Hardy uses foreshadowing liberally throughout The Mayor of Casterbridge. A prime example occurs in Chapter XIV, when Susan and Henchard discuss the color of Elizabeth-Jane’s hair. Henchard’s insistence that Elizabeth-Jane’s hair has lightened does as much to signal Elizabeth-Jane’s dubious paternity as Susan’s nervous reaction to Henchard’s insistence (“She looked startled, jerked her foot warningly”). Furthermore, the narrator comments that, when Henchard presses the point, “the same uneasy expression . . . to which the future held the key” appears on Elizabeth-Jane’s face. These details gradually begin to indicate that Henchard should question his relationship to Elizabeth-Jane. Here, Hardy’s technique draws on the traditions of the Victorian novel, which tended to favor elaborately constructed plots and were often published in serial installments. The Mayor of Casterbridge was first published in weekly installments in Graphic and Harper’s Weekly magazines. This mode of publishing presented authors with the challenge of enticing their readers to follow the story and purchase its balance in subsequent issues. Foreshadowing was a favored authorial technique used to keep readers intrigued.
This section also introduces us to Lucetta Templeman. Although she remains unnamed—in these chapters she is merely the woman from Jersey—her presence, in the form of Henchard’s confidence to Farfrae, introduces one of the novel’s dominant themes, the value of a good name. Lucetta is a woman whose name and reputation have been ruined by her relationship to Henchard. She has suffered scandal because, in Henchard’s estimation, “she was terribly careless of appearances.” In other words, she has shown little respect for the social conventions that deemed her behavior inappropriate.
Lucetta’s inattention to her good name contrasts with the care that the Henchards take in their reputations. When Susan and Elizabeth-Jane arrive in town, for example, Susan regrets allowing her daughter to do chores to pay for their room, because she wants to maintain an air of respectability. Similarly, Henchard’s motivations often hinge upon his desire to maintain a respectable appearance and to keep his name in good social standing. Henchard’s desire, at the end of Chapter XII, to “make amends to Susan,” stems less from a sense of guilt or horror at his past actions than from the need to keep his positions of mayor, churchwarden, and father to Elizabeth-Jane free from “disgrace.”