The Mayor of Casterbridge By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Chapter 26 - Henchard Hires and Fires Jopp

Summary

Henchard's faint suspicion that his rival might be Donald abates when the latter shows his ignorance that the lady in Henchard's past is Lucetta. But not long after, Henchard divines the rivalry when he and Donald are having tea with Lucetta. Elizabeth-Jane, who is witness to the awkward threesome, watches them and begins to feel that they are all behaving like fools. With "vitalized antagonism" toward Donald, Henchard hires Jopp, the man who had originally applied for the position of manager, and instructs him to try every honest way of forcing Farfrae out of business. Jopp is only too willing since he nurses a bitter grudge against Farfrae as the man who replaced him. Henchard unaware that "characters deteriorate in time of need," quiets Elizabeth-Jane's distrust of Jopp "with a sharp rebuff."

Henchard consults a local weather diviner named Mr. Fall. He pays him for reading the future and predicting a very wet harvest season. As a result of this less-than-reliable information, Henchard speculates heavily upon rainy harvest weather. However, the weather changes and the harvest promises to be a glorious one. Prices go down and Henchard has to sell his speculative purchases at a great loss in order to meet current obligations. He is forced to mortgage much of his property and corn-holdings to the bank. Furious at Jopp for not advising against the speculation, Henchard dismisses him. Jopp bitterly vows vengeance against Henchard.

Analysis

As the rivalry between Henchard and Donald grows more keen, Hardy plants another seed of possible destruction. Jopp is aware that Lucetta comes from Jersey and that Henchard had often done business there. Fate and chance now will bear heavily upon every continuing chapter. Hardy describes how directly the well-being of the farmers depends upon fluctuations of the weather. The great difference between Henchard and Farfrae is thrown into bold relief when Henchard visits the soothsayer for a prediction. It becomes clear that Henchard lives in the past and Donald is the man of the future. Henchard's visit to Mr. Fall recalls the statement in Chapter 2 that "there was something fetichistic in this man's beliefs."

Glossary

pis aller the last resource (French).

water-tights boots.

Alastor a deity of revenge.

bell-board a table or board on which were placed small bells that were rung at the appropriate time by a number of ringers. (Thus, the tune depended on each ringer; hence, Casterbridge depended on the surrounding villages and hamlets for its commerce.)

the evil scrofula. A toad-bag contained the legs of frogs, and was worn around the neck. This superstition held that the toad-bag was a cure for scrofula (sometimes called "the king's evil").

dungmixen dung-heap, dunghill.

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