Analysis of Characters from The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
A young Scot who arrives in Casterbridge at about the same time as
Susan and Elizabeth-Jane, Donald Farfrae becomes Michael Henchard’s
business manager. He quickly becomes Henchard’s only trusted friend
and, later, his adversary in both business and love.
Hardy draws Farfrae as Henchard’s counterpart in every way. He is
physically small, polite and charming, careful and controlled, forward
thinking, and methodical. Whereas Henchard propels his fate through
moments of rash behavior, Farfrae is cool and calculating in all he
does. Although his personality is friendly and engaging, Farfrae
maintains a certain detachment from people and events, always
considering the possible consequences of his decisions and actions
before he makes them. As a result, his path through life is as smooth
as Henchard’s is rough.
Farfrae initiates a relationship with Henchard by providing
information that is a great help to Henchard in solving a business
problem and by refusing Henchard’s offer of payment for the
information. Henchard is so grateful and impressed that he talks
Farfrae into abandoning his plans to go to America and convinces him
to take a job as Henchard’s business manager.
Because Farfrae is more organized and methodical than Henchard, the
business prospers under his management. Farfrae is ambitious enough to
eventually go into business for himself, though, and this enrages
Henchard even though Farfrae, in his typically principled way, tries
to minimize competition between the two firms.
Farfrae courts Elizabeth-Jane and even hints that he would marry her
if he were in a financial position to do so, but when he meets the
newly wealthy Miss Templeman—Henchard’s former lover whom he, too, is
again courting—he turns his affections to her and marries her.
Farfrae’s careful approach to life wins him all that was once
Henchard’s: at Henchard’s bankruptcy sale, Farfrae buys his business,
home, and furniture. He marries Henchard’s former lover and, after she
dies, marries Elizabeth-Jane. Farfrae even becomes the highly
respected and well-liked mayor of Casterbridge.
For Farfrae, though, the competition between Henchard and himself is
never personal or meanspirited. When the destitute Henchard asks
Farfrae for a job, Farfrae hires him and makes sure that he himself
never gives Henchard orders. Farfrae also offers to give Henchard any
furniture or personal belongings that he would like to have back from
the bankruptcy sale.
The Furmity Woman
The furmity woman runs the shop in which Michael, at the beginning of
the novel, gets drunk and sells Susan. She appears again eighteen
years later, when Susan and Elizabeth-Jane return to the village where
the sale occurred to try to find Henchard. The furmity woman is still
there and remembers that Henchard returned a year after the sale. She
tells Susan that Henchard told her that he was...