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Plot Summary

Michael Henchard hides a shameful secret where two decades ago, in a drunken state, he sells his wife (Susan) and daughter (Elizabeth-Jane) to a passing sailor. To repent for his sin, he swears off drinking for 21 years. In that time, he arrives in Casterbridge and succeeds grandly in the corn and hay business. At the height of his esteem, he is Mayor and well-liked in town for his example of personal success through hard work. Soon thereafter, his estranged wife returns and he honors her by remarrying her, though under a guise so as not to reveal his past mistakes and embarrass himself. However, he had been involved with another woman (Lucetta) in a neighboring town to whom he must break his promise in order to be faithful to Susan. Henchard also meets up with Donald Farfrae, a young businessman, to whom he takes an immediate liking. Henchard hires Farfrae, unknowing that this young man will soon usurp all his possessions and titles with a quick twist of Fate. All is well for Henchard until the death of Susan, when a series of coincidences leads to Henchard's ultimate demise. First he learns that Elizabeth-Jane is not really his daughter, causing him to treat her with disdain. Then he learns that Lucetta, who has come to Casterbridge to seek him in marriage, no longer wants to do so, her interests being swept up by Farfrae. Farfrae's growing respect in town leads to his falling out with Henchard, so that Farfrae starts his own business in town, rivaling and eventually driving into bankruptcy Henchard's operations. Henchard continues to spiral downwards when Lucetta and Farfrae marry, Elizabeth-Jane leaves him because of his cold heart, and he falls to drinking after his oath is complete. At the end of his life, Henchard dies alone, having alienated all those with whom he had affections for earlier in life.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapters 3 and 4
Chapters 5 and 6
Chapters 7 and 8
Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 11, 12, and 13
Chapters 14 and 15
Chapter 16
Chapters 17 and 18
Chapters 19 and 20
Chapters 21 and 22
Chapters 23 and 24
Chapters 25 and 26
Chapter 27
Chapters 28 and 29
Chapters 30 and 31
Chapters 32 and 33
Chapter 34
Chapters 35 and 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapters 40 and 41
Chapters 42 and 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45



 






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