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While talking to Elizabeth-Jane about the matter, he referred to Farfrae as “an enemy to our house” (116).Henchard was almost speechless because he realized that he would not have been as generous to Farfrae if their positions were reversed (227).Eventually, he set himself above the news and started to care for her once again.
This is same aspect of Henchard that made him so forbearing and committed to his wedding vows There is also evidence to suggest Henchard is impulsive: for example, Henchard, without taking the time to consider his decision, dismisses Farfrae after the party.
Hardy is saying this is something Henchard couldn't control. A quality in all great leaders is that they are able to make quick decisions.
At that time, Henchard showed the upmost care for Elizabeth-Jane.
However, after he had read the letter, his attitude became condescending towards her and he treated her bitterly for some time.
Anger, stemmed from an unhappy marriage at a young age, contributes to Henchard’s intolerable character, in combination with the intoxication of alcohol.
The fusion of anger and intoxication results in Henchard’s intensified emotions and exaggerated behaviour.
The reader re-exhibits Henchard’s anger later on in the novel when he prematurely opens a letter from Susan to learn that Elizabeth-Jane is not his birth daughter, but the daughter of Newson, the sailor who had bought Susan with his biological daughter.
Prior to opening the letter, his feelings towards Elizabeth-Jane were positive as he was under the impression that this was his daughter that he had conceived with Susan.
Costing Farfrae his job, Henchard had begun a rivalry with Farfrae – one that he would soon lose (111).
Henchard’s irrational decisions invoked by his emotions lead him down a spiral, and in result, he suffers needlessly because of them.