Donald Farfrae : Fictional Character Analysis

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Introduction:

      Donald Farfrae in the novel The Mayor of Casterbridge is the typical Scotsman who is lucky in everything that he does. It is as if he possessed the Midas touch of turning into gold every enterprise he puts his hands on. He starts his career as an employee of Herchard and in a few years finishes by buying his patron's house and yards and becoming the Mayor of the town. The identical set of circumstances which makes Michael Henchard ruin himself brings to Farfrae a fine fortune. Nor are successes confined to business and public life only. He has the same luck in love that he has in his trade. He has not been in Casterbridge more than a few hours and a young woman's heart is already aching for him. Not long after this, there is another young lady-Lucetta - who is desperately in love with him although she has come to Casterbridge with the deliberate intention of marrying another man.
Donald Farfrae is ruddy and of a fair countenance, bright-eyed, and slight in built and is a man of remarkably pleasant aspect. He is young and quite handsome and is tall and slim. It is because of these traits that he wins the heart of the town-folk. The grim-looking Henchard is also not left unaffected by him. Elizabeth-Jane is attracted by the charms of his personality and Lucetta also becomes almost a slave of his at first sight.
Donald Farfrae & Henchard


His Features:

      Donald Farfrae is ruddy and of a fair countenance, bright-eyed, and slight in built and is a man of remarkably pleasant aspect. He is young and quite handsome and is tall and slim. It is because of these traits that he wins the heart of the town-folk. The grim-looking Henchard is also not left unaffected by him. Elizabeth-Jane is attracted by the charms of his personality and Lucetta also becomes almost a slave of his at first sight.

His Business Sagacity:

      Though Donald is undoubtedly lucky, he is not the proverbial dunce who succeeds entirely by his luck. He has abilities, shrewdness and knowledge coupled with that indefinable something by which he is able to capture the spontaneous allegiance of all men and women whether they be labourers, lovers or customers. He knows his business quite thoroughly and has by his own original research found out a process by which the seemingly impossible task of making grown wheat wholesome can be achieved successfully.

His Initiative and Enterprise:

      Before he has been long in Henchard's office, he has cleansed the Augean stables of its confusion and introduced science and system where all had been the old-fashioned rule of thumb. In organising things, he has an ingenuity and imagination which are able to create marvellous effects out of almost nothing. While in connection with the public rejoicing, Henchard spends enormous sums of money in setting up a colossal failure in an out of the way place, Farfrae is shrewd enough to select an easily accessible spot with great ingenuity and builds up a pavilion out of the trees. In brief, Farfrae has a practical bent of mind that brings him easy success in whatever he attempts.

His Business and Sentiment:

      The character of Donald Farfrae is composed of two threads, one is business, the other is sentiment and he can attend to both. In fact, he can attend to both even when sentiment is intensified into love for a woman. Any other man might have neglected his trade in paying court to the lady of his heart. But Farfrae makes his biggest profits during the period of courting Lucetta. In another example, soon after his secret marriage with Lucetta at Budmouth, he sends his bride alone to Casterbridge and stays behind to finish off a little business! It does not at all mean that his love is not sufficiently intense. It only shows that he is able to keep apart romance and reality and give to, each its proper attention.

      It is perhaps his peculiarity of nature that enables Farfrae to be at the same time gentle and hard. The chief difference between him and Henchard which makes him so popular, is that he is so gentle, so sweetly reasonable and so full of understanding He gets things done by love and sympathy rather than by tyrannical authority. Outside his business he is so thoroughly unassuming and friendly that he captures the goodwill of people at first sight. When he first comes to Casterbridge, he has not been at the Three manners more than a few minutes, before he has endeared himself to the guests by his spontaneous good fellowship.

An Indomitable Character:

      Farfrae is not the sort of soft, invertebrate fellow with whom one might do as one likes. Not even the masterful Henchard can suppress his independence of views and action. He will stand for his principle in scorn of consequences. The most admirable instance of this occurs when Farfrae sticks up for poor ill-treated Whittle against Henchard's tyranny. He will not be interfered with in his own sphere, not even by his patron, and will rather throw up his job than tamely submit to unjustifiable dictation. In short, Farfrae is one who can wield authority without abusing it, on the one a, or shirking it on the other. It is perhaps this quality, appreciated by the councilors of Casterbridge, that brought him the position of the mayor at so young an age and without his seeking.

His relationship with Henchard:

      In all the bitter rivalry between the two men, right from the beginning to end Farfrae is altogether free from blame. He is driven away to set up an independent business entirely by Henchard's jealousy. Soon after this, he Shows towards his former patron a consideration, which is beyond all demands of gratitude. He does not wish to become a rival to Henchard and actually refuses to deal with his customers. He longs to make up his differences with his former friend and be reconciled to him. It is Henchard who disdainfully keeps himself aloof and nurses his hostility towards the Scotsman.

His Sympathetic Nature:

      The sympathetic nature of Farfrae's character is revealed only when Henchard has fallen. He is full of sympathy for his ruined patron and offers him a home in his own house. He has bought up Henchard's furniture not out of spite, as Henchard at first supposed, but to offer back to him such items of it as might have special associations for the fallen Mayor. In this, Farfrae's generosity shows a delicacy of sentiment which is altogether admirable.

      Farfrae tries to do yet more for Henchard in his, difficulties. He offers to help him to make a new beginning and is distressed when the scheme has to be dropped. He engages Henchard to work in his yard forgetting all their rivalry, thereby showing an unusual discretion. Even after Henchard's attempt on his life, Farfrae does not seem to have any desire for revenge not even dry feeling of enmity. In fact, it is after that event that Farfrae sets him up ina small seed and root business. The very last of Farfrae's series of generosities to his fallen rival is his willing co-operation with his wife in going out to search for Henchard. He arrives too late; yet he can return with a clear conscience with regard to Henchard for he had done more than enough to repay the gratitude which he owed him.

Farfae's Relation with Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane:

      Regarding his relationship with Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane, it must be said, that Farfrae's usual good sense is eclipsed temporarily by the romantic glamour of Lucetta. But it is not for long. In his brief married life with Lucetta, he is able to size her up, what she is and what she is not therefore after Lucetta's death, he recovers his good sense and his heart turns once again to roost in the bosom of the virtuous Elizabeth.

Conclusion:

      In spite of all his positive traits, Farfrae cannot be called the hero of the novel. He is the most successful character in this novel, yet he is not so impressive and dignified as Michael Henchard is. He is not the centre of tragic impression while Henchard is the fountain of tragic impression. Undoubtedly, in certain respects he is superior to Henchard - as in his temper, energy and practical foresight. He is a better businessman than Henchard, a more friendly and popular being than Henchard. Yet he does not possess that grand and dignified personality which Henchard has. It is Henchard and Henchard alone, who deserves to be called the hero of the novel The Mayor of Casterbridge.

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