Summary and Analysis
Chapter 36 - Jopp Opens the Letters
Lucetta returns home to find Jopp waiting for her. He asks her to put in a few good words with Donald about employing him. She replies that she knows nothing about him, and that it is not her custom to interfere in her husband's business. Lucetta ends the interview abruptly for fear that Donald will miss her. Jopp returns to his cottage, and Henchard asks him to deliver a parcel to Mrs. Farfrae. Jopp states that he will do it. After Henchard retires, Jopp begins to think about the connection between Henchard and Lucetta. Because Jopp had come from Jersey, he knows that Henchard had once courted her. His bitterness at Lucetta for refusing to speak to Farfrae intensifies his curiosity, so Jopp opens the package and finds the letters.
While on his way to deliver the package, Jopp encounters Mother Cuxsom and Nance Mockridge, who invite him to an inn called Peter's Finger in Mixen Lane, a place of evil repute near Casterbridge. At the gathering, when the furmity woman asks Jopp what the parcel contains, his bitterness at Lucetta comes out and he reveals the contents. Jopp proceeds to read the letters to the assembled company. Soon afterward a stranger appears on his way to Casterbridge. He hears the rogues in the tavern discussing a "skimmity-ride," and learns that it is a lower-class form of making fun of a married couple when the wife has not been altogether faithful. Since the stranger will be residing in Casterbridge for a while, and desiring some kind of entertainment, he gives the assembly of thieves and poachers a gold sovereign to cover the initial cost of the old custom. The townspeople begin to plan the skimmity-ride. The next morning Jopp delivers the parcel to Lucetta, who burns the letters immediately.
The "Peter's Finger" episode is unusual in that the villagers become participants in the action rather than commentators merely. Hence the emphasis on them is not just the addition of local color or explanation but is an important new plot development as well.
dogs the iron bars on which the logs are placed in a fireplace.
Adulam haven for people with troubles and difficulties.
Life-holders, copy-holders Life-holders held a lifetime lease to their homes and land. Copy-holders did not own original legal deeds.
Ashton . . . Ravenswood Characters in Scott's Bride of Lammermoor. Ashton sees Ravenswood disappear (having sunk into quicksand).
swingels part of a flail.
oven-pyle chips of wood for lighting a fire.
skimmity-ride skimmington-ride: a rowdy procession which is intended to make fun of a man whose wife is shrewish or unfaithful.
get it in train to get it started.