Summary and Analysis
Dressed as he was when he first came to Casterbridge, Henchard makes his way for six days to Weydon-Priors. There he re-enacts in his mind the events of his original rash deed and the consequences of it. He is unable to shake off his constant thoughts of Elizabeth-Jane. Finally he obtains work as a hay-trusser at a place about fifty miles by direct road from Casterbridge. As the days pass he comes to think of the possibility that Newson might not have come to reclaim his daughter. He decides that he may have acted rashly and determines to go to her wedding after surmising from the talk of travelers that its date is St. Martin's Day. Two days before the wedding he leaves on foot for Casterbridge, determined not to arrive until evening of the wedding day.
Henchard stops at the town of Shottsford to purchase new clothes for himself and a gift of a goldfinch in a cage for Elizabeth-Jane. Henchard arrives after the wedding and waits outside town for dark to fall. That evening Farfrae's house is filled with music and gaiety. Henchard inquires after Mr. and Mrs. Farfrae at the back entrance of the house and momentarily deposits the goldfinch beneath a bush. While waiting for Elizabeth-Jane, he sees her and Donald dancing gaily. Suddenly he is aware of a new partner dancing with Elizabeth-Jane. He recognizes Newson, and Henchard's hopes are dashed. However, before he has a chance to leave, Elizabeth-Jane comes out. Her first surprised remark: "Oh — it is — Mr. Henchard!" Henchard is stung by the formality of the way she has addressed him and pleads for her to keep a little love in her heart. But Elizabeth-Jane cannot forgive him and accuses him of deceit. Henchard does not even attempt to defend himself, but apologizes for having caused her discomfort at his appearance: "I have done wrong in coming to 'ee — I see my error. But it is only for once, so forgive it. I'll never trouble 'ee again, Elizabeth-Jane — no, not to my dying day! Good-night. Good-bye!" With this Henchard leaves Elizabeth-Jane forever.
This chapter is the last to depict Henchard's dogged attempts to find love and affection. It was, of course, self-delusion on his part to persuade himself that Newson had not returned to claim Elizabeth-Jane. Throughout the book Michael Henchard is wrong in all his choices and all his plans. Yet, in the last few chapters one thought refuses to leave him. He believes that despite his persistent attempts to show Elizabeth-Jane deep and abiding love, she will not forgive him when Newson reclaims her. In this one instance — irony of ironies — he is absolutely right.
quickset hawthorn hedges.
of aught besides of anything else, also.
pixy-ring a fairy-ring. A term given to the area or ring on the meadow where a different type of grass is growing.
pari passu at the same speed (Latin).
Martin's Day November 11th.
Samson shorn from Judges. A strong man who has been robbed of his strength.