Elizabeth-Jane delivers the note to Susan. The note says that Susan should meet him at the Ring amphitheater that evening. Susan waits impatiently for the close of the day.
Once again, the two sides of Michael's personality are revealed. At first, he behaves kindly towards Elizabeth-Jane, treating her with tenderness when he learns who she is and who sent her. In addition, he shows great tact in inquiring after Susan's finances, foreshadowing other times when he will care for those in financial need. He even appears to buy Susan back by enclosing the five guineas, showing a great chivalry in the symbolism. From all outward appearances he is a very respectable man, even owning the three books that every respectable household of Hardy's time owned--the Bible, a copy of Josephus (who chronicled Biblical times), and Whole Duty of Man (a book of devotions).
Yet his dark side now begins to manifest itself more openly. He coldly turns Joshua Jopp away, ignoring the promised interview and thus creating a new enemy. Although he is kind to Elizabeth when she is present, later he explodes into a rage, convinced that the women are impostors, and is barely able to calm himself down. Most importantly, his own pride leads him to meet Susan in a secret place--he is too ashamed to meet her openly, lest some villagers learn the truth and mock him. Over time, pride, anger, and tactlessness will continue to bring him down.
Hardy describes the Ring as a Roman amphitheater in Casterbridge, a city that was built in the spirit of old Rome. Although the Ring was the Casterbridgian equivalent of Rome's Coliseum, it was now a meeting place for any other groups needing secrecy--but never for lovers. Henchard chose this place because it would be improper to invite her to his house.
Michael and Susan meet in the middle of the arena. He beings by saying that he no longer drinks; then he asks why she has never contacted him. Susan says she was moved by faithfulness to Newson. Michael says she is innocent because of her faith. They agree that Elizabeth-Jane must not know the truth of their relationship. Michael suggests that Susan take the name Mrs. Newson and live in a cottage with Elizabeth-Jane. Michael will meet, court and marry her. This will save his reputation and bring his child back to her proper home. Susan meekly agrees. Michael promises to provide them with money to keep a wealthy lifestyle. Susan is pleased to repeat her marriage. She runs away, leaving Michael to run to his home a few moments later.
Hardy describes the Ring in gruesome detail at the beginning of the chapter. It is a marvelous example of Hardy using his life experience. The description of the Ring's shape and dimensions reflects his many years as an architect, and his comparison of the Ring to the Coliseum as well as noting the other Roman features shows his lifelong interest in the classical world.
Yet the place, despite its architectural glory and reflection of cultures past, has a sinister aura. A spot such as the Ring is a common setting in Hardy's works--an outdoor place, steeped in pagan superstition, with a grotesque past. Nothing positive can take place within the Ring: the boys cannot make the Ring a good cricket arena, lovers cannot meet there, and no one can meet there without having a hidden secret.
The one thing keeping the positive experiences away are the ghosts of the past: the gladiator killed in battle or in a sporting contest, and the woman who was strangled and burned. These past ghosts serve as "metaphors" for Michael and Susan, who have their own past problems haunting them. Although the meeting seems to bring the couple together, they are actually being led to their destruction as those in the past were. Michael will fall in a "battle" for his pride, while Susan is being strangled by Michael's control.
Farfrae has been busily working in the office while Michael had his meeting. Michael enters and orders the young man to join him for supper. After dinner, Michael wants to tell the young man about his family matter. Farfrae listens intently as Michael tells him about his early marriage, his sale of his wife, and how his family has returned. Michael says that another woman is wronged by the return of his family. A young, well-bred woman in Jersey nursed the young Henchard to health, and during his recovery they fell in love. The young woman was careless of appearances; through her carelessness a scandal arose. She wrote many letters to Michael describing the severity of the scandal. Finally Michael promised to marry her if his wife never returned. Now that Susan is alive, Michael must honor his promise to her. Farfrae agrees that a letter must be written to the young lady to tell her of the situation, and to let her go. He also thinks that Elizabeth-Jane should know the truth, but Michael refuses to tell her. Farfrae writes the letter to the young lady in Jersey, and Michael sends it.
Hardy now combines foreshadowing and the previous implications in this chapter. In Chapter 3, we speculated that Michael may have an attachment to another woman, and here we learn that there was, in the form of the young lady from Jersey. Having learned that Hardy never introduces anyone who does not affect the plot, we know that the young woman from Jersey will not be forgotten that easily.
Michael remains true to his mercurial character, and Hardy presents these traits in equal portions, both good and bad. Here he shows real remorse for all his actions against the women in his life, and a determined willingness to make everything right again. He wants to relieve his loneliness, so he confesses to the man whom he regards as his best friend. Yet he shows recklessness and impulsiveness in revealing his past to a man he has known for only a day.
Farfrae also has the ability to handle sticky situations with people. Although he planned to eat alone, he changes his plans to accommodate Michael's whim. He also gives Michael good advice in handling the woman from Jersey. However, there is a sign of discord between the friends. Michael disregards Farfrae's advice on telling Elizabeth-Jane the truth. This foreshadows future disagreements for the men.
Michael begins calling upon the women in the cottage near the Roman ruins. The conversation is so skillfully made that Elizabeth-Jane has no idea of the plot her parents have created. Susan worries that this is taking up too much of Michael's time, but Michael says he will have free time now that he has a new manager.
Soon the town begins to gossip openly about the relation between the mayor and the widow. Most of the townspeople are confused by his choice because Mrs. Newson is so pale and fragile. Still, no one can tell that Michael courts only out of a sense of duty to Susan and as a punishment to himself. The townspeople agree that the couple will eventually grow tired of each other.
Michael finally lives up to his promise, making amends to Susan by openly courting and marrying her. Despite this, the whole chapter carries a tone of ill will and melancholy that is revealed in the natural world and within the townspeople of Casterbridge. Hardy uses pathetic fallacy--the act of having nature reflect the feelings the characters--to show the couple's true feelings about the wedding. The wind and rain that fall as they enter the church foreshadow the darkness, oppressiveness, and futility of their relationship, as well as showing the turbulent feelings of the man and woman who have no feelings for each other.
The townspeople also give a sense of uneasiness about the wedding. Although they don't know the secrets behind the proceedings, they understand that something is not quite right with the marriage. Ironically, they feel that Susan is of lower birth than Michael, a strange judgment since Susan exhibits more restraint and delicacy than Michael should as a gentleman.
At the center of the turbulence Michael and Susan stand. Again Michael is willing to lower himself to make amends to Susan--going so far as to abase himself in the eyes of the community. Susan is in a difficult position: she secretly fears him and feels that their deception is wrong, but again she succumbs to her meekness and allows Michael to have his way.
Susan and Elizabeth-Jane settle into their new household happily. Elizabeth-Jane in particular flourishes in her new environment, becoming more beautiful over time. However, her change in status does not change her mindset in any way. She is still respectable and sober in tastes.
One day, Michael looks at Elizabeth-Jane's brown hair and asks Susan if the girl's hair was black when she was a baby. An astonished Susan jerks Michael's foot, and he saves himself from giving away their secret. However, after Elizabeth-Jane leaves, Michael continues to press for a deeper connection to his daughter. He wants her to take the name Henchard. Susan is hesitant, but agrees only if Elizabeth-Jane will accept it. Later, the mother goes to her daughter and convinces her not to take the name Henchard.
Elizabeth-Jane watches her stepfather's business and relationship from her new position as well. Under Farfrae's guidance, the corn business runs more smoothly. Michael also regards the younger man as a best friend, and he refuses to be separated from him for any reason. Elizabeth-Jane wants the attentions of the handsome Farfrae, but notices sadly that he never looks at her.
One day, Elizabeth-Jane finds a note from someone who wants to meet her at the granary on Durnover Hill. As she waits there, Farfrae arrives, looking for someone as well. Elizabeth-Jane hides, but a machine covers her in wheat husks and the noise catches the attentions of Farfrae. They realize that someone has sent them the same letter. Farfrae thinks someone has played a trick on them. He tells Elizabeth-Jane not to mention the incident to anyone. Before she leaves, Farfrae helps dust the embarrassed young woman off. He looks at her thoughtfully, affected by her beauty.
Hardy introduces more elements of suspense in this chapter. Obviously something about Elizabeth-Jane's birth is amiss. We can see this in Michael's insistence on her hair color and in Susan's reluctance to give her Michael's name. In addition, Hardy hints that the relationship between Michael and Farfrae may not be as rosy as it seems. Farfrae tries to separate from Michael and do his job, but Michael dismisses his feelings by saying, "don't take too much thought about things." Finally, we wonder who wants to bring Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae together--is it really an act of fate, or has someone like Michael planned to bring them together?
Elizabeth-Jane begins to grow in this new environment, gaining beauty and more freedom. However, she still retains the lessons that her previous lifestyle has taught her. She retains her mother's mistrust of destiny, believing that Providence will ruin her if she shows too much happiness and gaiety. She also retains her sensitivity, offering to change her name if Michael really wishes it.
Hardy begins by describing Elizabeth-Jane's rise in stature as the town beauty. Michael gives her some tinted gloves one day, and she slowly purchases articles that match the gloves. When she finally completes the ensemble, she wears it into town, delighting everyone with her beauty. At home, she expresses wonder at her new status, but then feels sadness because she hasn't received a good education.
Downstairs, Michael and Farfrae are watching the workers leave for the day. Michael stops one worker, Abel Whittle, and says that Abel should show up on time for work the next day. Abel has a history of oversleeping and being late for work. The next morning, Abel is late, and Michael is so angry that he threatens to get Abel out of bed himself if he is late again.
Again, the next day Abel is late. Michael marches to Abel's home on Black Street, yanks him out of bed, and orders him to work--without his breeches. Farfrae sees the man arriving without pants, and is shocked. In front of all the workers, Farfrae orders Abel back home to get his pants. When Michael objects, Farfrae threatens to leave. Michael bends to his wishes, but not without feeling embarrassment. Later in the day, Farfrae learns that Michael cared for Abel's mother last winter. Michael continues to behave coldly towards the young man.
One day a young messenger asks for Farfrae to look at a haystack. The messenger says that the townspeople have more respect for Farfrae. When Michael meets Farfrae later in the day, Michael explodes in anger. He accuses Farfrae of trying to hurt his feelings. When the confused Farfrae apologizes, Michael quickly forgives him, but begins to regret confiding in him.
This chapter has a bit of allegorical progression. Elizabeth-Jane and Michael serve as opposing forces (youth and old age, respectively) that open and close the chapter. Both use Farfrae as a measure of how far they have come or fallen, with Farfrae and the townspeople acting as catalysts for change. Through the characters of father and stepdaughter, Hardy seems to imply that youth has more freedom to fight fate, simply because young people are not as set in their ways as their elders are.
Elizabeth-Jane, the embodiment of gentle youth and beauty, is appreciated by Farfrae alone at first. As she begins to wear finer clothing to impress him, the Casterbridgians become more aware of her and begin to regard her as a good person. While she does feel a little prideful, however, she chooses to find ways to improve herself, so that she can properly meet the high regard of the townspeople. Michael, however, closes the chapter with a more negative view. Because the wiser Farfrae is present, the townspeople are not as fond of the older and bullish Michael. His outdated morals (severe punishment for a tardy but overworked man) and headstrong nature make him seem foolish. Rather than attempt to change himself for the public, Michael places all the blame on his young friend, becoming cold and moody.
In the character of Abel, Hardy utilizes several levels of Biblical allegory. Abel represents his namesake in the Cain and Abel story, who in turn has been taken to be a metaphor for Christ. Here Michael acts as a Cain figure, slaying his brother (that is, fellow worker's) with a weapon (the embarrassment of going to work without pants). After that, Abel becomes a Christ figure, crucified by the "mortification" of losing his pants. His fear that the townswomen are "laughing me to scorn" cites a Biblical passage, "All they that see him laugh him to scorn" (Psalm 22), often used to foretell the Crucifixion scene.
Michael becomes more reserved towards Farfrae since the incidents of the last chapter. While the men are still close business partners, Michael no longer invites the young man to dinner with his family.
To celebrate a public holiday, Farfrae borrows some rick-cloths from Michael for some sort of entertainment. Michael lets him have the cloths, but then wonders why he (in his role as Mayor) has not found a way to celebrate the holiday. With the blessing of the city council, he plans a large outdoor entertainment with games. To ensure that everyone will come, he even announces that the festivities will be free of charge (unlike Farfrae's entertainment, which have an admission charge).
On the holiday, the stormy weather completely ruins Michael's fair. Gloomily he closes his own festivities and goes into Casterbridge, where all the townspeople are going to Farfrae's dance. Farfrae has used the cloths to form a tent, using some nearby trees for poles. Now the whole company dances wildly in the warm surroundings. Even Susan and Elizabeth-Jane have arrived, and later Farfrae has a dance with Elizabeth-Jane. The evening is a great success for Farfrae, as Michael jealously sees. After overhearing the remarks of the townspeople and the taunts of the councilmen, Michael says that Farfrae's time as manager is coming to a close. Farfrae quietly agrees.
That night, Michael goes home, pleased that his reputation will be protected by firing Farfrae. The next morning, with his jealous rage spent, he regrets his mistake.
Although Hardy adopts the omniscient narrator's voice through the novel, he manipulates the viewpoint throughout the novel to get inside a character's head. It is a way of understanding the character's motivations and a means of creating sympathy for the characters. In this chapter, Hardy writes so we see the events unfolding from Michael's view. This is an ironic choice, since we are looking at the events of a public holiday from the viewpoint of a private person who is nearly disconnected from the community. Yet we can experience Michael's frustrations by hearing only the jibes of the townspeople and the councilmen, and we can feel the jealousy that Michael feels upon seeing Farfrae's successful dance.
Even nature sides with Farfrae. The rain that ruined Michael's entertainment magically disappears in the evening, when Farfrae's dance is about to begin. The natural world appears to work for the success of the dance: the trees provide convenient, living poles for the tent cloths. Of course, Farfrae is the one who had the idea to use this spot in the first place. Like the townspeople, he is able to understand and adapt to nature. Perhaps the fate that is working against the business-oriented Michael works so well for the nature-loving Farfrae.
Elizabeth-Jane feels ashamed when a friend tells her that she should have considered her position as the Mayor's stepdaughter before dancing. Susan has already left the ball, so Elizabeth-Jane leaves alone. Farfrae runs into her and offers to walk her home. As they walk, he says that he must leave Casterbridge because he has offended her stepfather. He also reveals that he would "ask her something" if he were richer. Elizabeth-Jane shyly hopes that he will not leave, then rushes home. She spends the following days waiting to hear any news about Farfrae.
Farfrae is not leaving Casterbridge; in fact, he plans to open his own hay and corn business. Upon hearing this, Michael openly calls Farfrae his enemy in front of the city council. The councilmen, however, practically ignore Michael's hurtful words, since Michael is rapidly falling out of favor in the town. Undaunted, Michael forbids Elizabeth-Jane to have any relationship with Farfrae. Next, he writes Farfrae to say that Elizabeth-Jane has promised to obey her stepfather and stay away.
Farfrae's business grows quickly, but he avoids any competition with Farfrae's company as a gesture of goodwill. He even sends away a customer who had dealt with Michael's company three months ago. Nevertheless, eventually the two men meet at the weekly market. When Farfrae receives an official stall at the marketplace, Michael considers the action to be a new attack. Michael becomes so bitter that he cannot stand it when Susan and Elizabeth-Jane mention the Scotsman's name at home.
The chapter gives the upright Elizabeth-Jane more of a human character. Although her reckless dancing makes her blush, she indulges herself with fantasies of Farfrae's love letters. In addition, she also voices the same concerns that we as readers have. What will happen to their courtship now that Michael and Farfrae are on bad terms? While Susan seems to encourage the suit by conveniently leaving the dance early and by talking about Farfrae, Michael simply silences her.
Once again, Michael quickly changes his mind about his friends. He drags his hatred into the business arena by encouraging competition. Despite this, Farfrae continues to act friendly, even refusing business from customers to keep his friendship. It is worth noting that the city councilmen don't seem to share the belief that Michael can take Farfrae in competition.
"Character is Fate, said Novalis." This is one of the most debated comments in Hardy's novels. At first it seems to run against all of Hardy's insistence that man is ruined by an impersonal fate. Is Michael's fate determined by the gods, his own flaws, or a combination of the two? A case can be made for each response, since the novel seems to change opinions in several places.
To Elizabeth-Jane's shock, Susan becomes too ill to leave her room. Michael sends for the richest and busiest doctor in town. Elizabeth-Jane spends the time at her mother's bedside.
One morning, Michael receives a letter from his former lover, the young lady in Jersey named Lucetta. She writes that she understands the situation of his remarriage, and that he is not to blame for her misfortunes. She only hopes that he can return the letters that she wrote to him early in their relationship. She plans to get them next Wednesday as she passes through town. Michael sighs and wishes that he could have married Lucetta. On the appointed day, he waits for her, but she does not appear, to his relief.
Meanwhile, Susan grows weaker. One day she asks to write something. After pen and paper are brought to her, she writes for a short while, then seals the letter, addressing it to "Michael Henchard. Not to be opened till Elizabeth-Jane's wedding day." Then she locks the letter in her desk.
Elizabeth-Jane, who has been lovingly watching over her mother, awakens at Susan's call. Susan confesses that she was the one who wrote the notes to the girl and Farfrae asking them to meet each other. She says that she wanted Farfrae to marry the girl, and laments that she will never see them wed.
One Sunday morning, Farfrae passes the house only to notice that all the blinds are down. When he rings the bell, he is informed that Susan has died. The townspeople discuss her death around the water pump.
As usual, Hardy introduces more elements of suspense as he furthers the plot. Susan dies, but not before writing a cryptic letter that cannot be opened until a certain time. To replace Susan's role in more ways than one, Lucetta appears once more through her letters, though she does not appear when she is expected.
Susan leaves the novel with no real change in her outlook on life. Fate continued to treat her cruelly until the very end. As she says, "Nothing is as you wish it." In a sense nothing in her life has been as she wished it. Her "first" marriage ended horribly both times, and her "second" marriage was loving but eventually unlawful in her eyes. Her plan to bring Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane together failed miserably. Through it all, she has remained meek, moved by the whims of her men. She cannot control the amount of happiness that Elizabeth-Jane gets after she is gone, though she lived for the girl's happiness. The poor woman does not even have the power to die in our presence--we only learn that she has died from Farfrae's questioning. Is the writing of this letter her last attempt to manipulate fate and take some sort of control? Mrs. Cuxsom foreshadows that the secret of the letter will be harmful: "Little things a' didn't wish seen, anybody will see."
Both Michael and the townspeople have little regard for Susan's death. Michael wishes that he had married Lucetta as Susan is dying. Mrs. Cuxsom shares the details of Susan's death with the eager listeners over the water pump. Coney even digs up the pennies that Susan had placed on her dead eyes and buried in the garden. These actions continue the disregard that everyone in Casterbridge has for Susan's feelings. They also emphasize the gruesome touch that Hardy brings to every novel.
Three weeks after Susan's funeral, Michael and Elizabeth-Jane speak of the old times. Elizabeth-Jane repeatedly refers to Newson as her father. This annoys Michael: after his wife's death and Farfrae's forced estrangement, the mayor feels a deep loneliness again. After a few moments, he confesses that he is her real father, and tells her an abbreviated version of their first marriage (carefully omitting the auction). Elizabeth-Jane bursts into tears as Michael says he will do anything to be a real father to her. He then asks if she is willing to change her last name to Henchard, and she helps him write up an announcement for the Casterbridge Chronicle. With that, he sends the girl to bed, telling her that he will have proof for her in the morning.
As he searches for the proof in Susan's desk, he thinks joyfully of his daughter and her good sense. Soon he comes across the letter that Susan wrote on her deathbed. The letter was not sealed very well, and as a result, the letter was already opened. Believing that the note on the front was just a whim of Susan's, Michael opens the letter and reads it. In the letter, Susan confesses that Elizabeth-Jane is actually Newson's daughter. The Elizabeth-Jane that was sold with Susan died three months after the sale. At first, Michael doesn't believe the letter, but the sleeping Elizabeth-Jane's features are definitely like Newson's features.
Michael spends the rest of the night cursing his fate. He walks past the jail and the gallows in the northeastern side of town, the most barren part of Casterbridge. When he returns, he is convinced that he must continue the lie rather than tell the truth and face humiliation. He experiences a deep blow to his emotions when Elizabeth-Jane admits that she believes Michael's confession from the night before, and she resolves to call him Father.
Hardy delivers the most painful bit of irony yet in this chapter, revealing that Elizabeth-Jane is actually the sailor's daughter just as Michael convinces her of his claim to her. Mrs. Cuxsom's words from the last chapter were prophetic: "Little things a' didn't wish seen, anybody will see." Michael is forced to see everything that Susan didn't want him to see, both the letter that reveals the secret and the resemblance to Newson evident in Elizabeth-Jane's face.
Hardy has again shifted the viewpoint of the chapter back to Michael. We feel sympathy for him because we experience the joy of making her his daughter, followed quickly by the defeat the letter symbolizes, all through his eyes. We even see Nature mocking the fact that he does not have a child, as he walks through the section of Casterbridge that is the most barren, where "frost lingered" in springtime. As before, however, "Character is Fate." If Michael had not been so insistent on making Elizabeth-Jane his daughter, he would not have felt such a crushing blow when he learned the truth. If he had not blindly ignored the note on the front of the letter, he could have saved himself the pain. The bullish nature that he cannot shake has brought all of this upon him.
Elizabeth-Jane is extremely shocked to feel Michael's cold demeanor so soon after his announcement. Soon he begins mocking the girl in the open, critical of her country dialect, her bold handwriting, and her consideration of the servants. Another fact brings him great shame. One day, when Elizabeth-Jane brings Nance Mockridge some bread and cider, Michael scolds her for helping the commoners. Nance indignantly tells Michael that Elizabeth-Jane once worked as a waitress in the Three Mariners. Elizabeth-Jane tries to explain, but Michael is convinced that her actions have cast him into the deepest shame. His beliefs seem to be confirmed when he is informed that he is not in the running for the position of alderman when his term as mayor ends. In addition, he becomes even angrier when her realizes that Farfrae will be given a position on the council. Wishing to rid himself of the girl who seems to have brought all of his misfortune, he invites Farfrae to continues his courtship of Elizabeth-Jane.
Now that her "father" avoids her, the miserable Elizabeth-Jane tries to win him back by devoting herself to her studies, teaching herself Latin with books and from the relics of Casterbridge's past. On the nice winter days, she spends some time at her mother's grave. One day, she goes to the graveyard to find a pretty young lady reading her mother's gravestone. The young lady is not from Casterbridge, but Elizabeth-Jane cannot catch up to speak to her. On another visit, the young lady finally speaks to Elizabeth-Jane after overhearing her lamentations. She is so sympathetic that Elizabeth-Jane pours out her heart to the young woman. The young lady is so moved that she offers the girl a position as companion. Elizabeth-Jane joyfully accepts, but the young woman promises to return for her final answer in a week.
The suspense continues in this chapter. Who is the mysterious young lady that Elizabeth-Jane meets in the graveyard? Why is she so concerned about Elizabeth-Jane's problems? What will happen when Farfrae gets the letter about courting Elizabeth-Jane?
Now the viewpoint of the chapter shifts to Elizabeth-Jane. We automatically feel for the young lady who is being treated so cruelly by her "father." Hardy is so skilled at evoking pathos for her that we can easily turn on Michael, the man whom we sympathized with in the last chapter. Yet Hardy avoids making the girl into a saint and tries to make her behavior more human. Elizabeth-Jane works hard at being the perfect girl for Michael, but she does it with tears streaming down her face and while wishing that she would die. Fortunately, the chapter also hints that good things are in store for the girl. She has a position with a charming young lady, and she has the promise of a courtship from Farfrae. In addition, she attempts to grow closer to the townspeople, giving them food and trying to learn more about the town.
Michael behaves very ironically in this chapter. He asks his stepdaughter, "Why do you lower yourself so confoundedly?" when in fact he seems to lower himself. He also shows that he prefers to believe both factions of public opinion. He is concerned with what the upper classes think, as in his concern for the girl's handwriting and her speech. Yet he also easily believes the lower classes, listening to Nance's words rather than Elizabeth-Jane's explanation. The ultimate irony is that the townspeople don't even like Michael anymore, choosing Farfrae over Michael for the city council.
Elizabeth-Jane concentrates on High-Place Hall and the lovely new stranger who has offered her a position there. The town is talking about the new lady who is coming to live there. One evening she sneaks away to have a look at the outside of the Hall. Because of its location directly over the marketplace, many of the previous owners have not spent very long at the hall. However, the lights upstairs and the movers have signaled that the new owner is here to stay for a while. As she turns to run home, she hears footsteps and runs to hide. She does not see that the footsteps belong to Michael, and he does not see her because she is so well hidden.
When Michael returns home, Elizabeth-Jane asks if she may leave home to go somewhere where she can gain some education. Michael quickly agrees, eager to have the girl out of his sight. Elizabeth-Jane later meets the lady, Miss Templeman, at the churchyard again. Together the women decide that Elizabeth-Jane will move into High-Place Hall that evening. Michael is surprised to see her leave so quickly, and tries to make her stay. Elizabeth-Jane assures him that she won't be far away--just at High-Place Hall. Michael is shocked to learn her destination.
Hardy draws upon his architectural experience again. He describes the facades, parapets, and other sections with the eye of an architect. His talent for architectural detail also benefits the story. High-Place Hall has many little gruesome features that act as metaphors for the corruption within its walls. There are "damp nooks where fungi grew" and a mask over an archway that has been so beaten that it seems to have been "eaten away by disease." In addition, the placement of the house in the center of town is significant. It implies that everyone who lives here will be at the center of the events in town. Since both Elizabeth-Jane and Michael are secretly visiting the house, the house already draws the important personages near.
Elizabeth-Jane and Michael continue to act as opposites. By this point, Michael seems to have no affection for Elizabeth-Jane whatsoever, treating her with "absolute indifference." (Yet, as in his relationship with Farfrae, he also seems to regret sending the girl away so quickly.) However, Elizabeth-Jane continues to have a loving spirit. Not only does she promise to return if Michael needs her, she also regards the house as a place where she can find love--she comes there "with a lover's feeling."
As Elizabeth-Jane considers going to High-Place Hall to see Lucetta, Michael receives a letter from Lucetta saying that she is staying at High-Place Hall. He has learned that the Hall is being rented by a Miss Templeman, not a Miss Le Sueur (the name by which Michael had known Lucetta in Jersey). Later Lucetta sends him another note: she has taken the name of Templeman from a recently deceased aunt, the woman who left the Hall and her fortune to Lucetta. In this note, Lucetta also explains her choice of companion. When Michael comes to visit his daughter, he can conveniently call upon Lucetta at the same time. Michael is pleased by her inheritance and amused by her tactics to lure him to the hall. He leaves immediately to call on Lucetta, but is told that she is engaged and will see him tomorrow. Annoyed by her "airs," he plans to punish her by staying away from her for a few days.
That evening, Elizabeth-Jane and Lucetta talk. Although she planned to introduce herself as a woman from Bath, she tells Elizabeth-Jane about Jersey, the half-French, half-English region. Elizabeth-Jane is fascinated by the young woman, even if she seems a bit flighty.
The next morning Lucetta eagerly awaits Michael's visit. As she and Elizabeth-Jane watch the town from their window, they watch Michael walking through the market. He accidentally meets Farfrae, but ignores him. Lucetta wonders if the girl is interested in anyone outside.
Two more days pass, and still Michael has not visited. Elizabeth-Jane tells Lucetta that her stepfather will not come because he is angry with her. Lucetta bursts into tears because her scheme is failing. She sends Elizabeth-Jane on several errands, then writes a quick note to Michael, telling him that she will be alone today. When someone finally calls, Lucetta hides behind a curtain. She leaps out, only to discover that the caller is not Michael.
The situation that Lucetta suggests acts as a parallel scene to Michael and Susan's plan to fool the residents of Casterbridge. Michael is placed in the position that Susan held. Love does not figure into Michael's plans of marriage either: like Susan, Michael feels that having a wealthy wife can only benefit him "though he was not a fortune-hunter." Lucetta holds the role that Michael had. She suggests that she take the new name and home (as Susan was forced to do). Elizabeth-Jane will again play a part in the courtship: she is again the lure that brings Michael to the house.
Hardy makes Lucetta a stock character as the flighty Frenchwoman, and she serves as a foil to the more upright Elizabeth-Jane. As we saw in Chapter 20, Lucetta is concerned with fashion (while Elizabeth-Jane only flirted with fashion and stuck to her own somber clothing). In this chapter, Lucetta focuses on putting things into pretty French phrases, sitting in pretty poses (as if she were posing for the painter Titian), and manipulating people. How can the somber and shy Elizabeth-Jane ever compare to Lucetta? Although Lucetta manipulates Elizabeth-Jane, she still finds herself telling her new companion her past life. Thus, we see that Lucetta has the capacity for kindness despite all her deception.
Finally, Hardy closes the chapter with a cliffhanger to keep the readers interested in the story. Who is the man? Why has he come? Does he have a connection to Lucetta as well?
As it turns out, the visitor is Donald Farfrae, handsome and impeccably dressed. He has come to see Elizabeth-Jane. Lucetta and Farfrae are embarrassed at their surprise encounter, but soon they find that they are becoming attracted to each other. They converse pleasantly, engaging in light, flirtatious comments the whole time.
Underneath the window, a business transaction takes place. A young man must work on a distant farm, leaving his sweetheart behind. Lucetta and Farfrae are both moved by the great emotion shown by the lovers. Farfrae hurries outside to hire the young man, and Lucetta is touched by his kind spirit. Soon after, Farfrae leaves with the promise to visit again, having completely forgotten about Elizabeth-Jane.
Three minutes later, a maid announces that Michael has come to call on Lucetta. Lucetta says she has a headache and will not see him today. Michael leaves. When Elizabeth-Jane returns, Lucetta resolves to keep the girl around as a way to keep Michael from visiting her.
Hardy's wry humor shines through in this chapter. Lucetta's invitation to Farfrae to sit is a good example. Farfrae "hesitated, looked at the chair, thought there was no danger in it (though there was), and sat down." Such ironic humor is typical of Hardy.
This chapter brings Farfrae back into the story and reminds us of his outlook on things. Farfrae has a cautious manner by nature. He explores the chair and all his options before sitting down. He also has a tender heart, as shown in his desire to keep the young man and his lover together. Finally, he plans to continue all his past obligations with Elizabeth-Jane, showing his honesty and faithfulness.
Lucetta is the opposite in temperament. Instead of being cautious, she openly shows interest in the stranger and begins flirting with him. Although she shows a tender heart in wanting the lovers to stay together, she completely ignores the young man's plan to see Elizabeth-Jane and keeps him for herself. She lies to attract the young man: although she insists that she is not a coquette, her flirtatious manner with Farfrae lies for her. She manipulates people again, keeping Elizabeth-Jane around just to keep Michael away from her. Can Farfrae and Lucetta have a true relationship despite their differences?
Elizabeth-Jane is glad to learn that Lucetta will stay. Lucetta's window provides a great view of the marketplace and Farfrae's stall there. Both women secretly steal glances at Farfrae without the other's knowledge.
One Saturday, Lucetta's dresses arrive from London, and Lucetta chooses to wear the new cherry-colored dress on their trip into town. A new seeding machine called a horse-drill is brought to town, and the women wish to travel into town to see it. As they examine the drill, Michael Henchard speaks to Elizabeth-Jane. She introduces her stepfather to Lucetta, who is polite. After mocking the horse-drill, Michael leaves, pausing only to murmur "You refused to see me!" to Lucetta. Elizabeth-Jane wonders what the sentence could mean. Suddenly the women hear Farfrae's humming from inside the drill. He reveals that he has purchased this revolutionary machine. As he talks to Lucetta, Elizabeth-Jane notices that the two seem very close. As the women rest at the end of the day, Lucetta comments upon Michael's distance to Elizabeth-Jane.
Curious, Elizabeth-Jane starts to wonder about Lucetta's own past and life, and she decides to keep an eye on her companion. One day she imagines that Lucetta has met Farfrae, and asks a nervous Lucetta about the meeting. Later Lucetta tells the story of her past, making it seem as if it has happened to another woman. Finally, Lucetta asks what the other woman should do now that "she" has grown fond of another man. Elizabeth- Jane cannot give her a definite answer. However, the girl sighs that Lucetta could not tell her the whole truth--for she knows that Lucetta is "she" of the story.
The drill serves to remind us of the differences between Farfrae and Michael. Farfrae focuses solely on the business, while Michael has to mix business with personal relationships. Farfrae obviously believes in progress and the use of technology in bringing the drill to town. Michael's stubborn conservative streak causes him to ridicule the machine which is "impossible it should act." There is actually no reason why Michael should be against the machine, except for the "jackanapes" who had it delivered.
The theme of being plagued by a blind fate has already become clear to Susan and Michael. Now the same fate is working against Elizabeth-Jane, in the form of a relationship between Farfrae and Lucetta. It is obvious that Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane are better suited: Elizabeth-Jane shares his love of change, and they both understand the Scriptures (when Lucetta has a "somewhat limited" knowledge of them). However, she learns of their growing infatuation by means of a scene that parallels the meeting of Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane. As he did when he met Elizabeth-Jane, he hums a tune that blatantly refers to Lucetta. Despite her disappointment and confusion, Elizabeth-Jane remains stoic and quiet, increasing our respect for her.
Farfrae calls upon Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane frequently. Although Elizabeth-Jane is in the room, Farfrae completely ignores her, choosing to give all his attention to the livelier Lucetta. Soon Elizabeth-Jane realizes that Farfrae is the second man from Lucetta's story--he is blatantly in love with her, with all traces of his past infatuation for Elizabeth-Jane gone.
Michael also calls upon Lucetta. His love for her has increased now that she has proclaimed her love for another man. Lucetta treats him with a cool but cordial air. Michael offers for her hand, and after attempting to change the subject, Lucetta gives an evasive answer. Farfrae rides past as Lucetta and Michael talk, but Michael does not see Lucetta's loving look at Farfrae. Michael leaves, dejected, while Lucetta passionately proclaims that she will forsake the past to love Farfrae.
Elizabeth-Jane watches the whole situation and is crushed that the two most important men in her life do not care about her. Farfrae's rejection makes sense because Lucetta is a very desirable woman. However, she cannot understand why her father has become so cold. Nevertheless, she becomes reconciled to being unloved.
Hardy brings all the major characters together in the house that sits in the center of the square. True to his theme, the cruel fate continues to haunt both Michael and Elizabeth-Jane. However, the way each handles the fate speaks volumes about the better person. When Michael is rejected by Lucetta, he implies that he will keep trying to win the woman, even through blackmail: "What is known in your native Jersey may get known here." Elizabeth-Jane, however, takes rejection with a grain of salt. "She... wondered what unwished-for thing Heaven might send her in place of him."
Lucetta reveals her own tragic flaws here. First, like Michael, she is haunted by her past. She is so terrified by her past that she attempts to remake herself: "How you keep on about Jersey! I am English!" Another flaw is her reckless emotion. "I'll love where I choose!" In the following chapters, these flaws will slowly bring her dark fate as well.
One morning, Farfrae and Michael pass each other. Farfrae merely nods to his former friend, but Michael stops. He asks the young man if he remembers the story he told about the "second woman," and says that the woman will not have him. Farfrae says that he owes the woman nothing more, and the men part. Farfrae is convinced that the woman of the story is not Lucetta, and Michael is convinced that Farfrae is not the rival for Lucetta's affections. However, soon afterwards, Michael is having tea with Lucetta when Farfrae enters. Lucetta becomes so nervous and fluttery that Michael believes Farfrae is the rival. Elizabeth-Jane, who is watching the scene, is disgusted at everyone's behavior.
Michael sends for Joshua Jopp, the former applicant for the position of general manager, hoping that Jopp can still serve as a foreman. Jopp, who has been living in the slums of Casterbridge, names a moderate salary. To further persuade Michael, Jopp says that he lived in Jersey when Michael used to work there. Michael eagerly hires him. Jopp's first assignment is to ruin "the Scotsman's" business any way he can. Elizabeth-Jane learns that Michael has hired Jopp, whom she thinks is unfit for the position. When she tries to express her apprehension, Michael merely snaps at her.
The harvest weather always influences the price of grain. This June, the rains foretell a very bad harvest season, sending grain prices up. Michael wants to have proof that the harvest will fail, so he consults a weather diviner, Mr. Fall (who is called Wide-oh behind his back). Mr. Fall predicts that the harvest will be extremely rainy. Spurred by this prediction, Michael buys all the grain he can. However, soon the weather becomes perfect, and Michael loses money selling the corn at lower prices. He loses so much money that he must mortgage much of his property--and running into a sympathetic Farfrae on the way to the bank does not help Michael's mood. Michael fires Jopp for giving him bad advice, but Jopp swears that Michael will be sorry.
Elizabeth-Jane is once again the voice of reason when all the other characters are blinded by other passions. Farfrae is blinded by love for Lucetta; Lucetta is blinded by love for Farfrae and fear of Michael; Michael is blinded by a hatred of Farfrae. The reintroduction of Jopp figures heavily in this triangle: he hates Michael and Farfrae, and his connections to Jersey could cause him to have some connection to Lucetta. However, we must remember that Jopp is the villain. He lives in the slums of town, reflecting his true nature. His events and knowledge will inevitably lead to ruin.
The description of the farmer's connection to the weather is in keeping with the villagers' beliefs earlier in the novel. As stated before, the people derive their strength from the nature and from the pagan beliefs, even as they progress and use the latest technology. The danger is in believing in the old ways too much, as Michael does in his visit to the weather forecaster. Michael believes that this man can accurately predict the weather, which is simply foolish. The man's nickname gives a clue: "Wide-oh" could easily mean "wide off." Farfrae relies on sound business planning and that certain instinct that true people of nature have, and as a result he is a success.
Mr. Fall's name is certainly an allegory. He stands for the season of autumn, or fall--we can tell by his own reliance on "the sun, moon, and stars." His name is also a warning to Michael. Soon Michael will come to a "fall" in status because of his foolishness.
Farfrae begins buying grain when the fair harvest weather drives prices down. Just as Michael believes that the diviner could be correct, the weather immediately becomes damp. Farfrae turns a large profit, and Michael knows that the strange fate is again ruining him.
One September evening, Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane hear a great outcry under the window. The hay wagons of Henchard and Farfrae have crashed, and both wagon drivers are loudly blaming each other. As the men begin a fight, Michael arrives. He blames Farfrae's driver, but Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane, who saw the whole accident, blame Michael's driver. Michael's driver says that the women are just lying because they love Farfrae. Lucetta hurries into the house before Michael can ask her if it's true. The constable rides up saying that there is only one case to hear in court--the case of a disorderly old woman. Michael agrees to hear the case.
Afterwards, he tries to visit Lucetta, only to learn that she has another "engagement." From his hiding place in the shadows, he watches as Farfrae arrives for Lucetta. Michael follows them to the Market House. Farfrae and Lucetta declare their love for each other, though Lucetta wishes to have her way in some things. Michael leaves, going to Lucetta's home and waiting for her there. When she returns, Michael threatens to reveal their past connections if she does not agree to marry him. With Elizabeth-Jane as a witness, Michael forces Lucetta into accepting him. Elizabeth-Jane wonders why Lucetta is so familiar with her father.
Now Michael shows his own gift for clairvoyance in this chapter. He predicts that the conjurer was correct, that Farfrae will be Mayor, and that Lucetta's rival is Farfrae. Hardy adds a sly prediction in his noting that Lucetta had an "engagement" to go out. Of course, Michael's "fetishistic" beliefs, such as clairvoyance and superstition, surface in the face of defeat. In losing his grain and his money, Michael believes that someone is "stirring an unholy brew to confound me!"
Like Michael, Lucetta is haunted by the past--in her case, the past in Jersey. Instead of making it right, however, Lucetta chooses to run away from it, saying, "I don't want to hear it!" Michael behaves as he did in handling the marriage to Susan, in a loveless and bullying manner. His rough manner is made worse by the fact that Farfrae is the chief rival, and he will do anything to ruin Farfrae.
As a magistrate, Michael is obliged to preside over the court in the absence of the new Mayor, Dr. Chalkfield. As the constable told him the night before, there is only one case, that of the old woman. Michael looks at the old woman, believing that he knows her, but has no idea why.
Constable Stubberd explains that the old woman was disorderly in a gutter near the church. The old woman says that he is not giving sound testimony, but the magistrates disagree. After stumbling around the curse words that the old woman has said, the constable is stopped by Michael, who wants the woman's testimony. In response, she tells the story of the auction from Weydon-Priors twenty years ago, ending by saying that the man of the story was Michael. Although the magistrates try to stop the woman, Michael admits that the story is true, then steps down from the bench.
Meanwhile, one of Lucetta's servants has heard the story from the old furmity- seller. When Lucetta wonders why so many people are around town today, the servant tells her the whole story. Lucetta has never known why Michael and Susan were separated, so the news comes as a shock to her. She tells Elizabeth-Jane that she must vacation at Port-Bredy for a few days. When Michael calls on Lucetta later that week, Elizabeth-Jane tells him where Lucetta has gone. The next day, Elizabeth-Jane says she has returned, but is walking along the road to Port-Bredy.
Coincidence strikes again--what else could explain the furmity-seller's appearance in a town that is some miles away from her home base of Weydon-Priors? It is ironic that she, as a woman of a lower class and one who almost had forgotten the incident when Susan asked, should appear to bring down the gentleman mayor. The scene serves as a parallel scene to Nance Mockridge's accusation against Elizabeth-Jane in Chapter 20.
Hardy's humor shows again in the ineptitude of the court, with the clerk who cannot keep up with the testimony, and the foolish Stubberd who stumbles around curse words. Despite the wry commentary on the court, the magistrates are all convinced the furmity-seller is not to be believed (they have ruled against her two times before her accusation). Michael could have agreed with the magistrates and discounted her claim. However, we must respect him for his display of morality. The confession is also in keeping with his mercurial character as one of his many sudden decisions.
Lucetta walks along the road to Port-Bredy, eagerly waiting for Farfrae. Elizabeth-Jane appears to meet Lucetta. Suddenly the women become aware of an old bull that has escaped from his pen. As they run to a nearby barn for protection, the bull begins to chase them. Although the women make it to the barn, the bull enters and is ready to attack the women. Then a hand reaches out to grab the bull by his leading stick. It is Michael, who calmly subdues the bull and rescues the women.
Lucetta cries that she has left her muff in the abandoned barn, and Elizabeth-Jane runs back for it. On her way back to town, she meets Farfrae, who gives her a ride back into town. As they ride, Elizabeth-Jane tells Farfrae about the meeting with the bull and the rescue by Michael. Farfrae is very upset by the news, but does not attempt to find Lucetta for fear of intruding upon her and Michael. He drops Elizabeth-Jane off and goes home to continue packing for his move.
Meanwhile, Michael is helping Lucetta to town. He tells her that he will agree to an "indefinite engagement." Lucetta wants to do something in return for his rescue. Michael begs her to tell the creditor Mr. Grower that they will soon be married, in order to keep Grower from pressing for a payment. Lucetta cannot agree to this, since Grower was a witness to her wedding with Farfrae. After she heard about the auction, she felt unsafe with Michael. She went to Port-Bredy to marry Farfrae. Michael is so enraged that he sends Lucetta away roughly, threatening to reveal their past connection once again.
Naturally, the bull is a metaphor for Michael, who like the bull has placed Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane in danger on several occasions. Like Michael, in Elizabeth-Jane's view the bull does not seem so terrifying, perhaps "having intended a practical joke than a murder." (Look for similar words that Michael uses to describe himself in Chapter 35.)
Irony strikes another blow to Michael in this chapter--the first of many blows that will occur in this section. He has risked himself to save the woman he loves--the woman who is actually his rival's wife. Yet there is an element of suspense present: Michael still has Lucetta's past as a deadly weapon. Despite his anger, he is still honorable enough (or perhaps prideful enough) not to take any of the money that Lucetta offers him for saving her life.
This is the first mention of the creditor Mr. Grower in the novel. His name is almost certainly an allegorical one that could represent God, though whether it is the Christian God or a pagan god is unclear. "Grower" hearkens back to the days in village folklore when people believed that certain agricultural gods were responsible for the harvest. Yet Michael and Lucetta seem to speak of him as the judgmental Christian God. Michael says that "it is at [Grower's] hands that I shall suffer if at anybody's," and Lucetta's cry that Grower has witnessed the marriage brings to mind a line from the marriage ceremony: "Those whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder."
Donald tells his landlady to move all his belongings to Lucetta's home. The move had been delayed because he had to take care of some business in Port-Bredy. He finally arrives at High-Place Hall to a warm welcome. Together they agree to tell Elizabeth-Jane about their marriage and to ask her to stay at the Hall. Lucetta meets Elizabeth-Jane and hesitantly begins to tell the girl about her past. Elizabeth-Jane wryly notes that she knows who the lady of the story is, and that her father is the first man in the story. She tells Lucetta that she has two "proper" choices: marry Michael, or remain single. When Lucetta flings her hand out, revealing her wedding-ring, Elizabeth-Jane thinks that Lucetta has married Michael. When Lucetta confesses that she has married Farfrae, Elizabeth-Jane is crushed. She quietly moves out of the Hall to an apartment across the street from Michael's rooms. The townspeople, who have been discussing the secret wedding, wonder if Farfrae will live off Lucetta's vast funds.
This chapter seems to give illogical behaviors to the characters. Farfrae, strangely enough, seems more concerned with securing his business appointments rather than hurrying home to his new bride. Perhaps Hardy means to hint that Farfrae and Lucetta really are not right for each other. Elizabeth-Jane also acts strangely in this chapter. We know that Elizabeth-Jane is a stickler for propriety, and would insist that Lucetta marry her father to save face. Yet we cannot explain why Elizabeth-Jane has not heard any of the gossip surrounding the furmity-seller's accusations. Hardy tries to cover up his logical mishap by saying that she is "never knowing what's going on," but even Elizabeth-Jane's too perfect ears would have heard something about her stepfather. Perhaps Hardy is trying to refer back to the quote from that she throws at Lucetta, which translates as, "Though I approve of the better things I see, I follow after the worse." This ironic quote certainly represents Elizabeth-Jane's tendency to support the "worse" characters of Lucetta and Michael.
Within a day, the furmity-seller's story had become common knowledge in Casterbridge. After such a shocking confession, Henchard's fortunes decrease along with his good name. One of his largest debtors fails, and his employees make bad decisions in purchasing corn. He has lost nearly all his fortune. The creditors take possession of any property Michael has left. During the bankruptcy proceedings, Michael offers everything he has: a gold watch and a money-bag containing spare change. The creditors refuse these items, praising Michael for his honesty. Although he is touched by their compassion, Michael still pawns the watch and uses the money to pay a minor creditor.
Elizabeth-Jane tries to find her father, but writing letters and trying to visit him does no good. She learns that he has moved into Jopp's cottage at Priory Mill, and that he will see no one. As she passes the old business, Abel Whittle tells her that Farfrae owns it now. Farfrae uses the modern equipment, and the men are happy with the working conditions despite the lower salary.
The dark fate again haunts Henchard. Despite his noble act of confession, the townspeople instantly think his act is scandalous--implying the hurtful nature of public opinion once more. Ironically, Michael could have stopped the damage if he had been honest from the beginning. Hardy notes that the damage would not have been as great if the news had been older. Regardless, his debtors fail and all his property is taken. On the other end of the scale, Farfrae has gained the business that Michael has lost due to the same fate.
The punishment that Michael deems fitting for himself is self-destruction. We can see this in his refusal to take the comfort of Elizabeth-Jane and his moving in with his enemy Jopp. Jopp and Michael have a strange, parasitic relationship: Michael stays with Jopp because the man continues to taunt him with his signs of failure. Michael also returns to the depressing and barren side of town, giving Nature a hand in his depression.
This chapter also contains a hint of Hardy's intent to connect the series of Wessex novels. One of the men at the bankruptcy proceedings is "a reserved young man named Boldwood." Boldwood appeared in an earlier Wessex novel, Far from the Madding Crowd. This is Hardy's attempt to fashion a reality for his characters and his world.
Two bridges on the road leading away from town have long had a reputation for attracting failures and suicides. The poorer people of town visit the near bridge made of brick, while the upper-class people visit the farther one made of stone. Michael frequently visits the stone bridge. One afternoon, Jopp meets him there. He tells Michael that the Farfraes have moved into their new house (Michael's former mansion) and have bought new furniture (Michael's old furniture). Jopp then leaves, satisfied that he has ruined Michael's heart. Michael is bitter at his changed fortune. However, things seem to change when Farfrae comes to visit Michael. He offers Michael a space in his former home, which Michael refuses. Farfrae then offers Michael any furniture that might have sentimental value. Michael begins to think that he may have wronged Farfrae.
Elizabeth-Jane spends most of her days involved in her studies. She does not look out her window at Farfrae and Lucetta, who appear very happy. She hears that Michael has a cold, and leaves to take care of him. At first Michael tries to send her away, but she stays and promises to visit more often. Her visits soon bring him back to health and give him a better outlook on life. He even applies to Farfrae for a job as a hay-trusser. Farfrae employs him, but always sends instructions through a third person.
Michael has now returned to the clothes of a hay-trusser. A ragged blue suit is the last piece of his gentlemanly past. At first he seems very happy with his new life. However, rumors that Farfrae will be elected Mayor are beginning to surface. Upon hearing this and watching the happy Farfraes, Michael slowly grows more angry. When Elizabeth-Jane overhears that Michael is now drinking (after twenty-one years), she hurries to find her father.
The bridges of the town are made of brick and stone. They act as metaphors for the differences in lifestyle between the lower classes and the upper classes. The brick bridge symbolizes progress and hope (as brick is the man-made material). The lower classes often come here to think of their misfortunes, but they do not brood on them: "they said they were down on their luck." The misfortunes of the poor are temporary and based upon the whim of fate. The upper classes, however, go to the farther bridge that is made of the more natural stone. The upper classes, like Michael, go there to "muse" on their fate, rather than dismissing it. The stone bridge is farther from town to hide the aristocrats from prying eyes. The stone, the older material, also implies that the aristocrats are rooted in the past.
Farfrae continues his ironic climb to power. He now acquires Michael's house and furniture, making his victory almost complete. Yet he remains kind to Michael, offering him a home and furniture. Elizabeth-Jane also continues to be kind despite all of Michael's rejections, giving him tenderness and someone who cares about him.
Michael is in the same situation as he was twenty-one years before. Again he is a hay-trusser who is down on his luck. He has seen another man take his woman away once more. It is natural that such a dire repetition of events should lead Michael to drink once again.
Later that Sunday, Michael joins the Casterbridge workers in the weekly discussion and singing that takes place in the Three Mariners. The people welcome him, and offer to sing the Fourth Psalm for him. Michael angrily orders the company to sing the 109th Psalm, a Psalm about a man who has "ill-got riches." As the Farfraes leave church, Michael says that the Psalm is dedicated to Donald, to everyone's shock. Fortunately, Elizabeth-Jane arrives to take her drunken father home. His veiled threats against Farfrae convince her that Farfrae must be warned. Later in the week, Abel Whittle's pitying looks cause Michael to explode. Elizabeth-Jane offers to help, not only to keep Whittle away from her father, but also to see what happens when Michael and Farfrae meet.
Lucetta is never seen out of her husband's company, and she glories in his love. One day, she stumbles into the barn where Michael is working. Michael greets her with a sarcastic servility. The next day Lucetta sends him a note that begs him not to be so bitter the next time they meet. Although Michael realizes this letter could ruin Lucetta, he tosses it into the fire.
Elizabeth-Jane brings Michael tea in an effort to keep him away from stronger drink. One day, she arrives to find her father and Farfrae talking near an open door on the top floor. Michael makes a movement with his arms, as if he plans to push Farfrae out the door and to his death. She is so frightened by this gesture that she resolves to warn Farfrae of the potential danger.
Hardy adds the usual smattering of irony to this chapter. The first irony occurs in the Casterbridge custom of meeting for drinks on Sunday. Although the people are gathering in the tavern to discuss the Christian sermon, Hardy likens it to a ritual in "the monolithic circle at Stonehenge." The landlord also has all the tools needed for the ritual in quantities of forty: cups, pipes and chairs. The scene shows the Wessex tendency to combine the Christian with the pagan, and the villagers' tendencies to remain close to the old ways and religions.
Another ironic incident is the dedication of the 109th Psalm to Donald by Michael. Michael intends it to be a prophetic song, but as we can see, the Psalm actually traces Michael's fall. Michael's child is an orphan, and his wife was "a widow plunged in grief." The fruit of all Michael's toil was taken away by "strangers" in the form of creditors. Michael seems to realize how much it impacts his life as he is led away from the tavern.
Michael is obviously more bitter than ever about the quick change in the Farfraes' fortunes. His painfully sarcastic remarks about the feelings of "we of the lower classes" makes that clear. To be fair, the Farfraes are "higher" than the rest of the town: Lucetta's window "aloft" over the marketplace, Farfrae's business taking him to the top of the loft. Michael's threat to push Farfrae from the top of the building symbolizes his desire for Farfrae to "fall from a great height," as Michael did.
The next morning, Elizabeth-Jane rises early and goes to meet Farfrae. When she says that Michael may try to injure him, he is incredulous. Farfrae makes light of her fears, but later that day the town clerk says the same. Farfrae came to discuss the terms of a recent agreement. In exchange for the town council's underwriting the costs of a seed shop, Farfrae will pay fifty pounds as down payment. The seed shop was for Michael's "new beginning." At the town clerk's warning, however, Farfrae decides to stop negotiations with the owner of the shop. The disappointed shop owner later tells Michael that the council had wanted to give him a shop, but Farfrae had ruined the plans.
Lucetta greets her husband warmly at the end of the day, but notices that he is preoccupied. Farfrae confesses that he is confused and hurt by Michael's hatred. Lucetta, afraid that Farfrae will eventually learn of her past indiscretion, suggests that they leave town. Farfrae considers her suggestion until a visitor comes. It is Alderman Vatt, announcing Mayor Chalkfield's death and offering the mayorship to Farfrae. Farfrae accepts, since it is the will of the people and the will of the Powers above.
Soon after, Lucetta accidentally meets Michael in the crowded marketplace. She asks him to return her old letters again, since the death of her aunt prevented her from getting them previously. Michael says he doesn't know where they are, but he will think about finding them. As the town celebrates Farfrae's election, Michael remembers that the letters are right under Lucetta's nose, in the dining-room safe of the old house.
The next day, Farfrae decides to allow Michael into the house to open the safe. Michael finds the letters there. He reminds Farfrae of the story behind the letters, then begins to read them aloud to the bored Farfrae. However, he always stops reading before he reveals the writer.
This chapter is filled with irony, all of it caused by the coincidence/ strange fate that has haunted the Henchards. Now it seems that the fate is beginning to turn on Lucetta. Just as she has convinced Farfrae that leaving is the best solution, the city council offers Farfrae the most powerful position in the city government. She wants to keep her past with Michael a secret, yet she continues to meet him in public places. She asks Michael for the letters that are as close as her own living room. Finally, her own words come back to haunt her as Michael reads his love letters to her husband, revealing her tragic flaw as "a creature too unconventionally devoted to you."
The reversal of roles between Farfrae and Michael is complete. Now Farfrae even has Michael's job, and the whole town is pleased. Each level of society, from the upper to the lower classes, is represented in the metaphor of the ringing bells: "brass, wood, catgut, and leather bands." Nevertheless, Farfrae remains cautious: he has premonitions of failure.
Michael has been given several motivations and opportunities for revenge. He believes that Farfrae ruined his chances for getting a shop. Yet he can be seen with Lucetta, and he can reveal who the writer of the letters is...and he doesn't, since the thought "appalled even him. This shows that, despite all his violent thoughts, Michael is still a noble man at heart.
Lucetta retired early, but not to sleep. As she amused herself, she heard someone reading something downstairs. Thinking someone was reading about a crime, she tiptoed down the staircase, only to hear her letters in Michael's words. Michael says that he will not destroy the letters, then leaves. As she returns to her room, she fears that Michael has told everything, but Farfrae seems to know nothing of her past. The next morning she writes a note to Michael asking to meet at the Ring that evening. Then she works on making herself appear haggard.
At sunset she meets Michael in the Ring. Seeing the haggard young woman waiting reminds him of his past meeting with Susan, and his heart melts with pity. As she begs for her letters, he thinks that she has placed herself in a very compromising situation. He says that reading the letters was just a practical joke, and he promises to give them back the next morning.
Hardy again changes the viewpoint to create sympathy. By seeing the events from Lucetta's viewpoint, we can experience the embarrassment she feels upon hearing her youthful words, her fear that Henchard can ruin her by revealing her past indiscretions to her husband. Although she continues to do foolish things (such as continuing to meet Michael) and manipulative things (such as deliberately planning to look humble to inspire pity) at least we realize why she is doing these things--so that she can be "a faithful and deserving wife." She first believes that the reading of the letters was someone reading about a "crime," an ironic belief since she would regard it as a crime.
Once again, the Ring acts as the Coliseum of Casterbridge, serving as a place for a face-off between the gladiator Michael and the "creature" Lucetta. Lucetta behaves as a wild animal in the encounter, openly scratching at Michael with blatant accusations: "It is all your fault." Michael, ironically, is not affected by her animal tactics, but by her weak, haggard appearance. Michael is also aware of how the scene mirrors his previous meeting in the Ring with Susan. Michael is even motivated by the same feelings that caused his kindness to Susan: not love, but pity.
When Lucetta returns from the Ring, Jopp is waiting for her. He meekly offers his services to Farfrae as a working partner, and asks Lucetta if she will speak in his favor. Lucetta says she knows nothing about Jopp, but Jopp insists that she knew him from her days in Jersey. Lucetta quickly leaves, fearful that Donald will notice that she is missing.
Jopp returns to his cottage, where Michael is waiting for him. He asks Jopp to take a package (containing Lucetta's letters) to Mrs. Farfrae that night, and Jopp agrees to do so. When Michael retires for the night, Jopp spends some time considering the relationship between Michael and Lucetta from the days in Jersey to the present. Curious and still angry that Lucetta so haughtily rejected him, Jopp opens the package and sees the bundle of letters. However, he seals up the package once again and leaves to deliver it.
On his walk, Jopp meets Mrs. Cuxsom and Nance Mockridge. They invite him to Peter's Finger in Mixen Lane, one of the most morally vile places in Casterbridge. The furmity-seller, who is giving wisdom to the group, asks Jopp what is in the package. Remembering his hatred of Lucetta, Jopp begins to read the letters aloud. The women are shocked, and murmur that this is a good reason to hold a skimmity ride. Suddenly a stranger enters the pub on his way to Casterbridge. When he asks what a skimmity-ride is, the landlady tells him that it is a funny sight, but expensive. Since the stranger will be in Casterbridge a while, and since he will need to be entertained, he tosses a gold sovereign to the crowd to pay for it. The townspeople eagerly plan the skimmity ride.
The next morning, Jopp delivers the package to the house. Lucetta quickly burns the letters.
The pubs of Casterbidge have declined in respectability through the novel just as the patrons of the pubs have declined. Here we have the seedy Peter's Finger inn, situated in the dirtiest and most dangerous side of town. Ironically, the women have the whitest aprons in this dark and dirty section. It is also the home of the once-important "lifeholders," revealing the tendencies of all those in power to make reckless decisions and fall as well. Peter's Finger is an allegorical name. The finger of St. Peter decides which people will reside in heaven or hell. Here the fingers of the townspeople will point towards the sinners they find--Michael and Lucetta.
More elements of suspense are introduced in this chapter. Who is the stranger, and how will he affect the plot, since we know that each character has a significant effect on the story? How will the skimmity ride affect Michael, Lucetta, and Farfrae?
Casterbridge learns that a member of the royal family will be passing through town very soon. Farfrae and the council are planning a suitable reception when Michael wanders into the meeting. He wants to join the council in meeting the visitor. At the uneasy glances exchanged by the council members, Farfrae refuses the request. Michael decides that he will meet the visitor anyway.
The royal visitor approaches the crowded and decorated town. As the visitor's carriage slows, Michael, dressed in shabby clothing, tries to shake the visitor's hand. Farfrae roughly pushes him into the crowd. Elizabeth-Jane, Lucetta, and the spectators are shocked at Michael's behavior. When someone says that Michael was responsible for Farfrae's rise to power, Lucetta indignantly says that Farfrae won his own success. The royal visitor seems not to have noticed anything. The ceremony is over within moments. The townswomen eagerly plan the skimmity ride, and Jopp announces that it will be held tonight. Coney and Longways, however, decide to write letters telling the Farfraes to stay out of town that night.
As usual, Michael refuses to accept his fate. Instead of meeting the visitor as the lower classes will in a large crowd, he must join the council to assert his individuality and his place as a gentleman. His attempt to greet the royal visitor is not really as dangerous or as shocking as the villagers see it: it is merely an attempt to regain some of the dignity that fate has stolen. Of course, Farfrae acts out of a sense of duty and concern for the visitor's safety in pushing Michael back. Yet that has only helped in spurring Michael's anger.
After Farfrae pushes Michael back, Farfrae sees that "his Calpurnia's cheek was pale." Calpurnia was the wife of Julius Caesar. By comparing Lucetta to Calpurnia, Hardy compares Farfrae to Caesar, implying Farfrae's great head for business and government. However, it also implies that Farfrae has a Brutus too, in the form of Michael. Will Michael actually assassinate his leader?
The townswomen seem more excited by the skimmity ride than the townsmen do, and Jopp is the most excited man. This could be a way of implying that Jopp has weaknesses as the women do. The women (as reflected by Nance Mockridge) want the ride to happen because they want to bring shame to the Farfraes and Michael. However, the men have differing ideas, wanting to protect their fellow man Farfrae by warning him in a letter. The women's actions could symbolize the acts of the Fates, the women of Greek mythology who dole out the proper punishments and cut the thread of life.
Lucetta rests on her laurels: her hand still feels the shake of the Royal hand, and people are saying that her husband will become a knight. Michael feels the shame and anger of being shoved away by Farfrae. Jopp tells him that he also has been snubbed by Lucetta, but Michael is too busy wallowing in his own misery. Michael plans to challenge Farfrae to a wrestling match, and immediately after dinner he sets out to find Farfrae, telling him to meet him at the granary. As Michael waits, he manages to tie one arm behind his back, since he is stronger than Farfrae.
Soon Farfrae arrives, humming a song that he last hummed at the Three Mariners. The melody moves Michael, who suddenly thinks that he can't fight. Nevertheless, Michael explains why he is attacking Farfrae, and seems determined to fight despite Farfrae's suggestion to cool down. Farfrae narrowly escapes a few blows, but soon Henchard's strength holds Farfrae out the window, three stories up. Again, Michael cannot bring himself to hurt the Scotsman, and Farfrae runs away as Michael lies in the corner. Farfrae tells Whittle that he is now going toward Weatherbury instead of traveling toward Budmouth. Wanting to see his friend but knowing it is too late, Michael goes to the stone bridge. He does not hear the noise coming from the village.
The chapter begins with an image of the proud Lucetta, thinking of her victories from the day. A paragraph later, the fallen Michael is angrily brooding about the man that has ruined his life. By setting the former lovers in opposition, Hardy implies that their fates are similar and intertwined. Just as Michael was once of a high status but fell quickly, Hardy implies that Lucetta will fall from her height just as quickly.
The scene that Elizabeth-Jane saw in the same granary in Chapter 33 serves as a parallel scene to the fight here, at first lacking only a female presence. For the second time, Michael has attempted to murder Farfrae, and with very little resistance from Farfrae. Although Michael has the physical strength to kill Farfrae, again he cannot do so because he is honorable at heart, not a murderer. This time, Michael has lowered himself so far that he actually gives up all claims to manhood. He sits in the corner not as a victorious man, but as servile "womanliness." The "unmanning" of Michael is nearly the final blow, ensuring a total defeat in life for him.
Donald at first wishes to go to Budmouth, but after he receives the note from the townspeople, he agrees to go to Weatherbury. Not only will his change of plans become important, but also the choice of towns is significant. Budmouth seems to be the place of "mouths," or the place where public opinion can reach him (through the gossip about the skimmity ride). The villagers who care about Farfrae send him to a place that they trust, "Weatherbury." It is fitting that the villagers trust a place that has "weather" in its name, as the connections between the farmer and the weather showed earlier.
Farfrae runs downstairs and plans to go to Budmouth as a way to recover from the attack before having to face Lucetta. However, Whittle gives him a note that advises his journey to Weatherbury, and he changes his plans accordingly. The note is from Longways, who is trying to keep the skimmity ride from being a "success." The townspeople do not warn Lucetta, believing that she must bear her scandal.
Lucetta sits in her drawing-room, confident. She overhears some nearby servants wondering which way someone is going. Two stuffed figures, a man and a woman, are riding a donkey. When the description of the woman reaches Lucetta's ears, she leaps to her feet. Elizabeth-Jane immediately enters the room and tries to keep Lucetta away from her window. Lucetta, however, is able to see that the image is of her, and is so shocked that she falls to the floor. Elizabeth-Jane sends for the doctor, who says that Farfrae must be found at Budmouth immediately.
The council members want to arrest the people responsible for the skimmity ride. Mr. Grower leads the council members in searching for the perpetrators. However, Jopp claims to have seen nothing, and at Peter's Finger, the crowd is quiet and orderly.
The inept town council tries to find justice once more. Just as their attempts failed in the furmity-seller's trial, so they fail here. The townspeople all show a willingness to lie for each other. Even Grower, perhaps the symbol of a God, cannot fight the fate that Lucetta must experience. The townspeople are destined to make Lucetta see her fate.
What leads to Lucetta's seizure? Hardy attributes it to a fit of epilepsy. Yet epilepsy is usually a lifelong condition, and Lucetta has never had a fit at any other point in the novel. Perhaps Fate has caused her epilepsy, dormant for so long, to return at this point. More likely, the shock of seeing herself in effigy caused her seizure. However, all her flaws led to this point. Her concern for keeping the past hidden and her pride have led to this attack by the townspeople. Her curiosity led her to see the skimmity ride from her window. Her overly passionate nature sends her feelings into a frenzy that may have led to her seizure.
Michael has returned towards Casterbridge. He sees the figures on the donkey and knows exactly what is happening, but chooses to go home and sleep. Yet he cannot sleep. In searching for Elizabeth-Jane, he goes to the Farfraes' home. Lucetta's servants tell him everything that has happened, and how someone has been sent to find Donald in Budmouth. Michael knows that Donald is on the way to Weatherbury and Mellstock, and tells everyone, but after his recent unspeakable behavior, no one believes him. Undaunted, Michael begins running on the road to Mellstock, hoping to catch Farfrae there.
Michael meets Farfrae on the road, telling him that he must come home immediately because his wife is in danger. Farfrae refuses to believe his attacker--he thinks that Michael is setting up a trap to finish the fight from earlier. Despite Michael's claim that he is true to Farfrae, Farfrae drives toward the next town. Michael returns to town, cursing himself on the way. Jopp meets Michael and says that a "sea-captain" has visited him, though Michael doesn't seem to care.
Later, Farfrae returns home to find that everything is as Henchard has said, and blames himself for not trusting Michael's word. As Farfrae sits by his wife's side, Lucetta tells him about her past with Michael. Michael paces in front of the house all night, making inquiries about the patient. As he paces, he also thinks about Elizabeth-Jane. When a servant finally leaves the house at dawn, she tells Michael that Lucetta has died.
In this sad chapter, Lucetta's death parallels the death of Susan before. Lucetta dies from a sudden attack as Susan did. As the dying Susan confessed to her beloved Elizabeth-Jane, Lucetta makes a confession to her beloved Farfrae. The townspeople also disregard any role they had in her death, pretending that the skimmity ride never happened.
More irony adds to the sadness of Lucetta's death. The townspeople saw the skimmity ride as a joke, but it became a deadly trick. Michael, the man who once would have done anything to keep Farfrae and Lucetta apart, is now the only one who can bring Farfrae to Lucetta's side. Farfrae does not believe Michael, because "there might be ironies" in his words of Lucetta's illnesses. Hardy is especially bitter when he points out that the smallest creature in nature is more peaceful that the noblest man: "the sparrows in his way scarcely flying... so little did they believe in human aggression at so early a time."
Finally, the element of suspense introduced is another plan of Fate to take happiness away from Michael. Elizabeth-Jane has been "the pinpoint of light" in the darkness of the skimmity ride and the death. Michael has just realized her worth as the "sea-captain" returns to see Michael. Could it be Newson returning for his daughter?
Elizabeth-Jane arrives, upset about Lucetta's death. Michael comforts her, tells her to stay with him, and offers to make her some breakfast. As the girl rests, Michael watches her lovingly, convinced he can find happiness with her.
A knock on the door calls Michael away from his thoughts. It is the stranger from Peter's Finger a few weeks ago. He introduces himself as Newson, and Michael becomes very agitated. Newson briefly relates the history of his marriage to Susan and how he came to be "lost at sea." His ship was lost at sea, but he came ashore in Newfoundland. Since Susan was unhappy about their marriage, his "death" was arranged for her benefit. Newson knows that Susan is dead, but he has returned for Elizabeth-Jane. Michael tells him that she died a year ago. Newson shrugs and promises to trouble Michael no longer. Michael is frightened that Newson will learn the truth, so he follows the sailor to ensure that he has safely left town.
When Michael returns home, Elizabeth-Jane has awakened after napping. Michael considers asking her to stay with him, but doesn't, fearing that Newson will return and take her away. They have a lovely breakfast, lingering until it is time for Michael to go to work. Although Elizabeth-Jane promises to return soon, Michael is haunted by the belief that Newson will take her away. He goes to Ten Hatches, the place where the river runs deep, and contemplates his suicide. Suddenly, he sees himself already floating in the water! When he hurries home, Elizabeth-Jane is waiting for him. He takes her to Ten Hatches, where she finds that the image he saw was that of the skimmity ride dummy. She understands what Michael plans to do, so she quickly offers to stay with him and care for him. At this news, Michael changes heart again and becomes a confident new man.
Michael and Elizabeth-Jane have completely switched Victorian gender roles, as we can see in this chapter. Michael, once the strong, powerful Mayor, has now fallen to a low that removes all his masculinity. He cares for Elizabeth-Jane as a mother would-- cooking for her, keeping the house clean for her, and doing other things "with housewifely care, as if it were an honor to have her in his house." Elizabeth-Jane still remains the tender-hearted and concerned girl. However, her decisions control the now weak-willed and vulnerable Michael. She issues the commands now--"Let us go home"-- and is the real provider for her stepfather. "May I live with you, and tend upon you as I used to do?" This marked change in Michael and Elizabeth-Jane's personalities prepares us for the next change in Michael. Once Michael has become more feminine, perhaps he can finally learn to become less bullish and considerate to others. (Of course, that also means that Elizabeth-Jane can become more bullish with her masculinity, as we will see later.)
Irony is used again to create sympathy for Michael. The cruel fate seems to be especially harsh here. Just as Michael has decided that he has "the dream of a future lit by [Elizabeth-Jane's] presence, Newson has arrived to take her away. The skimmity ride effigies that killed Lucetta merely keep Michael alive and die in his place. Although Michael has not completely changed (he still tells a horrible lie just to keep Elizabeth- Jane there), we pity him all the more because he is convinced that he is in "Somebody's hand."
The effigy floating in the water serves as a type of ritual offering, similar to Abraham's sacrifice of the sheep for Issac. Since the townspeople cannot kill Michael, they will sacrifice the effigy by tossing it in the river. At the same time, it serves as a "resurrection" for Michael. When he contemplates suicide, only to see his "dead image" floating in the water, Michael returns to life and becomes fully aware of the consequences of his actions. After this form of resurrection, Michael will go on to save his own world, making him a Christ-like figure.
Michael fears that Newson will return for Elizabeth-Jane despite his new attitude. Casterbridge buries Lucetta and quickly forgets her. After a while Farfrae learns of the events that caused her death. At first, he wishes to punish all those responsible. However, soon he realizes that the townspeople did not want their joke to have such a disastrous effect on Lucetta, and he reasons that keeping her history secret will protect all the parties involved. The town council again sets up a seed shop for Michael, allowing him and Elizabeth-Jane to make a respectable living. As Michael continues to worry that Elizabeth-Jane will be taken away, Farfrae decides that his life with Lucetta was doomed to unhappiness from the beginning.
A year passes. Elizabeth-Jane frequently walks on the road to Budmouth twice a week, and she ends up with expensive trinkets, such as muffs and new books, that Michael knows she cannot afford. Upon seeing Farfrae's eyes upon Elizabeth-Jane in the marketplace, however, he begins to suspect that Farfrae is returning to his former love, and he worries that Farfrae will take Elizabeth-Jane away.
Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane first meet accidentally, but very soon they habitually meet each other as they walk into town. Michael watches from the Ring as Farfrae presents Elizabeth-Jane with a new book everyday. Very soon Farfrae kisses Elizabeth-Jane. Michael, watching the scene, reasons that Farfrae's love will force Elizabeth-Jane to turn against him. He thinks that telling the secret of Elizabeth-Jane's birth to Farfrae will ward the young man off, but cannot bring himself to tell.
Even near the end of the book, Hardy introduces some elements of suspense. Will he return, and if he does, what will Elizabeth-Jane do? Will Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane finally be joined in marriage? Will Michael do anything to halt the wedding or the return of Newson?
Apparently Elizabeth-Jane has finally become learned enough in Latin to be interesting to everyone. As if to reflect her new status, this chapter contains more mythological allusions and Latin phrases to refer to her and those around her. The other young women in the town are compared to the plumes of "Juno's bird" (the peacock) with "Argus eyes." Not only are the townspeople connected to nature (through the comparison to birds), but they are also the gossiping people of before, watching with their own "eyes." Michael has a "solicitus timor" (worrisome fear) for her love. As usual, however, Elizabeth-Jane does not understand the references--remaining unaware of the eyes upon her and the fear Michael has for her.
Michael is beginning another cycle of success with his seed shop, but we are braced for his downfall. Yet Michael is a changed man this time. He is so weak that he now takes orders from Elizabeth-Jane, "schooling himself to accept her will." He also has more of a regard for his feelings and their effects on others. He is able to consign his emotions on revealing her birth to "the devil," and he feels remorse about his previous actions.
The townspeople are shocked that Farfrae is interested in "that bankrupt Henchard's stepdaughter." The young ladies of town indignantly ignore Farfrae. The lower classes, however, are quite pleased with his choice. However, public opinion soon ignores the whole issue entirely, since no one knows what will come of their courtship. Michael worries about his place in Elizabeth-Jane's life. He has now began to watch the daily meetings from an ancient fort called Mai Dun. One day, a stranger walks down the road from Budmouth. Michael realizes that the stranger is Newson, and fears the worst. At home, Elizabeth-Jane shows him a mysterious letter from someone who wants to meet her at Farfrae's this evening. Michael says she may go, and then says he will leave Casterbridge. Despite his stepdaughter's protests, he leaves that evening. Elizabeth-Jane accompanies him to the stone bridge, then watches him walk away. Michael stops for a moment to express his anguish, then continues on his way.
On the walk back to town, Elizabeth-Jane meets Farfrae, who quickly takes her to his house. When she discovers Newson, their reunion is joyful. They eagerly plan the wedding, which will take place with any difficulties now that Michael is gone. Newson tells the shocked Elizabeth-Jane how Michael kept her away with a lie. Although Newson defends Michael, Elizabeth-Jane is disgusted.
Chance and irony strike again. Just as Michael seems to have gained his happiness, Newson has met Farfrae and found that his daughter lives. Although we do not know how Farfrae and Newson met, we can assume that it was merely another chance occurrence, another attempt of Fate to bring down Michael.
Michael describes himself as "Cain... an outcast and a vagabond" in this chapter. His behavior does parallel that of Cain here. Michael, like Cain, suffered from jealousy of Newson and Farfrae. After killing his daughter in keeping her away from her father, he refuses to be her keeper and leaves her in Casterbridge. However, unlike Cain, Michael feels remorse. While his behavior was horrible, Hardy has succeeded in making us feel for Michael by describing his viewpoint. We know now that Michael is sorry for his actions and only acts out of love for Elizabeth-Jane.
We hope that there will be a chance for forgiveness. Yet the one person who can forgive Michael, Elizabeth-Jane, refuses to do so. She refuses for the same reasons that other characters refused: she is too deeply rooted in the past. She feels sorry for Michael until her father tells her of the past lie. Although Newson tries to defend Michael's ways, the past lies are so important to her that she refuses to see past them. This will eventually lead her to a smaller downfall--a refusal to see the man who loved her so well.
Michael travels for five days. As he travels, he gazes longingly at some of Elizabeth-Jane's things--gloves, handwriting, hair clippings, and the like. He reaches Weydon-Priors, where he reflects on the auction and his failed attempts to fix the wrongs made then. After he has finished there, he leaves for a farm situated on a highway. As he again becomes a hay-trusser, he constantly worries about Elizabeth-Jane's welfare.
One day a passing farmer tells Michael that he has heard of a wedding occurring in Casterbridge on St. Martin's Day. Although he feels his presence in town would not be welcomed, he decides to go there for a chance at forgiveness from Elizabeth-Jane. He stops to buy a wedding gift, a little goldfinch in a cage wrapped in newspaper. Finally he reaches town. Although he regrets his arrival, he nevertheless presents himself as a "humble old friend." He is led into the kitchen, but the housekeeper stops him, asking him to wait until the dance ends. Michael watches the dance, and notices that Elizabeth-Jane is dancing with Newson. When the dance ends, Michael begs for some love from her, but she says she cannot feel love for him. Although he has prepared a list of ways in which he was deceived, Michael merely says that he will not bother them again, and leaves.
Michael's travels in this chapter are reflected in the metaphor of the circle: "is wandering... became part of a circle of which Casterbridge formed the center." Once again, Michael returns to the state that he held in the beginning of the novel. He returns to Weydon-Priors, and again takes the job of hay-trusser. However, as before, he comes to realize the importance of the lost child to his happiness. The metaphor also works to describe the cycle of his rises and falls to power. Frequently, he begins in despair, but slowly works his way to the top of the cycle--reaching a success through his desires. Once he has reached his highest height, fate intervenes to utterly ruin him. There is an implication that the same will occur to Elizabeth-Jane in the way Michael thinks of her day in equal portions: "her sitting down and rising up, her goings and comings."
Yet it is also obvious that this time, Michael's rise to power will be quite different. This is the first time he has truly loved someone enough to constantly think of him. Here Elizabeth-Jane is always on his mind, from his keeping her trinkets to his waiting for any news from Casterbridge. He also has changed in that he feels real remorse for his deed, unlike any of his other decisions within the novel. His love is the one motivation that changes him. Of course, each time he has thought that the person he loved would not forgive him, only to be proven wrong. Ironically, this time he is correct--Elizabeth-Jane, the one person he truly wanted to love, does refuse him. Nevertheless, he still reaches the height of his success. Instead of trying to attach himself to Elizabeth-Jane, he turns and walks away because she wishes it That is the greatest action Michael could do for the angry girl he loves.
The bird serves as a metaphor for Michael himself. The cage represents the self-made prison of his flaws, "plain and small." The bird is a goldfinch, symbolizing the true, golden nature of Michael's character. The newspaper represents the public opinion that covers Michael, just as it covers the bird. What has happened to the bird when Michael leaves the house? We will learn in the next chapter.
A month has passed since the wedding. Farfrae hurries home from work everyday, and Elizabeth-Jane is pleased with her new station. Newson stayed in Casterbridge for three days, but his need for the sea is so great that he moves to Budmouth, a place where the sea can be seen.
A week after the wedding, Elizabeth-Jane found a birdcage wrapped in paper with a dead finch inside. Now, a month later, a maid enters the parlor and announces that they understood why it was there. Another maid saw Michael with it as he came to the wedding. Elizabeth-Jane reasons that the bird must have been a wedding gift, and from that moment she feels pity for her stepfather. She asks Farfrae to help her find him.
They finally trace his steps along the road of Weatherbury to Anglebury. Soon the road becomes difficult, and they decide to stop. A man passes them and goes into a nearby cottage. At Elizabeth-Jane's insistence that the man is Abel Whittle, they turn to visit the cottage. Whittle tells them that Michael has died a half-hour before. He gives them a piece of paper that is Michael's will. The will states that Elizabeth-Jane is not to learn of his death, and that no man is to remember him in any way. Although she weeps that she has just missed her last chance with him, she follows Michael's instructions to the best of her ability. She lives in marriage happily, but also ever sure that she could be pitched into a deep despair at any moment by fate.
Hardy delivers the most emotional situations of irony in this final chapter. Just as Elizabeth-Jane has found her father, she again loses him to the sea--and although Newson just lives in Budmouth to see the sea, we know that it is only a matter of time before he leaves again. Michael has been forced to spend the last days of his life with the man whom he considered the lowest of the low. Elizabeth-Jane finally understands the meaning of the present, and goes to find Michael, but arrives too late to extend her love. Even as Elizabeth-Jane lives in a state of contentment, she does not enjoy it for fear that the unkind fate will descend upon her too.
Abel Whittle again takes the role of a Christ figure. Although Michael was a cruel boss to him, he "turns the other cheek" because Michael was kind to his mother years ago. He continues to care for Michael, walking with him despite Michael's order to go back, feeding him and letting him stay in his cottage. Although he is the lowest character in the novel, his kindness makes him the most noble character in the novel.
Michael's connection to Nature is complete as his life ends. His connection to the goldfinch is completed. The goldfish dies of starvation, and Michael will die because he cannot take nourishment. (His starvation is also a metaphor for his life without Elizabeth- Jane: without her love, he is starved for affection.) However, the whole earth seems to become unusually fertile in the wake of Michael's exit. The Farfraes cannot find him because he "had apparently sunk into the earth." Michael's travels have lead him through "Weatherbury," the place that the farmers planned for Farfrae during the skimmity ride. The burial mounds on the road also become fertile places as "the full breasts of Diana Multimammia." The cottage in which Michael spends the last days of his life has Nature entering, with its clay walls, held together by vines of ivy and a floor of leaves. In his loving and forgiving state, Michael and Nature are finally connected. Although fate has dogged him for most of his life, the love for Elizabeth-Jane has brought him to a level of goodness--one that makes him more able to join with Nature.