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The Mayor of Casterbridge

Thomas Hardy

Chapters VII–X

Summary Chapters VII–X

As is evident in the opening scene in which he auctions off his family, Henchard is ruled primarily by his passions. His actions follow from his emotions rather than from his reason or intellect, as when, after Farfrae shares the secret for restoring damaged grain, Henchard offers him a job. Such an action, in itself, may not necessarily seem odd, but Henchard’s admiration for Farfrae and his determination to secure his employment seem irrational. It hardly seems prudent for a respected grain merchant to be willing to give away one-third of his business to a man he hardly knows.

If Farfrae represents Henchard’s opposite in relation to progress, he also embodies the flip side of the mayor’s passion. Farfrae emerges as an emotionally conservative man. Although he proves a kind and attentive listener to the many troubles of Henchard’s heart, he never imagines Henchard to be his confidant. Hardy does not suggest that Farfrae is without sin or troubles but, rather, that he approaches them from a more pragmatic perspective. For example, in Chapter VII, Farfrae sings a moving and sentimental tribute to the homeland he has left behind. Even though he feels intense nostalgia for his homeland, he approaches that emotion pragmatically, at the same time understanding his motivations for leaving Scotland behind. In this way, Hardy draws a dividing line between the two men. Whereas Henchard stands for tradition and unfettered emotions, Farfrae embodies progress and reason.

In these chapters, Hardy uses present-tense narration to suggest that the narration is happening at the same time as the events it describes, a style of writing that hearkens back to eighteenth--century novels, such as Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones and Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. Hardy lends his narrative more immediacy—“While Elizabeth-Jane sits waiting in great amaze at the young man’s presence we may briefly explain how he came there”—and we get the sense that we are participating in the action and that the events being described are not part of some distant past.