(Useful quotes. Critical Analysis of character and function)
You may care to view The Victorian Web page which discusses this illustration by Robert Barnes.
Farfrae’s function in The Mayor of Casterbridge is to antithetically represent what Henchard is not. He is both inventive and reliable: he has new book-keeping ‘finikin’ (87) methods; he restores the grain and brings the seed drill to Casterbridge. His character is the reverse of Henchard’s, not just because he is meticulous. He never has black depressive moods (78/90) – none of Henchard’s intensity – instead he is a lively, attractive, adaptable character who acts with principle, thereby representing moral order. He is shocked that the poor ‘steal what didn’t belong’ to them (60) and is firmly against Henchard on Abel’s punishment (113). By way of return, workers are not afraid of him (255). Even so, he is parsimonious and does reduce wages. Compare him with Henchard in chapter XVIII when Henchard receives the letter from Lucetta, after he (Henchard) has remarried Susan.
Although he romantically blows Elizabeth-Jane’s hair (108), Farfrae’s affective life is lukewarm and he alternates undamaged between the women, by whom he is admired, being described as having ‘poetry of motion’ (121). It is ironic that he is ‘indifferent’ to the fate of Henchard’s lover (283) and that he criticises her shallow feeling (284). He listens to Henchard’s entreaties about Lucetta ‘coldly’ (329) and later her death permits him to change ‘a looming misery for a simple sorrow’ (348). He is sentimental within limits; the narrator ironically remarks on his habit of ‘giving strong expression to a song of his dear native country that he loved so well as never to have revisited it.’ (324/373). He is accepting of ‘providence’ (73), is philosophic but unfeeling (91). This shallowness is shown when, for instance, he says ‘It’s well you feel a song for a few minutes’ (94/108). Ever-present business affects the progress of his relationship with Elizabeth-Jane (126); he is equable after the loss of Lucetta – feeling that he has ‘exchanged a looming misery for a simple sorrow’ (302/); even on his wedding day (is this correct?), he is ‘detained by important customers (213/); he is unwilling to pay for a night away from home, which would ‘make a hole in a sovereign’ (331); he readily turns his attention back to Elizabeth-Jane again. Reread chapter XII which covers the conversation in Henchard’s office and chapter XLII where he reflects on his marriage.
Farfrae is the unwitting agent to Henchard’s self-alienation (329). He cannot believe that Henchard views him as an enemy:
- He seeks to avoid direct business rivalry with Henchard;
- He buys up his furniture, invites him to stay with them
- He sets up the seed shop.
- He feels sorry for Henchard (92)
- He ‘indulge[s]’ him by listening to the letters (286).
- He is a man of honour and does not reveal Henchard’s secrets.
- His character is generous in that he had ‘forgot’ Henchard’s secret (114).
It is to Lucetta’s ‘surprise’ that his eyes were ‘moist’ (185), on seeing the plight of the old shepherd’s family but he reflects the old man will ‘not be very expensive’ and ‘he will answer my pairrpose somehow’ (185). Farfrae seems to have more feelings than Hardy would like to credit him with.
Look at Hardy’s description of Farfrae which shows him to have brightness of intellect, a way of turning eyes and a voice which is ‘musically’ undulated((42, 50, 55, 103, 104). Hardy presents Farfrae as a fair and slim antagonist (314), perhaps with Caesar’s distrust of Cassius in mind:
‘Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.’
He is indeed shown to have ‘mayoral authority’ during Royal Visit (307) whilst, early in the novel, he is already ensconced in business as if he ‘permanently ruled’ (71).
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