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Farfrae, the young Scotchman, serves as a foil (a character
whose actions or emotions contrast with and thereby accentuate those
of another character) for Henchard. Whereas will and intuition determine
the course of Henchard’s life, Farfrae is a man of intellect. He brings
to Casterbridge a method for salvaging damaged grain, a system for
reorganizing and revolutionizing the mayor’s business, and a blend
of curiosity and ambition that enables him to take interest in—and
advantage of—the agricultural advancements of the day (such as the
Although Henchard soon comes to view Farfrae as his adversary, the
Scotchman’s victories are won more in the name of progress than
personal satisfaction. His primary motive in taking over Casterbridge’s
grain trade is to make it more prosperous and prepare the village
for the advancing agricultural economy of the later nineteenth century.
He does not intend to dishonor Henchard. Indeed, even when Henchard
is at his most adversarial—during his fight with Farfrae in the
barn, for instance—the Scotchman reminds himself of the fallen mayor’s
circumstances, taking pains to understand and excuse Henchard’s
behavior. In his calm, measured thinking, Farfrae is a model man
of science, and Hardy depicts him with the stereotypical strengths
and weaknesses of such people. He possesses an intellectual competence
so unrivaled that it passes for charisma, but throughout the novel
he remains emotionally distant. Although he wins the favor of the
townspeople with his highly successful day of celebration, Farfrae
fails to feel any emotion too deeply, whether it is happiness inspired
by his carnival or sorrow at the death of his wife. In this respect
as well he stands in bold contrast to Henchard, whose depth of feeling
is so profound that it ultimately dooms him.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Mayor of Casterbridge!