The Mayor of Casterbridge

by Thomas Hardy

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Could you elaborate on chapter 12 of The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy?

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To elaborate on chapter 12 of The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy for a lecture, considering summarizing the key developments in both the plot and characters, noting any critical themes or motifs, and discussing how this chapter ties into the rest of Hardy’s novel.

Chapter 12 is quite crucial in Hardy’s novel, since it’s when Michael Henchard confides in someone about his problematic past with his wife, daughter, and another mysterious woman. Here, the reader learns more about Henchard’s character. They discover that he needs someone to talk to. Even with all he’s done, Henchard remains a person with feelings.

The heart to heart is between Henchard and his top assistant, Donald Farfrae, which brings in the motif of mixing business affairs with personal matters. Henchard confesses the awkwardness of their circumstances. “It is odd,” he says, “that two men should meet as we have done on a purely business ground, and that at the end of the first day I should wish to speak to ’ee on a family matter.”

The blending of personal issues and professional relationships helps set the stage for what happens later on when Henchard fires Farfrae and then eventually has to sell his business to Farfrae and work for him. The chapter creates a type of tricky foreshadowing, which is underscored by how laconic Farfrae is and how talkative Henchard is. Farfrae’s restraint helps him later, while Henchard’s somewhat emotive temperament continues to hurt him.

This chapter also primes the story for additional turmoil and betrayal. Clearly, Henchard believes Elizabeth-Jane is his daughter and his responsibility, which is why he sends her a check. Of course, Henchard is not Elizabeth-Jane’s biological father.

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