Far From the Madding Crowd Summary
So there's this guy named Gabriel Oak and he sounds like a pretty solid dude (hence the whole "Oak" thing). One day, he sees a proud and beautiful young woman named Bathsheba and decides he wants to marry her. The problem is that Bathsheba thinks she's too good for him and turns him down. Worse yet, Oak loses his livelihood when one of his dogs chases all his sheep off a cliff. Things aren't looking great for the guy.
After wandering the countryside looking for a job, Oak arrives in a town called Weatherbury and gets himself a job as a shepherd. And who should happen to be his new boss but his old flame Bathsheba, who has inherited the farm after her uncle's recent death. Uh oh.
Meanwhile, a wealthy old farmer in the area named Boldwood decides that he'd like to marry Bathsheba, too. And she even gives Boldwood a half-promise to say yes, even though she doesn't love him. Things look like they might wrap up nicely at this point.
But nope. Not so fast. Enter a cocky, handsome young man named Sergeant Troy. He rolls into Weatherbury and sweeps Bathsheba off her feet. The two of them get married quickly, which breaks the hearts of both Boldwood and Gabriel Oak. As you might expect, Troy is a total jerk to Bathsheba after they're married. What's even worse, though, is that Troy used to be engaged to one of Bathsheba's servants—Fanny Robin—and he has left her (and their child) to die in the streets. When Bathsheba finds this out, her heart totally breaks.
It's around this time that Troy realizes he's a bad dude, so he just does everyone a favor by faking his death and disappearing for a year. When life turns out to be really hard without his wife's money, though, he comes skulking back to Weatherbury to claim his fortune. During his absence, Boldwood has pestered Bathsheba into marrying him. On the night Boldwood hopes to announce the engagement, though, Troy shows up to steal Bathsheba away for a second time.
Boldwood snaps and blows the dude away with a shotgun. Shortly afterwards, Boldwood turns himself in at a nearby police station. He's sentenced to be executed, but gets pardoned at the last minute because everyone thinks he's insane. Meanwhile, Gabriel Oak tells Bathsheba that he'll be leaving for America soon. She begs him to stay, and he agrees to… if the two of them can get married. She agrees and they get married shortly after.
Now if Bathsheba had just agreed to marry Gabriel Oak the first time he asked, things would have been a lot tidier. Troy wouldn't have been blown to smithereens and Boldwood would still be hanging around.
Oh, well. It was way more dramatic and juicy this way, and at least there's a (sorta?) happy ending?
Description of Farmer Oak: An Incident
- Meet Farmer Gabriel Oak, a nice young man with a big smile. And if he wasn't already adorable, the dude spends his days taking care of a flock of cute little sheep. Awwwww.
- The members of Oak's community have mixed opinions about him, but these opinions seem to be more connected to their own moods than anything Oak does.
- Hardy's narrator continues to describe Oak as an overall good guy. He might be a little clueless about certain things—like buying a watch that actually works—but the important thing to know is that Oak is 28 and still single.
- While walking through some fields one day, Oak sees a pretty woman sitting on top of a horse cart and waiting for a man to repair part of the cart.
- After looking around to see if anyone's watching, the woman unwraps a little parcel and pulls out a mirror, which she uses to check her appearance. In other words, she's self-consciousness enough to know that this is a vain thing to do, but too proud to resist. Oak sees her do it, though, and he knows that she's not doing it for any purpose other than to look at herself.
- It turns out that the woman isn't willing to pay the full fee to go through a toll booth, but the toll booth guy is holding firm on his price. After watching for a while, Gabriel steps forward and pays the remaining amount of her fee himself.
- When the cart rides off, the tollbooth guy mentions to Gabriel that the woman was very pretty. Gabriel agrees, but also says that he thinks the woman is very vain.
Night: The Flock: An Interior: Another Interior
- It's midnight, a few days after Oak saw the woman in the wagon, and there's a strong wind blowing.
- The narrator spends nearly two pages describing how clear and beautiful the night is. And from this beautiful night come the sounds of… Farmer Oak's flute. Yeah, dude plays the flute, too. Isn't that just so idyllic?
- Now it's time for a little backstory. It turns out that it hasn't been long since people started calling Gabriel "Farmer Oak." It's only recently that his hard work and good spirits have allowed him to buy a flock of sheep on credit. In other words, he's in a good position, but there's a lot riding on this flock of sheep he's taking care of.
- After popping out of his shepherd's hut for a moment, Oak returns with a newborn lamb, hoping to warm it next to his fireplace. And again, we all go, "Awwww."
- When the little lamb starts to gain its strength, Oak goes outside and stares at the stars.
- While looking, he realizes that one star isn't a star at all, but a lantern burning in a nearby plantation's shed. He decides to go check it out after feeling a pinch of loneliness.
- He peeks into the shed through a crack in the roof and sees two women with cows. One of the women (the younger one) says to the other that she wishes they were rich enough to pay men to do the farm work. She also mentions that she has lost her hat.
- They need oatmeal for the morning, and the younger one volunteers to ride to the mill to get it. The women don't have a side-saddle with them, but the younger woman insists that she can ride "on the other" (2.31). A little history: in Hardy's time it was considered indecent (read: too sexy) for a woman to ride a horse astride, or straddling the horse with one leg on either side of the horse's back. Instead, women were supposed to ride with both legs hanging off one side of the horse.
- Riding astride is not something you'd want to be caught doing if you were a woman in Hardy's time, since it might affect your reputation. But the young woman in the shed insists that she's fine with it.
- When he hears her say these things, Oak wants to get a better look at the young woman. He soon realizes that she's the same pretty young woman he saw riding the wagon and arguing about the tollbooth price a few days ago.
A Girl on Horseback: Conversation
- Farmer Oak decides to take a walk down to his pretty young neighbor's plantation to see if she's around. He remembers the woman saying that she lost her hat the day before, so he decides to try and find it. He soon does, and takes it back to his hut.
- Soon, the young owner comes around looking for it. He's about to leave his hut to return it, but he pauses when he sees the girl turn around on her horse and lie flat across its back to ride underneath some low-hanging branches. It's a really impressive bit of riding. Then, after looking around to see if anyone's watching, she gets back up onto the saddle and straddles it man-style and rides away.
- An hour later, the girl rides past again, this time riding sidesaddle. By this point, Oak is convinced that she's the most desirable woman in the world.
- Finally, Oak comes up to her and says he found a hat. He asks if it's hers (knowing full well that it is). But he can't go and confess to spying on her, can he? Unfortunately, he gives himself away by mentioning the exact time she lost it. Way to be slick, Oak.
- He also mentions that he saw her riding toward the mill. This embarrasses the young woman, who probably doesn't like the idea of anyone seeing her ride astride, because it was mannish and improper.
- Then the two of them don't see one another for a few days. But one evening, Farmer Oak returns to his little hut. It's cold outside, so he heaps a bunch of fuel onto his fire. He falls asleep before opening the smoke vents, though, and nearly dies of smoke inhalation. He only survives because the young woman sees the smoke and pulls him to safety. He learns that she came because she heard his dog howling.
- He tells her that he'd like to know her name, now that she has saved his life. But she says if he wants to know it, he should ask someone else. She doesn't believe that the two of them will ever have much to do with one another.
- While he thanks her, the young woman offers him the opportunity to hold her hand. He compliments it on how smooth and beautiful it is, especially considering that wintertime.
- She then offers him the opportunity to kiss her hand if he wants to. He tells her that kissing her hand hadn't even crossed his mind, but that he will totally kiss her hand if she wants him to.
- Then, she pulls her hand away because he has had the nerve to tell her he wasn't already thinking of kissing it. You following all of this? There are some serious flirty head games going on.
- She runs out of the hut and tells him that it's now his turn to go out and figure out what her name is.
Gabriel's Resolve: The Visit: The Mistake
- So it's settled, then. Gabriel Oak is in love with the young woman who saved his life. He uses any opportunity he can to see the woman in the fields, but only ever from afar. He's kind of a stalker.
- After making some enquiries, he finds out that the girl's name is Bathsheba Everdene (not related to Katniss), and that she's probably leaving the area in eight days' time. Bummer.
- One day, he gets an opportunity to visit Bathsheba's house when one of his sheep dies. He packs up the sheep's lamb in a basket, gets all spruced up, and goes to the house.
- When he gets to the door, he asks Bathsheba's aunt if he could speak to the young woman. Bathsheba is out, but her aunt invites him inside. He announces that he has brought a lamb for her, in case she'd like to raise it.
- But instead of beating around the bush any longer, Oak tells the aunt that he has come to ask for Bathsheba's hand in marriage. He asks if Bathsheba has any other young men courting her. The aunt tells him that there are all kinds of men that want Bathsheba. She's a hottie. Farmer Oak gets discouraged and leaves.
- While he's walking down the lane, Bathsheba comes running after him. She wants to tell him that her aunt was lying and that there aren't any other young men in her life. This is great news for Oak, so he proposes to her right on the spot. Unfortunately, she rejects him. Okay, we're tempted at this point to abbreviate Bathsheba's name to B.S. because she is the head game queen.
- As you can imagine, he's pretty annoyed that she ran all the way down the road just to tell him that she's not interested.
- He asks her again if she'll marry him, telling her that he's very much in love with her. Ugh. At this point we want to take Oak aside and say, "Be cool, man. Be cool."
- She says she needs a moment to think, since she's out of breath. Eventually, she tells him no again because she doesn't love him.
- He says he's totally fine with marrying without love, though, as long as she likes him a little. But no, it's no use.
- He promises he'll love her forever. But when she refuses him again, he goes all stone-faced and says he'll never ask again. Pardon us while we cringe.
Departure of Bathsheba: A Pastoral Tragedy
- Gabriel Oak receives news that Bathsheba Everdene has left the neighborhood.
- Oak knows all about falling in love. He's a pro. But he has a tough time learning how to get out of love.
- He's uber-depressed at this point and probably is listening to breakup music.
- If that weren't enough, a really bad thing happens on top of his rejection. One of his dogs, feeling a little too eager, starts chasing his sheep around a field while Oak is asleep. And wouldn't you know it, the dog chases all the sheep right off a cliff into a nearby chalk pit. Nearly every sheep Oak owns is killed. Financially speaking, the guy is toast. Everything he has worked hard for is gone.
- Oak's eager dog is taken out and shot the next day.
- At the end of it all, Oak has enough belongings to pay off his debts. But that's it. He comes out of the situation without a dollar to his name. Ugh.
The Fair: The Journey: The Fire
- Now that he's poor, Gabriel Oak needs to walk to the nearby town of Casterbridge to attend a job fair. Yup, they had things like that back around 1874. And Oak is looking for any work he can get his hands on. He's been hardened by misfortune and doesn't think that he's too good for anything.
- Things don't go that well, though. After an unsuccessful morning, Oak wishes he'd gone away with some army recruits who were around a few hours earlier.
- No one wants to hire him to do farmwork because he's been financially ruined. He wears the scarlet "u" for "unemployable."
- When the day is over, Oak is still unemployed. He hears that there'll be another fair in the nearby town of Weatherbury the next day, and he heads for that town on foot. Oh, and Oak knows that Weatherbury is the place that Bathsheba moved to. Bonus.
- He takes a nap in a hay wagon and later wakes up to find the wagon moving. He's been asleep for two hours and has no clue how far he's travelled. He can hear two men in the front of the wagon talking rudely about a pretty young lady who lives in their town. Oak wonders for a moment if the lady might be Bathsheba.
- When he finally hops off the wagon, he sees a chaotic scene on a nearby farm. There's a huge fire burning up the crops and threatening to torch the buildings, too. He jumps into action and succeeds in leading the townspeople's attempts to put the fire out. Oak: 1. Fire: 0.
- Everyone is impressed with his heroism. Oak wants to ride the wave of this sudden celebrity by asking the farmer owner if there's a need for a shepherd with mad shepherding skills.
- When the owner rides up, he sees that it's none other than Bathsheba. Seeing him makes her go temporarily mute with surprise. So Oak takes advantage of this by asking whether she needs a shepherd.
Recognition: A Timid Girl
- The townspeople think that Oak is a real hero and basically convince Bathsheba to hire him as her shepherd. Bathsheba never lets on that she knows who Oak is. She's probably wondering how Gabriel was reduced to the low position of shepherd-for-hire.
- Everyone moves away to get a celebratory drink at the nearby inn. Gabriel stays behind for a moment and walks alone. He is eventually stopped by a stranger: a very slender young woman in clothes that are too thin for the cold night. He asks her the way to the malt house (where everyone has gone to get their drink on) and she gives him directions.
- The girl in turn asks him how to get to an inn, but he admits he has no clue because he's new to the area.
- Before they part ways, the girl makes him promise not to tell anyone that he saw her. He agrees and gives her some money (the last of the money he owns) because he thinks she needs it, and because he is the best dude ever.
- They part ways and he heads to the malt house to meet up with the townspeople.
The Malthouse: The Chat: News
- When he walks into the town malthouse, Oak is greeted really warmly. He's already won the respect of the men in the town. The man who runs the joint is old enough to have known Oak's grandfather.
- After some small talk, they invite Gabriel to drink with them.
- For the rest of the chat, he meets some of the local characters, most of who actually work for Bathsheba. It turns out that she has inherited her uncle's large estate.
- One local guy, Joseph Poorgrass, admits that he can hardly look his boss in the face because she's so pretty. The group tells some funny stories about Poorgrass's skittishness.
- The men then tell some stories about Bathsheba's dead father and how he used to cheat on his wife. It was only when he learned to pretend that his wife wasn't his wife that he was able to love her completely at all times. Apparently, the guy also became really religious after this and quit every bad habit he had.
- The discussion turns to the age of the man who owns the malthouse. He must be pretty old, considering that his son is sixty years old.
- The men notice that Oak is carrying a flute and ask him to play. So he does and this puts everyone in an even better mood.
- Eventually, the crowd breaks up and Oak leaves with a guy named Jan Coggan, who has agreed to let Oak crash at his house for the night.
- After they're gone, the workers talk about how Bathsheba recently fired her bailiff Pennyways because she caught him stealing from her.
- The men want to know who Bathsheba is going to get to run her farm now. The word on the street is that she plans on doing it herself, which sounds ridiculous to the men.
- Poorgrass runs back into the room and tells them there's more news. A young woman in Bathsheba's house named Fanny Robin has run away from home. This is no doubt the girl that Oak met on the road earlier. The men all rush off to the farmhouse to see what's up, leaving the old malthouse owner to sit alone and think.
- From her bedroom window, Bathsheba gives her men orders to set out first thing in the morning and find Fanny Robin. People wonder if she has run off with a young man, and they ask around to see if she's been courting any young men in the area.
- One young woman says that Fanny had a bundle with her when she left the house (remember that, folks).
- Meanwhile, Oak is standing amongst the crowd and just thinking about how happy he is to see Bathsheba's face.
The Homestead: A Visitor: Half-Confidences
- Bathsheba and her servant Liddy are sitting on the floor of Bathsheba's bedroom and looking through a bunch of papers related to the farm. The narrator describes Liddy as a lighthearted English country girl.
- They hear someone riding a horse up to the door of the house, and Bathsheba sends a servant to go check it out.
- When the woman opens the door, a man with a low voice asks if Miss Everdene is at home. The guy is a rich neighbor named Mr. Boldwood. Bathsheba doesn't want to see him, though, because she's not presentable.
- The man just wants to know if there's been any word about Fanny Robin.
- When Boldwood leaves, Bathsheba asks who he is, and her servants say that he's a handsome, respected man who's been courted by all the women of the neighborhood. But apparently this guy wants to stay a bachelor forever.
- Liddy asks, out of the blue, whether anyone has ever proposed to Bathsheba.
- Bathsheba says yeah, but that she said no because the man wasn't good enough for her. She's talking about Oak, btw.
- Bathsheba admits that she liked Oak. Oh yeah? That's kind of a shocker.
- Bathsheba doesn't tell Liddy that the man she's talking about is her new shepherd.
- The meeting is broken up by the arrival of Bathsheba's workmen, who have come to collect their wages. Without a bailiff anymore, Bathsheba is in charge of this business herself.
Mistress and Men
- Bathsheba sits with her men at a long table with her money books and a bag of coins.
- Before starting, Bathsheba informs the men that she's fired her bailiff and will be managing everything herself from now on. The men breathe a breath of amazement. A woman handling money? No way!
- She wants to know if anyone has heard anything about Fanny Robin. The men admit that no, they haven't.
- One by one, she asks the men what jobs they do for her and pays them. She also gives out a few extra shillings as a gift since she's the new boss.
- The men suggest that, as the new shepherd, Gabriel Oak will need a young boy to work under him as a helper. They settle on a kid named Cainy Ball.
- Bathsheba and Oak talk business coolly in front of the crowd, as if the two of them have never met before.
- A guy named Smallbury runs in, having just come from Casterbridge. The word is that Fanny Robin has run away with a pack of soldiers because she's been courting one of them. No one knows which soldier it is, though.
- Gabriel knows that Fanny Robin is probably the same girl he met on the road, but he keeps his promise and tells doesn't tell anyone that he saw her.
Outside the Barracks: Snow: A Meeting
- Cut to outside an army barracks building, where a young woman is throwing snowballs at a window and trying to get the attention of someone inside.
- When someone comes and opens the window, the young woman asks if it's Sergeant Troy. When he asks who's asking, she says that it's his wife, Fanny Robin.
- Troy is shocked, and he tells Fanny that she can't come see him like this. She asks whether he's glad to see her, and he says of course.
- Unfortunately, he says he can't come down and meet her because he's not allowed to leave the building at this time of day.
- Fanny wants to know when Troy is going to make good on his promise to marry her. He says that they can marry as soon as they have good clothes.
- She asks why he doesn't already have permission from his officers to marry, and he admits that he simply forgot. This guy doesn't sound like the most caring fiancé in the world. He sounds like a jerk.
- When Troy goes back inside the building, Fanny can hear a bunch of men laughing with him, probably about the fact that he has a girl waiting outside his window.
Farmers: A Rule: An Exception
- Now that she's her own boss, Bathsheba starts going to the market to sell the farm's crops. She quickly learns to speak boldly to the men there and to haggle with them over prices.
- Wherever she walks, she can hear men behind her asking who she is. They also talk about how soon enough, some man will marry her.
- She also notices, though, that there's one man in the market who pays no attention to her at all—Farmer Boldwood.
- When she leaves the market, Bathsheba complains to Liddy about how all the men were staring at her the whole time. She mentions, though, the man who never looked at her.
- Just then, a carriage passes with Farmer Boldwood inside. Bathsheba points him out as the man who didn't look at her, and Liddy says tells her who it is.
- They speculate that Farmer Boldwood must have gotten his heart broken when he was younger, and that's why he's so reserved.
Sortes Sanctorum: The Valentine
- Liddy and Bathsheba are hanging out. Liddy asks Bathsheba if she noticed Farmer Boldwood at church that week, since her pew is directly opposite his. Liddy finds it amazing that Boldwood never once looked at Liddy throughout the entire church service.
- At this moment, Bathsheba remembers a Valentines Day card she bought. She was going to send it to a little boy, to cheer him up.
- But just as she's about to address it, Liddy thinks out loud how fun it would be to send it anonymously to Farmer Boldwood. This idea gives Bathsheba pause.
- Eventually, Bathsheba talks herself into doing it. Worse yet, she decides to seal the letter with a wax stamp that says, "Marry Me" on it. Bathsheba is the queen of head games, and this letter is really going to mess with Boldwood's noggin.
- The narrator tells us that Bathsheba has no clue what she's getting into when she sends off the letter. We partially believe that.
Effect of the Letter: Sunrise
- On the evening of Valentine's Day, Boldwood sits down to his supper. Up on his mantle is the letter Bathsheba has sent, and he can't help but stare at the wax seal that says "Marry Me."
- When he goes to bed, he puts the letter in the corner of his bedroom mirror and can't stop thinking about it. Uh oh. Boldwood is hooked.
- The next day, Boldwood runs up to the mail cart and blindly seizes a letter from it, thinking for some reason that he'll get another Valentine's Day card. But the letter he's grabbed is addressed to Gabriel Oak. Too late, though. Boldwood has opened it by mistake.
- Just then, he sees Oak coming over the hill and Boldwood volunteers to take the letter to him himself.
A Morning Meeting: The Letter Again
- We look in on the old malthouse proprietor sitting in the malthouse and cooking potatoes in an ashpit. Yum. Ashy potatoes.
- A dude named Henery Fray comes walking in and complains about the cold night. He complains even more, though, about how Bathsheba didn't hire him on as her new bailiff. He promises that she'll live to regret it.
- The men go on to talk about how they'll be ruined if Bathsheba's farm goes under. They all talk about their recent dreams as bad omens, even though the dreams seem to be about totally random things.
- The men talk smack about Bathsheba for a while longer, until Gabriel Oak busts into the room. He has some lambs with him, because the lambs need to be warmed up by the fire and because Oak is adorable.
- They asking him how the lambing season is going, and he says it's terrible because of the weather.
- Then Oak asks what's up with them. The old man informs him that he's just in time to gripe about Bathsheba with the rest of the guys. Gabriel, though, gets angry and demands to know what the men have been saying about Bathsheba.
- The men mention that Bathsheba is very vain. Even though Oak knows that this is true, because he saw Bathsheba just chilling and checking herself out in a mirror, he tells them to shut up. He won't let them say one bad thing about her, and he warns them against doing so in the future.
- The men change the subject and talk about how Oak can apparently tell what time of night it is by looking at the stars. Mad skills.
- Soon, the heat of the fire brings some life into the lambs that Oak has is warming up near the fireplace. Oak takes a milk bottle and starts to feed them. Oh god. The cute never ends.
- After some more chatting, Mr. Boldwood walks through the door and hands Oak his letter, apologizing for having opened it.
- Oak reads the letter, which is from the frail young woman on the road.
- The woman says that thanks to him, she's going to marry her lover, Sergeant Troy, and that she wants to repay him for the money he once gave her. The letter includes this money.
- The letter is signed by Fanny Robin. She says that she plans on returning to Weatherbury soon with Sergeant Troy as her husband.
- Oak shows the letter to Boldwood. Boldwood reads the letter and looks concerned. He isn't convinced that this Sergeant Troy will make good on his promise of marriage.
- At this point, Gabriel's young assistant, Cainy Ball, comes running into the room. He tells Oak that two more of the sheep have given birth to twin lambs and that Oak must come right away.
- Boldwood follows Oak and pulls out the Valentine from his secret admirer, asking Oak if he can recognize the handwriting. Oak takes one look and tells him that it was totally written by Bathsheba.
- After parting ways with Oak, Boldwood returns home for breakfast. He puts the letter back on the mantle and starts thinking about Bathsheba. Again.
All Saints' and All Souls'
- Cut to a scene inside a church. A young man in a military jacket talks to a priest and goes up to the altar as if he's getting ready to be married. The only problem is that there doesn't seem to be a bride anywhere around.
- Eventually, the priest leaves. Finally, the young man turns and looks around the church. Not seeing anyone he knows, he walks out of the church and meets a young woman in a park.
- She says she got the church mixed up (uhhh… way to go, lady) and that she hopes they can be married the next day just as easily. The dude is mad, though, and he says that he won't be ready to make another go at it for some time.
- The woman (probably Fanny) ends the chapter by asking when the (next) wedding will be. The guy just says, "God knows!" and walks away from her.
In the Market-Place
- It's Saturday, and good ol' Boldwood is back in the marketplace as per usual. But now he's a smitten kitten. Bathsheba's joke Valentine has made him fall head over heels in love with her.
- Boldwood has never claimed to understand women, and he doesn't understand Bathsheba. We can't blame him: Bathsheba seems a little weird what with the prank love letters and all.
- But Boldwood is kind of weird. He asks around to find out whether Bathsheba's considered good looking. A friend says that she is, so now Boldwood feels good about approaching her.
- Bathsheba, meanwhile, can feel Boldwood watching her all the time now, and she considers this a bit of a triumph, since he was the only man in town who didn't admire her before.
Boldwood in Meditation: Regret
- Mr. Boldwood comes home to his farm, thinking of Bathsheba and pacing around. Like we said: he's crazy in love.
- The narrator informs us that this is the first time in his life that Boldwood has ever let his defenses down and allowed himself to love someone like this. Oh, jeepers. We feel bad for him now.
- Finally, he decides to march right across the fields to her door and declare his intention of courting her.
- He finds Bathsheba working in the field with Gabriel Oak, trying to get a sheep to adopt an orphaned lamb as her own. These lambs are just too cute.
- Oak notices Bathsheba blushing at the sight of Boldwood. This, combined with the letter Boldwood showed him, tells him that Bathsheba has been flirting and joking around with the farmer.
- Instead of walking up to Bathsheba, Boldwood tries to pretend that he was just passing by.
- As he walks away, Bathsheba decides that she probably shouldn't mess with him any more, and that she doesn't want him in her life. Unfortunately, it may no longer be up to her.
The Sheep-Washing: The Offer
- Eventually, Boldwood calls upon Bathsheba at her home. She's not there, though. By this point, we're told that Boldwood is used to being in love and isn't afraid of it anymore. Huh. That was quick.
- He goes off to seek Bathsheba at the pool used for washing sheep. Once again, Oak is there with her, along with the rest of her farmhands.
- When he gets a chance to speak to her alone he comes out with it and asks her to marry him. Yup, that's how they went about it back in the old days.
- Bathsheba politely refuses, which just opens up the floodgates of Boldwood's passion. The guy practically drops to his knees to tell her how much he loves her.
- The sad thing is that Bathsheba ultimately knows it's her fault for making him feel this way because of the Valentine she sent him as a joke.
- Bathsheba tries to give him the whole, "It's not you; it's me" routine, but Boldwood isn't satisfied.
- In a last ditch effort Boldwood reminds her how rich he is. But it's still not enough. Bathsheba doesn't love him.
- Reminder: Oak wasn't rich enough for Bathsheba, and Boldwood isn't lovable enough. Bathsheba wants both love and money.
- Finally, she tells him that she won't refuse him outright, even though she'll probably never marry him. She thinks this is the nice thing to do, but it's probably way worse for him in the long run.
- With that, Boldwood walks away, telling Bathsheba that he'll wait forever if he needs to. But one day, he believes she'll be ready to marry him.
- All in all, a super-uncomfortable chapter.
Perplexity: Grinding the Shears: A Quarrel
- Now we're with Bathsheba, who's sitting around and worrying about this whole thing she's started with Boldwood. She admits to herself that she likes him, but she doesn't like-like him.
- The day after Boldwood's proposal, Bathsheba visits Gabriel Oak at the bottom of her garden. She asks him whether the men are saying anything about her hanging out with Boldwood. He admits that people are talking about her and Boldwood marrying, and then holds her hands to show her how to hold shears to a grindstone.
- She tells Oak that she wants him to go around and set the record straight; she won't be marrying Boldwood.
- Oak says he has something to say about the way Bathsheba has led Boldwood on, but she says she doesn't want to hear it.
- When he persists, though, she snaps and orders him to leave her farm and never come back. So he does.
Troubles in the Fold: A Message
- Twenty-four hours after Oak leaves the farm, it's crisis time. The workmen come running to Bathsheba's house and tell her that all her sheep have gotten into a clover patch and have eaten so much that their bellies are swelling with gas. Um, eww.
- There's only one way to save them (by puncturing their sides with a little pipe) (Um, eeeeeeeeeew), but the only person who knows how to perform the operation properly is… mmm hmm… Gabriel Oak.
- Bathsheba swears she'll never go running back to Oak for help; but eventually she gives up and sends for him.
- Losing face is better than having a flock full of gassy sheep.
- Oak shows up and totally saves the day. Not all of the sheep make it, but most do.
- When everything is over, Bathsheba walks up to Gabriel and offers him his job back. He coolly accepts.
The Great Barn and the Sheep Shearers
- Well, it's time for the men on Bathsheba's farm to shear the sheep and get all of their valuable wool for the year. Bathsheba is there to oversee the whole thing.
- While Bathsheba is complimenting Gabriel on a job well done, Farmer Boldwood shows up and stands in the corner of the barn. Awk-ward.
- Bathsheba talks to Boldwood while Gabriel goes for a walk and heads back to his work. While shearing a sheep, though, he can't stop watching Bathsheba and Boldwood, and he mistakenly cuts a sheep.
- Ok, at this point we're starting to feel really bad for the sheep in this novel.
- Bathsheba scolds him and says she's heading over to Boldwood's farm for a while. As they leave, all of the workers talk about how Bathsheba and Boldwood are sure to be married.
- A worker named Henery (yeah, not Henry) says he thinks he saw Boldwood kiss Bathsheba once behind a shed. Gabriel Oak loses his cool and accuses the man of being a liar.
- As the conversation winds down, the workers talk about how they hope to get free booze and food if there's a wedding.
Eventide: A Second Declaration
- Bathsheba decides to have a special supper to celebrate the shearing of her sheep. Everyone can tell that there's something that's gotten Bathsheba worked up, but no one knows what. Soon, though, Boldwood shows up for supper.
- As they all sit down, there's one man at the table that Bathsheba doesn't recognize at first. It turns out that the man is Pennyways, the old bailiff she caught stealing from her and fired. She demands that he leave, but the workmen convince her to let him stay.
- Besides, Pennyways is there because he has news about the runaway Fanny Robin. He says that he saw her in a nearby town of Melchester.
- Bathsheba wants him to continue with his story, but that's really all he has to say.
- There's some talk of Jan Coggan's wife having another baby, but she won't say one way or the other.
- When the eating is over, Jan Coggan sings a song for the table. Then Poorgrass sings one. Finally, they ask Bathsheba to sing to them, which she does with Gabriel accompanying her on his flute. Boldwood sings with her, too, shyly at first, but quickly swelling into a rich tone. Dude can sing.
- Later, Bathsheba wishes them all a good night and heads off, with Boldwood following her. Gabriel Oak goes off to walk alone under the trees.
- In the room with Bathsheba and Boldwood, we hear Bathsheba saying that she'll try to love Boldwood as best she can. However, she doesn't want to give him a promise right away. But she says there's a good chance she'll say yes soon. She just wants a few more weeks to think about it.
- She wishes him goodnight and he leaves.
The Same Night: The Fir Plantation
- Before going to bed, Bathsheba decides to walk around the house and the grounds to make sure everything is as it should be.
- She walks along a dark path and bumps into a man. She tries to walk away, but something is holding her back. Her dress has gotten caught on the spur of the man's boot. It takes them a moment to get untangled.
- The man uses her lantern to get them untangled, and then turns it on her face. He tells her that she has a pretty face. Bathsheba accuses him of untangling her skirts in order to keep her next to him for longer, but he denies it.
- Bathsheba just wants to get away from him. She's blushing from all his compliments and doesn't want to stand so close to a strange man in the middle of the night.
- She notices that the young man is wearing a soldier's uniform.
- Bathsheba finally runs home and asks her servant Liddy if she knows of a young soldier staying in the village. Liddy says that it might be a man named Sergeant Troy.
- Yup, that's the same Sergeant Troy who was supposed to marry Fanny Robin. We have no clue where Fanny is, and the only people in the world who know about her engagement to Troy are Boldwood and Oak.
- Bathsheba asks Liddy what kind of reputation Troy has, and Liddy answer that he's considered a lady-killer. But she also says that he comes from noble blood. His daddy was an earl.
- The chapter ends with Bathsheba thinking about Sergeant Troy and how he complimented her on her good looks: something the Boldwood has never done.
The New Acquaintance Described
- We start this chapter learning about Sergeant Troy, whom the narrator says is a man with a short memory and no concept of the future. Basically, he lives for the present… but not exactly in a good way.
- He never expects anything of life, so he's never disappointed. He's fairly honest with men, but he lies to women all the time.
- Deep down, Troy believes that if you treat women well they'll never be attracted to you: essentially that "nice guys finish last."
- He comes over to her farm and starts helping out with some of the work. Bathsheba sees him and blushes as she walks by.
Scene on the Verge of the Hay-Mead
- When he meets up with Bathsheba in the hay field, Troy continues assaulting her with compliment after compliment. She tries to fend him off with sarcasm and discouraging remarks, but he can't be stopped.
- Eventually, he makes her absolutely speechless with his compliments.
- He totally wears her down and she starts speaking kindly to him. Once she's speaking kindly to him, he says that he'll soon be leaving town with his regiment.
- He flat out tells her that he has loved her ever since he first saw her. Yikes, the guy is coming on a little strong, don't you think?
- Then Sergeant Troy outdoes himself by giving her a gold watch as a present. She says she can't possibly accept it, but he backs away before she can give it back.
- When Troy returns to working on the hay, Bathsheba can't even bring herself to look at her workmen. Her heart is pounding now, and it's clear that she's smitten with Troy.
Hiving the Bees
- In mid-summer, Bathsheba goes to check on her beehives to see how well the bees are making honey. And who should come running up looking to help but Sergeant Troy.
- She helps him put on the bee suit, and they share a cute moment.
- Ain't no bonding time like bonding time in a beekeeper suit.
- While holding the beehive, Troy mentions that this work makes his arms ache even more than his sword exercises do. Just about the slickest line ever.
- Bathsheba admits that she has never seen a sword exercise, and he makes a date with her to show her… in the woods… alone.
The Hollow Amid the Ferns
- Bathsheba and Troy meet out in the forest. Without delay, Troy takes out his sword and starts showing her some super-sexy sword exercises.
- Then he turns toward her and tells her not to move. He proceeds to stab his sword all around her, chopping off a lock her hair but never actually touching her body.
- In other words, he's showing her how skilled he is. But the narrator's language in this scene makes the whole thing pretty sexual. Of course, you kind of had to talk about sex in metaphorical ways back in Hardy's time. Anything more direct would have been considered pornographic.
- Toward the end of the demonstration, Troy draws close to Bathsheba and kisses her on the mouth. Troy pockets the lock of her hair.
- Then he turns and darts back into the forest.
- Bathsheba cries from a combination of shame and excitement, and probably also because some dude was stabbing the air around her with a sword.
Particulars of a Twilight Walk
- Bathsheba is now in love with Sergeant Troy, but she won't let anyone know about it. Nonetheless, it doesn't take long for Gabriel Oak to realize that she's in love.
- One night, Gabriel meets her during an evening walk and advises her against getting involved with Sergeant Troy. Bathsheba tells him to mind his own business or she'll fire him… again.
- Oak says that Sergeant Troy is a bad man. Bathsheba counters by saying that Troy goes to church every Sunday through a secret little side door. That's why Oak has never seen him attend a service.
- Finally, Bathsheba commands Oak to go away, as in leave the farm. But this time, Oak ignores her request and tells her that they both know she's not going to fire him.
- As he leaves, Oak sees Troy emerge from the fields to stand and talk to Bathsheba. He realizes that the whole reason she went for a walk to begin with was to meet up with Troy.
- On his way home, Oak walks by the church and checks out the little side door that Troy supposedly uses to go in. It is completely overgrown with ivy, meaning that no one has used it in years. In other words, Troy has no problem telling flat-out lies to Bathsheba.
Hot Cheeks and Tearful Eyes
- Bathsheba returns to her house with a flushed face. Troy has kissed her for a second time!
- She sinks into a chair and writes a letter to Boldwood saying that there's no way she can marry him.
- When she walks past the kitchen, she overhears her servants talking about the possibility of her marrying Troy. She's mortified to realize how quickly word has gotten around.
- She scolds the women for gossiping about her, and then asks Liddy to promise her that Sergeant Troy is an honest man. She knows that he's not, but she really wants to convince herself that this is the case.
- Finally, Liddy helps convince her that it's worthwhile to pursue her attraction to Sergeant Troy.
- The night after writing Boldwood, Bathsheba decides to travel with Liddy to her sister's house. This is to make sure she won't be around when Boldwood comes knocking and demanding an explanation.
- Unfortunately, she runs into Boldwood while leaving. This book is full of awkward moments.
- Boldwood goes on a big rant about how Bathsheba has been leading him on and giving him hope where there was none. He even resorts to asking her to marry him out of pity. Yikes.
- Eventually, Boldwood lands on the idea that someone else must have caught Bathsheba's eye while he was out of town. He then also realizes that it must be Sergeant Troy, since he has heard the talk around town just as much as anyone else.
- Boldwood starts shouting about how Troy is a thief for stealing his fianceé, even though Bathsheba never actually agreed to marry him.
- Finally, he essentially stamps his feet in a huff and tells Bathsheba to go ahead and marry Troy.
- It turns out that Troy hasn't actually left town with his regiment, but had only left for a day or two to meet someone in the nearby town of Bath.
- Bathsheba worries that if Troy comes back and runs into Boldwood, there'll be a fight.
Night: Horses Tramping
- We're in Bathsheba's house, and it's nighttime. A servant named Maryann is awakened by some noise from down in the coach house, where the horse and carriage is kept. She glances out the window to see someone stealing the carriage. As quickly as she can, she raises the alarm, but the thief (and the carriage) is already gone.
- Jan Coggan and Gabriel Oak are the first to respond. They both grab some horses from Boldwood's farm and chase after the stolen carriage. It takes them a long time, but they eventually catch up.
- When they finally catch the carriage, though, they realize that the person driving it is none other than Bathsheba. She has tried to drive away without anyone noticing, but now she's been caught, and all she can do is ask the men to leave her alone.
- It turns out that she wants to get to the town of Bath so she can tell Troy not to come to Weatherbury and run into Boldwood.
- Oh yeah, and she also wants to tell Troy that the two of them can't be together anymore. We'll see how that works out soon enough.
In the Sun: A Harbinger
- A week has gone by without any sign of Bathsheba coming home. Finally, a note arrives saying that she'll be in Bath for another week.
- While she's gone, the farm is hit with a bad drought.
- While everyone is in the field, Gabriel Oak's young helper Cainy Ball comes running up to them. Gabriel explains to the group that Cainy has been spending some time in Bath lately.
- After some annoying delays due to Cainy's coughing, the kid tells everyone that he saw Bathsheba in Bath walking arm in arm with Sergeant Troy.
- Seeing that the news has upset Gabriel, Jan Coggan comes over and tells him not to worry about it. After all, what does it matter who Bathsheba ends up with, since Oak can never have her? Gee, thanks Jan.
Home Again: A Trickster
- At dusk, Gabriel Oak is leaning over Jan Coggan's gate and inspecting the farm before going home for the night.
- He overhears two women talking and knows that they are Bathsheba and Liddy. He is overjoyed to have Bathsheba back home, safe and sound.
- Just then, Boldwood walks past. Oak goes to bed while Boldwood carries on to Bathsheba's house.
- Liddy, though, tells Boldwood that Bathsheba can't see him at the moment.
- Boldwood leaves, but decides that he'll come back to see Bathsheba later. As he leaves, though, he sees Sergeant Troy leave the house, saying goodnight to the people inside.
- Boldwood walks up to Troy and confronts him. He accuses Troy of stealing his fianceé, and Troy argues back that there's no way the two of them were ever engaged.
- Boldwood tells Sergeant Troy that he belongs with Fanny, since he knows about their previous engagement. Troy also admits that he likes Fanny more than Bathsheba. What a scumbag!
- Boldwood offers to pay Troy a large sum of money if he'll stay away from Bathsheba and marry Fanny.
- Troy says "Okay," but also tell Boldwood to stick around. Boldwood does, and he overhears a conversation that makes it sound like Troy and Bathsheba have already been—gasp!—intimate.
- After Troy mocks him some more, Boldwood grabs him and tries to strangle him. But Troy tells Boldwood between gasps that the only way to save Bathsheba from being a ruined woman now is for him (Troy) to marry her.
- In other words, he's implying that the two of them have already had sex.
- Boldwood realizes that he now has no choice but to give up Bathsheba. Now, horror of horrors, the only way for him to save Bathsheba's honor is to convince Troy to marry Bathsheba instead of Fanny. And—get this—Troy still wants some money for marrying Bathsheba.
- With this all settled, Troy goes with Boldwood up to Bathsheba's house, peeks inside for a second, and hands Boldwood a newspaper. And inside the newspaper is an announcement of Troy's wedding with Bathsheba.
- The two of them are already married! Troy has just been messing with Boldwood this entire time.
- Boldwood walks away, totally crushed.
At An Upper Window
- While walking past Bathsheba's house, Gabriel Oak and Jan Coggan see Sergeant Troy poke his head out of Bathsheba's window. Instantly, they both know that Bathsheba has married Troy.
- Troy sees them and makes some small talk about the house and the weather. This is all kind of like a knife in Oak's stomach.
- Seemingly out of nowhere, Troy asks Coggan whether there is any history of mental illness in Farmer Boldwood's family. Coggan says there might be some, though he's not sure why Troy is asking this.
- Oak is finding it difficult to speak to Troy, but Coggan warns him that Troy will soon be their new boss if he's married to Bathsheba.
- While Coggan and Oak walk away, they see Boldwood walking by himself. Oak suddenly realizes that his own grief is not even close to being as bad as Boldwood's.
Wealth in Jeopardy: The Revel
- As night approaches, there are a few signs of approaching rain. Gabriel Oak looks out at a bunch of uncovered haystacks and thinks that they might be spoiled if they get rained on.
- Meanwhile, there's a celebration going on in the main barn for Bathsheba and Troy's wedding.
- Troy is having a great time and wants all the men in the barn to get drunk with him. Bathsheba is against this idea, but he insists. He's so insistent, in fact, that he eventually kicks all the women and children out of the barn and says it'll be a dudes-only party for the rest of the night.
- Gabriel tries to approach Troy to tell him about the need to cover the haystacks, since the farm would lose a lot of money if they were spoiled. But Troy just dismisses him by saying that it won't rain.
- Sure enough, it starts to rain.
- Gabriel runs outside into a thunderstorm to cover the haystacks. But first, he has to get the key to a building called the granary from one of the workmen's wives.
The Storm: The Two Together
- Well this is just great: now there's thunder, and lighting shooting through the sky, as Gabriel Oak tries to keep the farm's hay and barley from being ruined by rain.
- He suddenly hears a voice from the darkness and realizes that it's Bathsheba's. She has come to help him out.
- They are both worried by the lightning, which seems to be striking all around them.
- In the heat of the moment, Bathsheba tells Gabriel that she wants him to know she travelled to Bath with the full intention of breaking off her attachment to Sergeant Troy. But one thing led to another and they got married.
- Eventually, Bathsheba has done everything she can, and it's time for her to go. She thanks Gabriel a thousand times over for his devotion and goes.
Rain: One Solitary Meets Another
- It's nearly daybreak, but Oak has managed to save most of the hay and barley from the rain. Toward the end of his work, he remembers how his first visit to this part of the world plunged him into the middle of a fire. Water and fire, man.
- He also remembers how much he'd loved Bathsheba, even though he knew they'd never be together.
- When he's finished with his work, he glances toward the barn and sees some men stumbling out of it, all of them drunk or hungover. All except for Sergeant Troy, that is, who walks out whistling. It seems like the guy has a much higher tolerance for alcohol than the rest of the men.
- All of them walk past without thinking once about how the hay and barley got covered up during the night.
- Gabriel runs into Farmer Boldwood, and each of them tells the other he doesn't look so great. Gabriel mentions that he's spent all night covering the hay and barley, and adds that of course Farmer Boldwood must have had this done, too. Boldwood, though, didn't protect any of his crops from the rain and doesn't care how much money he loses. This guy is deeply depressed.
- Boldwood and Gabriel talk briefly about how disappointed Boldwood has been by Bathsheba's marriage to Troy.
- After that, Boldwood just turns and walks away.
Coming Home: A Cry
- Bathsheba and Sergeant Troy are travelling to the local market to deal with some business. Bathsheba is sitting up in a cart, while Sergeant Troy is on the road leading the horses. They argue briefly about how much of Bathsheba's money Troy has been blowing at horse races.
- Troy tells her that if he'd known she was such a nag he wouldn't have married her.
- As they travel, a homeless-looking woman walks past them and asks Troy what time the local shelter in Casterbridge closes for the night.
- Troy is clearly concerned by the sound of this woman's voice, but he pretends to be chill and tells her he's not sure about the closing time.
- When the woman sees Troy's face, she utters a cry and falls to the ground. Bathsheba tries to help, but Troy orders her to stay where she is.
- In a hushed voice, Troy asks the woman why she didn't just write to him for money. He then gives her every last penny he has on him.
- Before they part ways, Troy tells her to meet him at a place called Grey's Bridge on the next Monday. While he's saying this, he calls her Fanny.
- So we know that this woman is Fanny Robin, Troy's jilted ex-fiancé.
- Finally, Troy hurries Fanny away and returns to his cart and Bathsheba. Bathsheba asks him if he knew the woman, but he denies it, saying he only knows her face from around town.
- Bathsheba isn't convinced, though, and she's certain that Troy has had some previous contact with this woman. Good call, Bathsheba.
On Casterbridge Highway
- We stay with Fanny Robin, the raggedy-looking woman who just bumped into Sergeant Troy and Bathsheba. The woman's steps are feeble and she has a lot of trouble walking. She finally collapses and wakes up hours later in the middle of the night.
- She knows that she still has miles to go until she reaches Casterbridge.
- Eventually, she can't go any further and falls again. This time, though, a wandering dog comes over and licks her face until she starts moving again.
- By some miracle of strength, she eventually reaches the Casterbridge shelter. There are people there to greet her, and she collapses in their arms.
- Before she passes out, she asks about the dog that helped her along the road. The man from the shelter tells her that he threw rocks at the dog until it went away. How's that for thankfulness?
Suspicion: Fanny is Sent For
- Bathsheba gives Troy the silent treatment during the evening after they return from the market, and he doesn't seem to mind all that much.
- The next day, Troy asks her for twenty pounds, which is a hefty sum of money. She asks him if it's for gambling on the horse races, and after a pause, he says "Sure, why not?"
- We readers know, though, that he's probably getting the money for Fanny.
- Bathsheba begs him to stay home.
- Finally, Troy admits that the money isn't for gambling. When he won't tell her what it's for, though, the two get into a terrible argument. Each of them tells the other that they wish they'd never gotten married.
- Bathsheba eventually gives up and hands over the money. Troy also says he plans on leaving the next day to go to Bath. Again, he won't tell Bathsheba about why he's going.
- At this point, Troy opens his pocket watch and Bathsheba sees a lock of blond hair fall out of it. She knows instantly that the hair belongs to another woman, though Troy tries to say it's hers.
- He eventually admits that it's the hair of a young woman he was going to marry before he met Bathsheba. He refuses to say the woman's name, though.
- But it comes out that the girl they met on the road a few days earlier is someone that Troy used to be engaged to, and that the hair in his watch is hers.
- At this point, Troy doesn't want to hash out details any longer, so he gets up and leaves the house. Bathsheba dissolves into tears.
- She leaves the house to walk in the fields. While doing so, she sees Farmer Boldwood at a distance stopping for a chat with Gabriel Oak.
- Joseph Poorgrass also stops to talk to the men, and then comes up the road to Bathsheba to tell her that her former servant, Fanny Robin, has died in the shelter at Casterbridge.
- Mr. Boldwood plans on sending a wagon for her body, but Bathsheba says she'll hear nothing of it. Fanny was her servant, so she'll send the cart.
- During the conversation, Bathsheba learns that Fanny had travelled to Casterbridge along the main road a few days earlier. This, of course, gets her wondering about whether this was the woman she saw with Troy.
- Apparently, Sergeant Troy has also said in the past that a man from his regiment used to be sweethearts with Fanny Robin. Bathsheba is starting to put two and two together.
Joseph and his Burden: "Buck's Head"
- We're back in the town of Casterbridge now, where two men are taking care of Fanny Robin's coffin. One of them takes out a piece of chalk to write Fanny's name and a few other words on the lid.
- Joseph Poorgrass has been given the job of driving the coffin back to Weatherbury. While riding, he feels lonely and wishes he had the company of a person or a dog.
- On his way back to Weatherbury, his loneliness finally gets the best of him and he stops off for a quick drink in a pub. His buddies Jan Coggan and Mark Clark are already drinking inside.
- After a quick pint, Poorgrass gets up to leave. But his buddies egg him on to drink more, arguing that the body outside isn't going anywhere.
- Eventually, Poorgrass ends up staying for so long that he misses the cutoff time for having a funeral service in Weatherbury that day. Gabriel Oak comes storming into the pub and gives him a good tongue-lashing for neglecting his duties so badly.
- Gabriel takes it upon himself to transport the body for the graveyard. When he gets there, he runs into Parson Thirdly, who tells him he's too late. They'll have to hold the funeral the next day.
- Gabriel takes the coffin to Bathsheba's house and has it stored in a sitting room inside.
- Everyone except Oak leaves the room. Before leaving himself, Oak erases a few words that have been chalked into the cover of the coffin.
- The coffin's lid originally reads, Fanny Robin and child, but he scratches out the part about the child in order to protect Bathsheba from the truth: that Sergeant Troy and Fanny Robin had a baby together.
- Bathsheba sits talking to her servant Liddy next to a fire. Bathsheba keeps asking questions about Fanny Robin's health when she left Weatherbury.
- It's pretty clear that she suspects that Fanny and Troy had a previous relationship and that Fanny was the woman they met on the road that day.
- Liddy mentions the rumor that there are actually two bodies inside Fanny's coffin, meaning that she has a baby inside with her. Bathsheba says this is impossible or else they would have written so on the coffin's lid.
- Bathsheba realizes that she needs to speak to someone with a strong character. So she throws on a cloak and goes to visit Gabriel Oak. She goes to his house and watches him through his windows for a while. She even watches him kneel next to his bed to pray. Once again, Thomas Hardy screams: this guy is so good.
- She soon realizes that it's too late at night for her, a married woman, to visit a bachelor alone. So she returns to her house. Once she's there, she goes to Fanny's coffin, bites the bullet, and opens it up. Inside, she sees Fanny lying dead with a baby in her arms. Bathsheba sinks to the floor and starts crying.
- Then she prays and lays some flowers around Fanny's head before closing the coffin again.
- A few moments later, she hears the house's front door opening and closing. She goes into the hallway to find her husband staring at her. He's now back from his trip.
- They stare at each other for a while before Troy asks what the matter is. Soon enough, he looks in on Fanny and the dead baby, and he falls completely silent. He finally admits to Bathsheba that Fanny was his former fiancé and they had a baby together.
- He bends over and kisses Fanny. This fills Bathsheba with uncontrollable jealousy, and she jumps on him and demands that he kiss her to prove that he loves her more.
- Yeah, that's right: kiss her with the same lips that just kissed a corpse that had been sitting around for a few days.
- Troy, though, refuses to kiss her, admitting that he could never love her as much as he loved Fanny. He even says that in the eyes of heaven, there's no way he's married to Bathsheba.
- At this, Bathsheba can only turn and run out of the house.
Under a Tree: Reaction
- We find Bathsheba running along the dark road leading away from her house. Eventually, she gets tired and falls asleep among some trees. She wakes up the next morning with birds singing all around her.
- Soon enough, the servant Liddy comes walking by while searching for Bathsheba. She is happy when she realizes she's found her. Liddy even hitches up her skirts and walks through a swamp to be with Bathsheba.
- Liddy tells her that Sergeant Troy has left the house, but that Fanny's coffin is still in the sitting room.
- Liddy and Bathsheba walk together and eat some of the food Liddy brought along. Bathsheba seems determined not to return to the house until she's certain that Fanny's coffin is gone.
- Bathsheba also decides that there's no way she'll ever leave Troy, since she thinks it's only women with no pride who leave their husbands.
- To kill time and get her mind off things, Bathsheba asks Liddy to bring a bunch of books to her bedroom so the two of them can read without being disturbed. They have nothing to fear, though, since Troy never returns home that day.
- Outside, a group of children suddenly stop playing one of their games to check out a huge tombstone that's being put up in the cemetery. Bathsheba would like to know whose it is, but Liddy admits she doesn't know.
- Now we get to find out what Troy did after parting ways with Bathsheba the night before. The first thing he did was cover up Fanny and their dead child. Next, he went up to his bed and lay awake until the next morning came.
- Rewind: after getting twenty pounds from Bathsheba, Troy travelled to Casterbridge with the intention of giving it to Fanny. But she never showed up for their meeting. Because he's a guy who doesn't like to be stood up, Troy left and went back to his home in Weatherbury. Little did he know what shock was waiting.
- Back to the present: Troy leaves his house, not caring where Bathsheba is, and goes to the open grave that's been dug for Fanny in the nearby cemetery.
- He takes all the money he'd been meaning to give to Fanny and spends it all on a fancy tombstone, which he gets shipped to Weatherbury from Casterbridge.
- After all that, he heads back to Fanny's grave with a basket full of seeds and bulbs, and starts planting all kinds of flowers around Fanny's grave.
- At this point, Troy feels a splash of rain on the back of one of his hands, so he stop working and goes to fall asleep in a cemetery building.
The Gurgoyle: Its Doings
- Note: we're not sure why Hardy decided to spell "gargoyle" in a weird way in this title.
- Hardy spends this entire chapter talking about a stone gargoyle that's sitting on one of the ledges of the cemetery building that Sergeant Troy has just fallen asleep in.
- As Troy sleeps and the rain increases, water starts to shoot out of the gargoyle's mouth, since the statue is used as a rainspout. Usually, there are some stones at the bottom of the building to direct the water away from the graves. But since these stones were displaced the previous summer, there's nothing to keep the water from flowing directly over the graves.
- Sadly, the water totally fills up Fanny's open grave and ruins all of the flowers that Sergeant Troy has painstakingly planted over the past few hours.
- When Troy wakes up, he takes the ruined flowers as a sign that he should stop trying to be a nice person. As you can imagine, it doesn't take much to discourage this guy from trying to be a nice person.
- He decides to leave Weathbury without telling anyone.
- Now we look in on Bathsheba, who hasn't slept well throughout the night. Huh. We wonder why.
- Liddy informs Bathsheba that Troy was seen walking the road toward Budmouth (a nearby town) early in the morning.
- Bathsheba gets up to go look at Fanny's grave. Sure enough, the new tombstone that's been brought to town has been for her. On the stone, Bathsheba reads, "Erected by Francis Troy in Beloved Memory of Fanny Robin."
- At the grave, she meets up with Gabriel Oak, who now realizes that Bathsheba knows everything about Sergeant Troy and Fanny. With his help, Bathsheba starts replanting all of the nice flowers that Troy gave up on.
Adventures by the Shore
- Now we're back to following Troy, who isn't walking to Budmouth at all, but rather going south toward the ocean's shore. While walking along the shore, he decides to refresh himself with a swim, and strips off his clothing.
- Once inside the water, Troy decides he wants to feel a bit more of an ocean swell, so he swims out of the cove he's in a quickly gets caught in a riptide. He soon realizes that his chances of getting back to land aren't all that great.
- Luckily for him, though, he's picked up by a group of sailors who are rowing out to a nearby ship. They tell him that, because they picked him up, they're now behind schedule. So he decides to get away from his problems by joining them and offering to work off his debt.
- He returns to the shore for his clothes, but finds them gone. So he goes back with the sailors in borrowed clothes and sets sail for new adventures. He's not all that concerned about people back in Weatherbury worrying after him.
Doubts Arise: Doubts Linger
- Bathsheba doesn't know what to make of her husband's disappearance. The more time goes by, the stranger she feels. In her mind, she belongs to him, and she can't imagine why he wouldn't come home to claim her.
- Her pride makes it very hard to admit to herself that Troy loved another woman more than her.
- The first Saturday after Troy's disappearance, Bathsheba goes to Casterbridge alone on business.
- While she's at the market, she overhears someone asking about her. The man says that he has to deliver the terrible news that her husband is drowned.
- She can't believe her ears, and she faints before anything else is said. At this same moment, Boldwood is standing behind her, and he catches her in his arms as she falls. What a concidence, eh?
- It turns out that someone on the coast found Troy's clothes on the beach. Another person saw him getting pulled out to sea by a riptide. But no one saw the sailors save Troy's bacon.
- Boldwood carries Bathsheba to a nearby hotel. When she regains consciousness, she demands to go home. Boldwood can only think about how wonderful it was to hold her in his arms. Oh, jeepers.
- Bathsheba is barely home for an hour before Liddy knocks on her bedroom door and says that she'll need a black dress for mourning.
- Bathsheba won't hear of it, though, because she doesn't believe that Troy is actually dead. After all, they never found his body.
- Bathsheba's confidence in Troy's survival starts to wane when she sees the announcement of his death in the paper that week and reads the eyewitness account of the person who saw him struggling out at sea.
- Worse yet, she starts to wonder if Troy killed himself on purpose to be with Fanny. When it's time for her to collect Troy's clothes, she opens his pocket watch and finds the lock of Fanny Robin's hair still inside it.
- Figuring that it's best that Troy and Fanny are now together, she holds Fanny's lock of hair over the fire, then snatches it back at the last second to remember Fanny by.
Oak's Advancement: A Great Hope
- As the narrator tells us, there's at least one happy aspect to Bathsheba's newfound listlessness. She promotes Oak to the position of bailiff at her farm, which gives the guy a nice new income and a lot more control over his job.
- Meanwhile, it becomes widely known that Boldwood's crops have been spoiled for the season. In order to get his farm back on track, Boldwood hires Oak as a sort of consulting farmer. Bathsheba doesn't like the idea at first, but eventually gives in. It definitely looks like Oak is on the road to success. While he's running around with all this business, Bathsheba and Boldwood live alone in their houses and barely ever come out.
- Then Bathsheba goes on a two-month long trip. When she returns, we find out that it's been nine months since Troy's disappearance.
- At this point, Boldwood has decided that he's going to try and marry her again.
- Boldwood comes up to Liddy one day and starts asking about how Bathsheba has been doing, and if she plans on ever marrying again. Liddy totally knows what he's getting at, though, and keeps giving him evasive answers.
- Boldwood quickly walks away when he realizes he won't get any of the answers he wants. He's even annoyed with himself for showing too much interest.
- The last thing he hears is that Bathsheba would wait at least six years until she was ready to marry someone again. The news sounds horrible to Boldwood, but he also feels like he's willing to wait.
The Sheep Fair: Troy Touches His Wife's Hand
- Now it's time for the annual sheep fair that takes place a few towns away from Weatherbury. According to the narrator, this fair is a big deal for anyone who raises sheep, which includes Bathsheba.
- To make the journey, Bathsheba and Boldwood's flocks unite, driven on by Gabriel Oak.
- When Oak, Bathsheba, and Boldwood get to the fair, they find a huge circular tent in the middle of all the action. It turns out that there's going to be a show in this tent later in the day, and everyone around wants to see it.
- There is a huge crowd waiting to get tickets, and some of Bathsheba's workers join this crowd, trying to shove their way toward the ticket counter.
- Meanwhile, the narrator shows us what's going on in some of the small dressing rooms nearby given to the performers in the show. One of the men getting dressed in these rooms is none other than Sergeant Troy.
- The narrator gives us a quick description of how Troy went with the sailors to America, did a few odd jobs, and then decided to return home to live off of his wife's money once again. On his journey home, though, he joined group of travelling performers in order to make a little extra money, since they needed his skills as a swordsman.
- Ok, who wants to read a spin-off novel about Troy's escapades in America and as a travelling performer?
- Meanwhile, we find Farmer Boldwood asking Bathsheba if she's done well selling off her sheep. She says that indeed she has.
- Boldwood offers to get her a seat, and only after saying that he's not going himself does she agreed to attend.
- Before the show, Sergeant Troy peeks out through the tent's curtains and sees Bathsheba sitting in the audience. He knew when he started performing that he'd risk running into someone who knew him. But this is just plain bad luck. He knows he'll never hear the end of it if Bathsheba catches him working with a bunch of travelling performers like some loser.
- Troy lies to his boss by saying that there's someone in the crowd he owes money to, and that he can't go onstage. The boss says the show must go on, though, so Troy negotiates it so that he won't have to speak any of his lines. On top of that, he wears extra stage makeup to hide his identity.
- With this all figured out, we have a comedic look at Bathsheba's workmen—Poorgrass and Jan Coggan—reacting to the entire play as if it were real.
- At one point, though, Troy knows that he's been found out. Not by Bathsheba or her workers though, but by Pennyways, the disgruntled man that Bathsheba fired as her bailiff toward the beginning of the book.
- After the show, Troy realizes that he needs to track down Pennyways before the guy blows his cover. He puts on a fake beard and goes looking for the guy.
- While looking for Pennyways, Troy overhears Bathsheba talking inside a tent. He goes and looks through a slit in the tent to see Bathsheba talking to Boldwood.
- As he looks into the tent, he realizes that Bathsheba is truly good-looking and that she's all his if he only wants to appear and claim her as his wife.
- While he watches, Pennyways enters the tent and gives a note to Bathsheba. She tells him she won't give him the satisfaction of reading it, though, and he eventually leaves. She sits for a while with the note dangling from her hand. Eventually, Troy reaches through the tent and grabs it from her.
- The note, of course, says that Pennyways has seen Troy alive. But luckily for Troy, Bathsheba will never see this note.
- Now, he goes to find Pennyways and strike a deal with him, saying he'll help the guy financially if he just keeps his mouth shut.
Bathsheba Talks With Her Outrider: Advice
- Gabriel Oak turns out to be too busy with fair business to escort Bathsheba home as planned, so she decides to drive alone in her cart. Unfortunately, she gets caught leaving by Boldwood, and the man insists on escorting her the whole way home… alone. Hurray.
- Boldwood is tired of beating around the bush, so he flat out asks Bathsheba if she would ever consider marrying him again. She says she's not really interested, but Boldwood isn't one to take no for an answer.
- She tells him that the only reason she'd ever marry him would be out of a sense that she owed him something, but she'll never love him.
- Finally, he gets her to promise him that by Christmas, she'll be able to commit to marrying him, even if it's a six or seven year engagement.
- As the next few weeks go by, Bathsheba decides that she needs to confide in someone about her dilemma. She talks to Gabriel Oak about it and admits that she'll never love Boldwood.
- She's afraid that if she refuses him, though, she'll be responsible for driving him literally insane.
- Oak simply says that it's not fair to marry someone you don't love, but Bathsheba keeps insisting that it's more complicated than that.
- Bathsheba says she likes talking to Oak about love because it's something he's not an expert in. He tells her, however, that she shouldn't be so sure about this.
- As she walks away, Bathsheba resents the fact that for all of her romance with Troy and Boldwood, Oak has never once tried to throw his hat back into the ring. Not that she would have accepted him. She just wished she had the opportunity to say no to him.
- Oh, jeez. Bathsheba is such a diva.
- Soon enough, Christmas Eve is upon the people of Weatherbury. Everyone learns that Farmer Boldwood is going to give a huge party, which is strange because the guy has never been known to party hearty.
- Meanwhile, Bathsheba is getting ready to attend the party, full of dread. She knows that Boldwood is having the party so he can publicly announce their engagement, and she doesn't know if she has the power to refuse him.
- The narrator swoops us over the Boldwood's house. More than usual, he's been very particular about the suit his tailor is making for him. He wants everything to be perfect.
- When the tailor leaves Gabriel Oak walks into the room. Boldwood dances around the "promise" that he thinks a lady has made to him, and Oak knows exactly what he's talking about.
- Gabriel warns him about being deceived, though, which makes Boldwood a little annoyed with him.
- Next, we look in on Sergeant Troy, who is hanging out at a place called the White Hart tavern in the nearby town of Casterbridge. There's a knock at his door, and Pennyways struts in.
- Troy has sent Pennyways out to inquire about what legal repercussions Troy would face for returning to Weatherbury after pretending he was dead. It turns out that he'd have to receive some sort of punishment for what he's done.
- Next, Troy wants to know if Bathsheba really plans on marrying Boldwood, as many people have said. Pennyways suggests that all the affection seems to be coming from Boldwood.
- The two of them briefly discuss how Gabriel Oak has flourished in Pennyways' old role, but Troy says this is just because Pennyways is kind of an incompetence fool. Apparently, the Pennyways knows how to take an insult, because he doesn't punch Troy in the nose.
- Now we're back with Bathsheba and Liddy. Bathsheba wants to keep making herself plainer and plainer for Boldwood's party, but she can't really do it: she's just too pretty to uglify.
- Liddy makes a joke about Bathsheba marrying Boldwood, but Bathsheba scolds her.
- Cut back to Oak and Boldwood. Being in a very good mood, Boldwood tells Oak that he plans on giving Oak a very large stake in his farm. He also says that when (or if) he marries Bathsheba he'll be looking to retire, so Oak will take over for him.
- Finally, Boldwood admits that he knows about the affection Oak has always held for Bathsheba, and he wants to reward him for always behaving with so much dignity. He knows it can't be easy for Oak to stand around listening to someone else talk about marrying Bathsheba.
- After Oak has left, Boldwood goes to a cupboard and takes out a box with an engagement ring inside it. At this point, he hears his first guests arriving.
- Once more, we flash back to Sergeant Troy, who is getting himself into a disguise so he won't be recognized at Boldwood's party. Yup, the guy plans on going, even though Pennyways advises against it.
- Troy knows, though, that people around Casterbridge have already seen and recognized him, so it won't be long before word of his existence gets back to Weatherbury.
Concurritur: Horae Momento
- A group of men is standing outside Boldwood's house, ready to head inside for the party. They're busy gossiping about a rumored sighting of Sergeant Troy they heard about in Casterbridge. They also gossip about how Bathsheba knows nothing about it.
- As more workmen arrive to discuss the news, they all eventually decide that they shouldn't say anything about it at the party.
- While they're talking, they all hush and hide in the shadows as Boldwood walks past. They can overhear him talking to himself about how much he hopes that Bathsheba will come to his party.
- Bathsheba arrives, and the men watch how nervous Boldwood gets when he greets her. They all thought that his crush on her ended a long time ago. Now they don't know what to think.
- Rather than go inside and see Boldwood make a fool of himself, the men decide to head to a pub for a pint.
- When they get to the pub, though, they see Sergeant Troy's face looking in a window. They all know him for sure, and he seems to be interested in a conversation that two people are having inside the pub.
- The men argue over who's going to tell their boss, Bathsheba, that they've seen Troy. Finally, it's settled on a guy named Laban Tall.
- They go back to the party and Laban goes in. Quite a while later, he comes back out and tells them he didn't have the heart to say anything to Bathsheba.
- They all decide to go in together to deliver the news. At this point, Bathsheba is already trying to leave. Boldwood catches her, though, and tries to bully her into accepting his proposal of marriage. She keeps telling him that she'll never be happy with him, but he doesn't seem to care.
- She tentatively agrees, but draws the line at putting on an engagement ring. The two of them wrestle over it for a bit before she agrees to wear it for one night only—to the Christmas party.
- When Boldwood returns to the party, he sees the group of workmen chatting. He asked if anyone has died or been married, and the men kind of look at one another as if they don't know how to break the news. They seem to have something to say to Bathsheba.
- At this moment, there's a knock at the front door. A stranger wants to speak with Bathsheba, so Boldwood invites him in. It's Sergeant Troy in his disguise. The men who already knew he was in the neighborhood recognize him instantly.
- When Boldwood invites him to stay, Troy takes off his disguise and looks directly into Boldwood's face. He even laughs at the guy, having stolen his bride-to-be for a second time.
- Troy looks to Bathsheba and orders her to come home with him. But before anything more can happen, there's a huge bang.
- Boldwood has grabbed a rifle that was hanging over his fireplace and shot Troy in the chest. A panic breaks out in the room, and Boldwood tries to turn the gun on himself. But he's prevented, and before anyone can get a hold of him, he runs off into the night.
After the Shock
- After shooting and killing Troy, Boldwood walks to the nearby town of Casterbridge and turns himself in to the authorities.
- Meanwhile, Bathsheba orders Gabriel Oak to grab a horse and get the local doctor. Because of the distance and the lateness of the hour, though, it's three hours before he's able to get the doctor. During his trip, he has to go to the police in Casterbridge to tell them what's happened. It's only at this point that he learns Boldwood has already turned himself in.
- When the doctor finally shows up at Boldwood's house, he learns that Bathsheba has already taken Troy's dead body back to her house. The doctor is angry because this is an illegal thing to do.
- When he gets to Bathsheba's, the doctor has to help her through a series of fainting fits. Throughout these fits, Bathsheba keeps blaming herself for all the awful stuff that has happened.
The March Following: "Bathsheba Boldwood"
- Three months after Boldwood's Christmas party, we hear about how Boldwood's trial has been going. The guy's only hope for survival is to be declared insane.
- A few of Bathsheba's workmen are chatting about whether Boldwood will be given a death sentence.
- While the trial is happening, some new evidence is found in Boldwood's home. Or to put it another way, there are tons of coats and scarves and other lady's clothing found in boxes marked "Bathsheba Boldwood," meaning that Boldwood's fantasies of marrying her were completely obsessive. This, of course, becomes a topic of discussion in the town for weeks afterward.
- The people use this evidence to petition for Boldwood's cause. The man's execution date has been set. But only one day before Boldwood's date with death, he gets pardoned for being insane.
Beauty in Loneliness: After All
- As the spring turns to summer, Bathsheba's bad mood slowly lifts. She still spends most of her time alone, though. She visits her husband's grave one day, and smiles at the fact that he now lies right next to his true love, Fanny Robin. The two of them even share a tombstone. Then she starts to cry uncontrollably.
- When she turns back, she finds that Gabriel Oak is standing behind her. She wipes her tears and asks if he's going into the church. He answers that he is indeed.
- Mr. Oak apologizes for bringing up a business matter, but he feels that he needs to tell her right away that he will soon leave England to live in California. Bathsheba begs him not to leave, but he says that there's no longer anything for him in Weatherbury.
- She awaits his departure with total dread, since now she'll barely have anyone left, especially no one as loyal as Gabriel. She also notices that in the weeks leading up to his departure, he starts to walk the other way whenever he sees her coming on a path.
- When she finally receives a letter saying that he is about to go, Bathsheba starts to cry bitter tears.
- Finally, she forgets her pride and goes to his house in the evening, even though it's not appropriate for a single woman to go to a single man's place at night.
- She complains one last time about how he's leaving her all alone. He simply answers that if she doesn't want him to leave, he won't. She just has to ask him to stay.
- Finally, Gabriel comes out and says that now that he has inherited Boldwood's farm (as its chief manager), he thinks he's rich enough to marry Bathsheba.
- And after just a little more hemming and hawing, Bathsheba and Oak decide to get married.
- If she'd only said yes at the beginning of the book, she could have saved everyone a lot of trouble.
A Foggy Night and Morning: Conclusion
- Gabriel and Bathsheba agree to have the plainest, most secretive wedding they can possibly have. They go through a huge hassle to keep the word from spreading all around Weatherbury.
- The only person Gabriel bothers telling is Jan Coggan, whom he feels he can trust.
- The next thing is to get a hold of the local parson, and to get hold of a marriage certificate.
- Bathsheba gets her servant Liddy to be a witness. Jan is Gabriel's man.
- And just like that, the two of them get married. It isn't long, though, before people come marching up to Bathsheba's house to congratulate them. There's only so long you can keep something like this secret in Weatherbury.
- The book ends with everyone being happy about the marriage, but not too happy. After all, a man is dead and another man is in jail for the rest of his life. Stuff is pretty bittersweet.