Study Guide

Far From the Madding Crowd Quotes

  • Marriage

    "I hate to be thought men's property in that way—though possibly I shall be had some day." (4.39)

    Bathsheba is somewhat of a feminist for her time. In the 1870s, it would've been very strange for a woman to run her own farm or to dislike the idea of marriage because she didn't want a man to own her. With all that said, she's not down to totally shock society. Even thought she's independent, she still cares a lot about what people think of her.

    Love is a possible strength in an actual weakness. Marriage transforms a distraction into a support the power of which should be, and happily often is, in direct proportion to the degree of imbecility it supplants. (4.5)

    It's stated in fancy words, but this passage basically tells us that the more flawed you are, the more you'll probably be improved by getting married. After all, what's better than always having a second person around to point out all of your faults?

    "Well, what I mean is that I shouldn't mind being a bride at a wedding if I could be one without having a husband. But since a woman can't show off in that way by herself I shan't marry—at least yet." (4.54)

    Bathsheba loves everything about weddings except the fact of getting married. If she could have a bunch of people gather round and celebrate her without her having to marry a man, then that's what she'd go for. For that reason, she plans on holding off on any wedding plans at least until she's older.

    "Thank God I am not married: what would she have done in the poverty now coming upon me!" (5.17)

    When all of his sheep fall off a cliff, Gabriel Oak knows that he's financially ruined. The one upshot of his situation is the fact that he's not married. As things stand, he has the option to roam the countryside looking for work. But if he'd had a wife or child, it would have been much more difficult to move around.

    It may have been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail. (5.2)

    Falling in love can happen almost instantly. But falling out of love after someone has rejected you is a more difficult thing to do. Some people, the book tells us, think that getting married is a quick way to make yourself stop loving that person. But who knows? Maybe marrying somebody will actually make you love them more… if you're not totally cynical about it.

    It may be said that married men of forty are usually ready and generous enough to fling passing glances at any specimen of moderate beauty they may discern by the way […] Bathsheba was convinced that this unmoved person was not a married man. (12.16)

    When she walks through the market, Bathsheba realizes that nearly every man there is staring at her… all except one: Farmer Boldwood. Bathsheba knows that married men are even more likely to stare than unmarried ones, especially ones that have been married a long time.

    "I have come to speak to you without preface. My life is not my own since I have beheld you clearly. Miss Everdene—I come to make you an offer of marriage." (19.9)

    Boldwood lives up to his name by being bold and marching straight up to Bathsheba's door to make an offer of marriage. No chitchat, no small talk. That's not his style. It's all business. He cuts to the chase. Hmm, maybe Boldwood would have been a little more successful with Bathsheba if he'd actually tried a little romance.

    Boldwood as a means to marriage was unexceptionable; she esteemed and liked him: yet she did not want him. (20.3)

    Ah, the age-old conundrum. Bathsheba likes Boldwood, but she doesn't like-like him. She's just not attracted to him in a romantic way. Sergeant Troy, on the other hand, is a dashing young man, and even though he's not the safest bet, he totally does it for Bathsheba.

    "All romances end at marriage." (41.17)

    It turns out that Sergeant Troy doesn't believe in romance after all, at least not after marriage. This, of course, comes as really bad news for Bathsheba, who married Troy because he was romantic. Maybe she shouldn't have been so superficial, because Troy turns out to be a total bust as a husband.

    He turned to Fanny then. "But never mind darling," he said; "in the sight of heaven you are my very very wife."(43.76)

    Sergeant Troy isn't totally empty of emotion. In fact, he truly loves Fanny Robin in a way he'll never love anyone else. That doesn't change the fact, though, that he broke his engagement to Fanny and left her and their child to die in the streets. Only after she's dead does he seem to realize the horror of what he's done.

  • Religion

    [He] could form no decided opinion upon her looks, her position being almost beneath his eye, so that he saw her in a bird's eye view, as Milton's Satan first saw Paradise. (2.22)

    It might seem strange that the narrator compares Gabriel Oak's watching Bathsheba with Satan first seeing the Garden of Eden, but this is probably more to establish Bathsheba as Eve than it is to establish Gabriel as Satan. After all, Gabriel is named after an super-good archangel who is pretty much as far from Satanic as possible.

    "O you see, mem, his pore mother, not being a Scripture-read woman made a mistake at his christening, thinking 'twas Abel killed Cain, and called en Cain meaning Abel all the time." (10.58)

    Poor Cain Ball has an unfortunate name, since Cain is one of the biggest villains in all of the Bible. In the story of Cain and Abel, Cain killed Abel for being the better, more moral brother. But Cain Ball's mother got the story mixed up and thought Abel was the killer and Cain the innocent one. People in Weatherbury tend to know the Bible in general… but they are a bit fuzzy on the particulars.

    "Benjy Pennyways were not a true man or an honest baily—as big a betrayer as Joey Iscariot himself." (15.5)

    When establishing that Pennyways is a cheat, Joseph Poorgrass compares him to Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus and got the guy crucified. But poor Poorgrass, not knowing his Bible specifics, calls Judas "Joey" instead. And yes, there might be a few Joseph's in the Bible; but there are definitely no Joeys.

    And he took his shears and went away from her in placid dignity, as Moses left the presence of Pharoah. (20.58)

    Once again, Hardy uses the Bible to describe Gabriel's relationship with Bathsheba. This time, though, it's Gabriel who's compared to the Biblical hero. After Bathsheba fires him for being too honest in his opinion of Sergeant Troy, Gabriel turns and walks away with total dignity, since he'd rather lose his job than shield Bathsheba from the truth. In this sense, then, he's like the Biblical hero Moses walking away from his cruel master, the Pharaoh.

    It had brought upon her a stroke resulting, as did that of Moses in Horeb, in a liquid stream—here a stream of tears. She felt like one who has sinned a great sin. (28.52)

    After Sergeant Troy kisses her for the first time, Bathsheba starts crying because she's so overwhelmed with what's happening. She has spent so many years acting proud and dignified; but this handsome young man has totally broken down her defenses with all his charm. Now she can only feel like she's done something totally wrong, since she's overwhelmed with confused passion and guilt.

    "O Gabriel […] I am weak, and foolish, and I don't know what, and I can't fend off my miserable grief!.... I had some faint belief in the mercy of God till I lost that woman." (38.32)

    When Farmer Boldwood can no longer stand his love for Bathsheba, he totally breaks down in front of Gabriel Oak and tells him that since he has lost Bathsheba, he has also lost faith in God's mercy. It's not like he doesn't think God exists. He just thinks God has no mercy on good men like himself.

    "Your next world is your next world, and not to be squandered offhand." (42.33)

    When he reflects on some of the bad things he's done in his life, Joseph Poorgrass decides that, when all is said and done, he knows there'll be some time after death when he'll have to account for himself. And in this sense, he feels like he should straighten up and act better, because he doesn't want to waste his one shot at a good afterlife.

    The vision of Oak kneeling down that night recurred to her, and with the imitative instinct which animates women she seized upon the idea, resolved to kneel and if possible, pray. Gabriel had prayed; so would she. (43.50)

    After seeing Gabriel praying through his bedroom window, Bathsheba feels like praying isn't such a bad idea. She has many of her own troubles to worry about, like the apparent death of her husband and the series of aggressive proposals from Farmer Boldwood. If praying is good enough for a nice man like Gabriel, reasons Bathsheba, it's good enough for her.

    He turned to Fanny then. "But never mind darling," he said; "in the sight of heaven you are my very very wife." (43.76)

    Even an immoral guy like Sergeant Troy believes in heaven. This is England in the 1870s, guys. If you weren't Christian, you weren't anything. This scene (where Troy is talking to his dead ex-lover and dead child, so sad) is pretty much the one moment we see Troy act like a flesh-and-blood human instead of a callous robot.

    "I am one of the bass singers, you know. I have sung bass for several months." (56.9)

    Gabriel is such a good guy that when he's not busy working (which is almost always), he's down at the church singing bass in the choir. What a boy scout, eh? The guy is so wholesome that he's (almost) boring.

  • Love

    Love, being an extremely exacting usurer (a sense of exorbitant profit spiritually, as that of exorbitant profit bodily or materially is at the bottom of those of lower atmosphere) every morning Oak's feelings were as sensitive as the Money Market in calculations upon his chances. (4.3)

    In a long and confusing metaphor, Hardy tells us that Gabriel Oak tends to wake up each day thinking about his chances with Bathsheba in the same way a stock trader thinks about his chances of making a lot of money on a given day.

    Love is a possible strength in an actual weakness. Marriage transforms a distraction into a support the power of which should be, and happily often is, in direct proportion to the degree of imbecility it supplants. (4.5)

    In short, love can sometimes turns people's weaknesses into strengths. For example, if you're a greedy person might turn into a super generous one and buy lots of nice things for your sweetheart. A greedy person would take their distraction (an appreciation of the value of money and nice things) and turn it into a support (sharing money and nice things with your beloved). Love makes horrible people into awesome people.

    It may have been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail. (5.2)

    No doubt about it. It's a lot easier to fall in love than it is to get out of love once you've been rejected. Some people—cynically people, really—think that the easiest way to kill your love for someone is to marry that person. Hardy har har, Thomas Hardy. Good one.

    Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant women love when they abandon their self-reliance. (29.2)

    One of the main reasons that Bathsheba comes to love Sergeant Troy so much is his ability to break through her shell of pride and independence. Through a combination of good looks, charm, and constant compliments, Troy is able to charm Bathsheba to the point that she totally lets down her guard and admits that she wants him. This only makes her love him all the more, since she's not used to feeling this reliant on another person.

    "You know what that feeling is […] A thing strong as death. No dismissal by a hasty letter affects that." (31.12)

    Boldwood informs Bathsheba that she's not going to get rid of him with something as small as a quickly written letter. No, no. If she wants him gone, she needs to tell him to his face why they can't be together.

    "Your dear love, Bathsheba, is such a vast thing beside your pity that the loss of your pity as well as your love is no great addition to my sorrow, nor does the grain of your pity make it sensibly less." (31.26)

    Boldwood isn't interested in the fact that Bathsheba feels bad for him. All he's interested in is making her love him. But apparently he can't do that, so he doesn't want her to go making herself feel better by telling him she's sorry.

    Faint sounds came from the barn, and he looked that way. Figures stepped singly and in pairs through the doors—all walking awkwardly, and abashed, save the foremost who wore a red jacket, and advanced with his hands in his pockets, whistling. (38.5)

    Sergeant Troy has a lot of trouble loving anything or anyone except himself. He even turns Bathsheba away from their wedding celebrations so that he can get drunk with a bunch of his new employees. The next morning, everyone stumbles out of the barn feeling terrible with hangovers. But Troy just skips out and whistles, showing that he couldn't care less about other people's feelings.

    For those few heavenly golden moments she had been in his arms. What did it matter about her not knowing it?—she had been close to his breast; he had been close to hers. (48.12)

    Farmer Boldwood gets into creep territory when he catches Bathsheba fainting at a market and takes a moment to savor the feeling of her in his arms. The fact that he specifically doesn't care whether she's conscious shows how little this guy respects Bathsheba as a person. He's gotten it into his head that he wants her as a wife, but in reality his love is just based on a desire to possess her, rather than spend time with her while she's conscious.

    This fevered hope had grown up again like a grain of mustard-seed during the quiet which followed the hasty conjecture that Troy was drowned. (49.7)

    Being a selfish man when it comes to love, Farmer Boldwood has trouble hiding his enthusiasm when he finds out that Bathsheba's husband has died while swimming. It takes him next to no time to decide that he's going to move in on Bathsheba and ask her, once again, to marry him.

    "The real sin, ma'am, in my mind lies in thinking of ever wedding wi' a man you don't love honest and true." (51.59)

    When asked his opinion about Boldwood, Gabriel Oak can only say that it's wrong for someone to marry a person they don't love. Bathsheba thinks her case is more complicated than this, since she feels like she owes Boldwood something. But Oak holds firm and says that it doesn't matter what she thinks she owes; she should never marry a man she doesn't love. One again Oak = a highly reasonable dude.

  • Class

    "But what between the poor men I won't have, and the rich men who won't have me, I stand forlorn as a pelican in the wilderness." (9.52)

    Bathsheba's servant Maryann wishes she were married. The problem is that she's only interested in marrying into a higher social class, and none of the men from this class want to marry her. There are plenty of men from lower classes who do, but she won't have anything to do with them.

    "He wasn't quite good enough for me." (9.57)

    When asked whether she has ever received a marriage proposal, Bathsheba admits that she once has. But she refused the proposal because she was too good for the man. The man she's talking about, of course, is Gabriel Oak, and by the end of this book, she'll come running back into his arms, because he's like the best guy ever. But this passage shows how much Bathsheba's pride in her class position can affect her major life decisions.

    "All will be ruined and ourselves too, or there's no meat in gentlemen's houses!" (15.17)

    The "or there's no meat in gentlemen's houses" part of this quote is said to mean the untrue and unfathomable, because there is always meat in rich men's houses. The guy who says this may have well said "or I'm a monkey's uncle" or "or water is dry." For working men the divide between the rich and poor is just a fact of life.

    "He's a doctor's son by name, which is a great deal; and he's an earl's son by nature!" (24.65)

    When she tries to justify her attraction to Sergeant Troy, Bathsheba finds it necessary to mention that Troy was raised as the son of a doctor, but that he's in reality the son of a nobleman. You'd think that it might be good enough for her to say that she simply likes the guy. But like many people of her time, she realizes that a person's social class plays a big role in their suitability for marriage.

    He was a fairly well educated man for one of middle class—exceptionally well educated for a common soldier. (25.9)

    When describing Sergeant Troy to us, Hardy's narrator is quick to mention that Troy is much more educated than most soldiers. This probably helps explain why Troy is so good with words compared to many of his soldier friends. This education, though, also tends to make Troy strive for things that are beyond the life of a soldier, which can help explain why he gives up poor Fanny Robin for marriage to the wealthy Bathsheba.

    "His being higher in learning and birth than the ruck o' soldiers is anything but a proof of his worth. It shows his course to be down'ard." (29.36)

    Bathsheba tries to defend Sergeant Troy to Gabriel Oak by saying how good Troy's family was. But Oak totally schools her by saying that actually, Troy's good family shows that Troy has come down in the world and will probably continue to do so. If a dude from a rich family is forced to become a soldier, it must mean that he really blew threw his family's money instead of doing something useful with it.

    A neighboring earl once said that he would give up a year's rental to have at his own door the view enjoyed by the inmates from theirs—and very probably the inmates would have given up the view for his year's rental. (40.39)

    The word around Casterbridge is that the local poorhouse happens to have a very nice view—so nice that a nobleman from the area once said that he'd give up his own property to have such a view. But as the narrator sarcastically tells us, the inmates of the poorhouse would probably gladly take him up on his offer, since living in the poorhouse ain't exactly a beach party.

    "Gable Oak is becoming quite the dand. He now wears shiny boots with hardly a hob in em two or three times a week and a tall hat a-Sundays and 'a hardly knows the name of smockfrock." (49.5)

    Once Gabriel Oak starts to make good money, word spreads around town that he's begun walking around in fancy clothes. You wouldn't think that a down-to-earth practical guy like Oak would care about lookin' sharp. But like everyone else in the book, he does care about his appearance and about what people think of him… and he especially cares about what Bathsheba thinks of him.

    Beyond a politic wish to remain unknown there suddenly arose in him now a sense of shame at the possibility that his attractive young wife who already despised him should despise him more by discovering him in so mean a condition after so long a time. (50.33)

    Sergeant Troy wants to go home to Weatherbury to live in the comfort of his rich wife's home. But he can't bear the idea that Bathsheba would ever catch him working as a travelling performer, because Bathsheba thinks that travelling performers are essentially 19th century carnies.

    "The top and tail o't is this—that I am sniffing about here, and waiting for poor Boldwood's farm with a thought of getting you some day." (56.54)

    By the end of the book, Gabriel is willing to admit to Bathsheba that he's been patiently waiting for the day when he could have enough wealth and property to make a suitable marriage proposal to her. Turns out that class totally does matter when it comes to love and marriage. So much for love being blind.

  • Drugs & Alcohol

    "And so you see 'twas beautiful ale, and wished to value his kindness as much as I could, and not to be so ill-mannered as to drink only a thimbleful, which would have been insulting the man's generosity." (8.70)

    When he tries to explain why he drank so much during a past experience, Joseph Poorgrass says that it would be rude to drink only a lit bit of beer when your host offered it to you. In other words, getting a little drunk can be the polite thing to do in certain cases. Then again, he might just be making excuses for enjoying his drinking a bit too much.

    At the present moment [Gabriel] was engaged in handing round a mug of mild liquor, supplied from a barrel in the corner, and cut pieces of bread and cheese. (22.9)

    Gabriel Oak might not be a big drinker, but that doesn't mean he's totally against the stuff. In some cases, he's even the guy who passes liquor around. As long as his men don't get too drunk, he's fine with it all.

    Out of these say twenty will endeavor to drown the bitterness of despised love in drink: twenty more will mope away their lives without a wish or attempt to make a mark in the world. (26.42)

    As we hear in this section, many men who get rejected by the women they love will take refuge in alcohol. Others will just mope for the rest of their lives. For the narrator, there isn't much of a difference between the two: both approaches are for losers.

    Here, under the table, and leaning against forms and chairs in every conceivable attitude except the perpendicular, were the wretched persons of all the workfolk, the hair of their heads at such low level being suggestive of mops and brooms. (36.32)

    When Gabriel realizes that Bathsheba's crops will be ruined by rain, he runs to find the workmen to help him cover the crops. But he discovers them all passed out after a night of partying with Sergeant Troy. Not a single one of them is reliable except for Oak, who takes it upon himself to do the work of ten men and save Bathsheba's crops.

    Sergeant Troy had so strenuously insisted, glass in hand, that drinking should be the bond of their union that those who wished to refuse hardly liked to be so unmannerly in other circumstances. (36.41)

    Sergeant Troy likes to drink so much that he's willing to throw his wife out of her own wedding party so that he can get drunk with all the workmen. On top of that, he demands that everyone around him get just as drunk as he does, even threatening to fire some people who won't drink. How's that for peer pressure?

    "They are all asleep in the barn, in a drunken sleep, and my husband among them. That's it, is it not?" (37.30)

    Bathsheba isn't one bit impressed by the way her husband and all of her workers have gotten drunk, especially considering how a thunderstorm is about to ruin their entire year's work if someone doesn't cover the crops.

    "I've been drinky once this month already, and I did not go to Church a-Sunday, and I dropped a curse or two yesterday, so I don't want to go too far for my safety." (42.33)

    Joseph Poorgrass knows that he's walking on thin ice as far as his good behavior has gone lately. He admits that he's been drunk and has missed church, and he really wants to get back on track sooner rather than later.

    The minutes glided by uncounted, until the evening shades began perceptibly to deepen, and the eyes of the tree were but sparkling points on the surface of darkness. (42.44)

    As Joseph Poorgrass gets drunk in the pub, he totally loses track of time. It's not until Gabriel Oak barges in and reminds him that he's got a job to do that he snaps back to attention. By now, it's too late though. He has already missed the deadline for getting Fanny Robin's casket to the cemetery for a funeral.

    Do hold thy horning, Jan! […] As for you Joseph, who do your wicked deeds in such confoundedly holy ways, you are as drunk as you can stand. (42.51)

    Gabriel Oak doesn't mind when his workmen take a break to drink when they're on their own time. When they're supposed to be working, it's a whole different story. And Gabriel isn't just mad at Poorgrass for getting drunk. He's just as mad with Jan Coggan for applying peer pressure.

    "I feel too good for England: I ought to have lived in Genesis by rights, like the other men of sacrifice, and then I shouldn't have b-b-been called a d-d-drunkard in such a way!" (42.54)

    When he tries to defend himself, Joseph Poorgrass says that the only reason he's drunk is because he lives a crummy life in England that isn't good enough for him. If he'd been lucky enough to live in the Garden of Eden, he wouldn't have any cause to drink. But with life the way it is, he wants to escape from it all every now and then.

  • Pride

    [A] small swing looking-glass was disclosed, in which she proceeded to survey herself attentively. She parted her lips, and smiled. (1.13)

    What a first impression. The first thing Bathsheba does in this novel is take out a little mirror and stare at herself in it. Granted, she's beautiful. But seriously? That's a little narcissistic.

    There was no necessity whatever for her looking in the glass. She did not adjust her hat, or pat her hair, or press a dimple into shape […] (1.15)

    It's not like Bathsheba needs to fix her hair or makeup. She just wants to look at her own prettiness. As far as first impressions go, this one tells us pretty clearly that Bathsheba is a vain woman. It's no wonder that she later refuses Gabriel's marriage proposal because she thinks she's too good for him.

    Gabriel, perhaps a little piqued by the comely traveller's indifference, glanced back to where he had witnessed her performance over the hedge, and said, "Vanity." (1.29)

    We're not alone in thinking that Bathsheba is a vain person. It takes only a glance for a wily guy like Gabriel to size up her enormous ego. But then again, it's not like Gabriel is walking away from her. She might have an ego, but he also totally falls in love with her because of how beautiful he finds her. Go figure.

    "He wasn't quite good enough for me." (9.57)

    When she's asked whether any man has ever proposed to her, Bathsheba is more than happy to say yes. But she's even happier to say that she turned the man down because she was too good for him.

    "A head-strong maid—that's what she is—and won't listen to no advice at all. Pride and vanity have ruined many a cobbler's dog." (15.24)

    It's one thing for a woman to be proud; it's another for her to be so proud that she runs her own farm and tells all her male workers what to do… at least in Victorian England. As you can imagine, the idea of having a female boss in Hardy's time wasn't the easiest thing for men to swallow. But instead of blaming their own sexism, they blame Bathsheba's womanly pride.

    "Indeed, then, you are mistaken […] Nothing hurts me. My constitution is an iron one." (38.14)

    When Gabriel senses some sort of sickness in Farmer Boldwood, Boldwood is quick to argue that he is a tough, strong man who can't be hurt by anything. This is all just wishful thinking on his part, though, since his pride has been badly wounded by Bathsheba's rejection of him.

    Her pride was indeed brought low by despairing discoveries of her spoliation by marriage with a less pure nature than her own. (41.64)

    Bathsheba's pride is very strong. But it has a tough time holding up against the knowledge that everyone in town thinks she has lowered herself by marrying a common soldier like Sergeant Troy. It seems, though, that Bathsheba's pride will have to take even more of a beating before she's ready to get out of her way and live the life she wants.

    It is only women with no pride in them who run away from their husbands. (44.46)

    Just before she is totally broken, Bathsheba rallies herself and totally commits to living with Sergeant Troy for the rest of her days, no matter how miserable she is. The reason she'll do this is because she thinks that only women with no pride could ever be so weak as to leave their husbands.

    Her original vigorous pride of youth had sickened, and with it had declined all her anxieties about coming years. (48.1)

    As we come to the end of the book, we learn that the pride Bathsheba once has as a young woman has shriveled over time. And you can't really blame her, considering how much misfortune has befallen the poor woman. A dead husband and an imprisoned suitor will go a long way to making you question how positive your impact on the world has been.

    Her exuberance of spirit was pruned down: the original phantom of delight had shown herself to be not too good for human nature's daily food. (49.8)

    Finally, when she's ready to marry Gabriel Oak, Bathsheba has all but lost her former pride. It's kind of a shame, though, that she can't be proud and have a good life. As far as punishments go, this book is maybe a little too hard on Bathsheba for thinking she was better than other people.

  • Gender

    "I can ride on the other [saddle]: trust me." (2.31)

    When tasked with the responsibility of riding a horse to the nearby mill, Bathsheba decides to ride her horse like a man, with one leg dangling down each side of the animal. This would have been a scandalous thing to do during Hardy's time, since riding this way was seen as a twisted way for women to get sexual pleasure. Hey, don't look at us. That's what people thought back then. We're not the perverts—the pervert is Victorian society as a whole.

    Recollection of the strange antics she had indulged in when passing through the trees, was succeeded in the girl by a nettled palpitation, and that by a hot face. (3.24)

    When she realizes that Gabriel Oak has watched her doing some of her strange, manly riding tricks, Bathsheba becomes flushed with embarrassment. It's not so much that someone saw her, but the fact that someone was watching without her knowing it that bothers her so much. And can we blame her?

    "How soft [your hand] is—being winter-time, too—not chapped or rough or anything!" (3.62)

    Gabriel has seen Bathsheba do some pretty manly things. That's why he tries to reassure himself of her femininity when he takes her hand and compliments how smooth its skin is, especially for the wintertime.

    The only superiority in women that is tolerable to the rival sex is, as a rule, that of the unconscious kind, but a superiority which recognizes itself may sometimes please by suggesting possibilities of capture to the subordinated man. (4.1)

    In other words, men will sometimes like proud and independent women, but only insofar as they think of these women as something they can capture and possess. You know, like creepy big game hunters only like lions if the lion is stuffed and displayed in their den.

    "I've brought a lamb for Miss Everdene. I thought she might like one to rear: girls do." (4.18)

    When he brings her a new lamb as a gift, Gabriel hopes that Bathsheba will show herself to be like other girls and to enjoy raising a cute little lamb. Once again, he seems intent on convincing himself that Bathsheba can be made to act like a normal girl. After all, she's so beautiful that he can't stand the idea of her being a tomboy. Again: why are these two things mutually exclusive? We like playing rugby and raising bunnies.

    "I have two matters to speak of. The first is that the bailiff is dismissed for thieving, and that I have formed a resolution to have no bailiff at all, but to manage everything with my own head and hands." (10.2)

    When she catches her bailiff Pennyways stealing some of her crops, Bathsheba wastes no time in firing him taking his place herself. In doing so, she becomes the first woman in the area to ever manage her own farm. Get it, girl.

    An expostulation followed, but it was indistinct; and it became lost amid a low peal of laughter, which was hardly distinguishable form the gurgle of the tiny whirlpools outside. (11.66)

    When Bathsheba announces that she'll run her own farm, there is a commotion among the workmen. Some think it's funny; while others are angry at the thought of having to answer to a woman in the daily work.

    "A head-strong maid—that's what she is—and won't listen to no advice at all. Pride and vanity have ruined many a cobbler's dog." (15.24)

    The workmen can't go complaining about Bathsheba right in front of her. But once they go to the pub after the workday is over, they tend to vent all of their frustration at having to work for a woman. They compare her to a dog, which is a polite Victorian-era way of calling her a b*tch.

    Women are never tired of bewailing man's fickleness in love, but they only seem to snub his constancy. (24.1)

    Throughout this book, Hardy's narrator likes to make some nice sweeping generalizations about women. In this case, he mentions the hypocrisy of the fact that women always seem to complain about men being promiscuous and non-committing. But then they go and turn away the first dude who actually shows them loyalty and commitment. Hmm. Was Thomas Hardy a Nice Guy?

    "I shall never forgive God for making me a woman, and dearly am I beginning to pay for the honour of owning a pretty face." (30.37)

    Bathsheba is angry at God for making her a woman. Which we get: being in woman in Victorian England sounds messed up. She also gives the humblebrag to end all humblebrags by saying "Oh, dang. I wish I wasn't so pretty." Awk-ward.

  • Man & the Natural World

    The instinctive act of human-kind was to stand, and listen, and learn how the trees on the right and the trees on the left wailed or chanted to each other in the regular antiphonies of a cathedral choir. (2.4)

    As the narrator tells us, it is natural for humans to have a deep sense of connection to the world around them, even though this connection might be lost for many people who live in modern cities.

    "'Tis blowed about from pillar to post quite common […] We hear that ye can tell the time as well by the stars as we can by the sun and moon, shepherd." (15.78)

    When the workmen on Bathsheba's farm first meet Gabriel Oak, they are very impressed by his ability to tell what time it is by looking at the stars. This ability just goes to show that Oak has a more intimate connection with nature than all of the people around him.

    It was that period in the vernal quarter when we may supposed the Dryads to be waking for the season—The vegetable world begins to move and swell and the saps to rise, till in the completest silence of lone gardens and trackless plantations […] there are bustlings, strainings, united thrusts, and pulls-altogether. (18.10)

    Thomas Hardy really wants to convey to us a sense of what it's like to be as close to nature as someone like Gabriel Oak. Through his descriptive language, he tries to give us an idea of all the different sounds you might hear if you really, really stop to listen to the sound of the wind blowing through trees and bushes.

    Gabriel had skinned the dead lamb, and was tying the skin over the body of the live lamb in the customary manner. (18.15)

    Gabriel might love his lambs, but he's not exactly sentimental about it. If one of his lambs dies, for example, he's got no problem skinning the thing and tying its skin around another lamb that needs to get warm.

    Every drop of moisture not in the men's bottles and flagons in the form of cider or ale was raining as perspiration from their foreheads and cheeks. Drought was everywhere else. (33.3)

    When a long drought threatens to ruin the crops on the farms, the workmen feel it very deeply. It's almost as if they can feel the thirst of the crops for water, because they go to the pub to drink some cider themselves, almost as a sign of sympathy.

    Oak's eyes followed the serpentine sheen to the other side, where it led up to a huge brown garden slug, which had come indoors to-night for reasons of its own. It was Nature's second way of hinting to him that he was to prepare for foul weather. (36.24)

    When Oak thinks about covering up Bathsheba's crops, the most important thing he can do is determine whether it's going to rain. And a guy who's as skilled and experienced as Oak can quickly look to nature to find out what's going to happen. In this case, he sees that a garden slug has gone from outdoors to indoors, meaning that it's probably going to rain.

    This reminded him that if there was one class of manifestation on this matter that he thoroughly understood, it was the instincts of sheep. (36.25)

    If there's one thing Gabriel Oak knows, it's sheep. And not just which part of them tastes the best. Oak knows why sheep behave certain ways at certain times, and he can use this knowledge to prepare for coming weather.

    [The sheep] had now a terror of something greater than their terror of man. (36.26)

    As the narrator notes, sheep aren't dumb. They know enough to know that they should be terrified of humans, who shear them for the wool or kill them for their meat. But in this passage, we find out that there's something they're even more scared of, and that's lightning storms.

    [The flash] sprang from east, west, north, south, and was a perfect dance of death. (37.21)

    You get a lot of very poetic metaphors in this book, and one of the most awesome is a lightning strike as a "dance of death." By using personification to make the lightning sound like it's dancing, Hardy creates a very clear connection between nature and humanity.

    Gabriel was almost blinded, and he could feel Bathsheba's warm arm tremble in his hand—a sensation novel and thrilling enough: but love, life, everything human, seemed small and trifling in such close juxtaposition with an infuriated universe. (37.21)

    When Bathsheba tries to help him cover up her crops, Gabriel is thrilled to touch her trembling arm. But what makes the scene even more powerful for him is the way that he and Bathsheba stand together while the world around them crashes with lightning. It seems as though she and he are the only people left in a harsh universe, and there's something about this that Gabriel finds very romantic.