Summary and Analysis
Chapter 23 - A Mutual Attraction
The visitor is Donald Farfrae, "fair, fresh, and slenderly handsome," come to call upon Elizabeth-Jane after receiving permission to court her. At first Lucetta and Donald are embarrassed, but a mutual attraction takes hold, and they pass the time flirting with each other. Overhearing a business transaction from the window and upset by the conditions, Donald goes down to the market for a moment to hire a young man who had been faced with abandoning his sweetheart in order to retain a position. Lucetta is impressed by Donald's romantic and humane spirit. He leaves, but only after they decide that he should visit again: "Farfrae was shown out, it having entirely escaped him that he had called to see Elizabeth."
About three minutes after Donald's departure Henchard arrives. Lucetta, infatuated with her new-found acquaintance, sends word that since she has a headache she won't detain him. Henchard leaves, and Lucetta resolves to keep Elizabeth-Jane with her as a "watchdog to keep her father off."
Lucetta and Donald become infatuated with each other. Of course Lucetta does not know of Elizabeth-Jane's feelings toward Donald. Even though Donald tells her that he has come to visit Elizabeth-Jane, Lucetta does not end the interview immediately but prolongs it into an emotional flirtation. Though she states emphatically that she is not a coquette, we learn by this behavior that she is. Lucetta several times mentions "love" and "lovers" in her conversation with Donald. She is also flighty and deceptive — witness her decision to keep Elizabeth-Jane to fend off Henchard immediately after packing her off so as to encourage Henchard. She is filled with fluctuating emotions: "Her emotions rose, fell, undulated, filled her with wild surmise at their suddenness." Yet it would be unfair to judge her critically since our chief point of reference is Elizabeth-Jane's rather quiet, innocent, melancholy character. With her refusal to admit Henchard, Lucetta appears to have ended all possibility of their marriage.
Hardy often adds pleasing strokes of humor, as when Lucetta invites Donald to sit down: "He hesitated, looked at the chair, thought there was no danger in it (though there was), and sat down." The passage quietly reminds us of Farfrae's cautious nature in sizing up what is probably a spindly "French" chair, and adds a pleasant touch of ambiguity with "though there was."
kerseymere fine wool woven so that diagonal lines appear on the material.
St. Helier large town in Jersey.
waggon-tilts the canvas coverings of wagons.
Dan Cupid Roman god of love. "Dan" is applied humorously to mean "Sir."