment it appears that everything is going wrong for him. Through Henchard's eyes we see Donald's unqualified success with the townspeople, and for a fleeting second we feel the jealousy Henchard feels. It is no surprise that Henchard acts the way he does, especially since we have listened with him to the ugly remarks and jests of the townspeople. In this chapter and in Chapter 15, Hardy has cleverly shifted the emphasis away from the Susan-Henchard-Elizabeth-Jane development and concentrated on the Henchard-Farfrae relationship.

Glossary

Correggio famous Italian artist (1494-1534).

stunpoll stone head.

"Miss M'Leod of Ayr" a tune that Hardy knew when a child.

skipping on the small skipping in small "skips."

randy Scotch dialect: boisterous, fun-loving. The sense is that Donald's character is one that loves merry-making, as opposed to Henchard's more staid personality.

"Jack's as good as his master" a proverb. The meaning is that the servant has become as good as the employer.

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