Far From the Madding Crowd

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Themes and Colors
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
Class Status and Mobility Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Far From the Madding Crowd, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Pride and Penance Theme Icon

One of Bathsheba’s principal weaknesses is her sense of pride, which (at least initially) is linked to vanity. When Gabriel Oak catches her looking at herself in the mirror, Bathsheba is simultaneously embarrassed and comforted by knowing that he’s seen her at her worst. Bathsheba’s pride suffers a number of other setbacks over the course of the novel, setbacks which she ultimately recognizes and accepts as proper ways of atoning for her earlier mistakes.

Bathsheba’s pride can also be linked to her thoughtlessness regarding other people: confident and impetuous, she dashes off a valentine to Boldwood without pausing to think of the possible ramifications of her actions. In another way, Bathsheba’s pride leads her down a difficult path and into dire consequences for herself. Carried away by Troy’s charm and flattery, she seems to decide to marry him for the sole purpose of rehabilitating her pride after he compares her to another, more beautiful woman.

Pride is not, of course, limited to Bathsheba. Gabriel Oak, too, is proud and stubborn. After being refused marriage by Bathsheba, he only reluctantly begins to work for her, and keeps his feelings about her to himself for almost the entire rest of the novel. But for men, pride is usually an admirable quality, a sign of maturity, dignity, and self-discipline; for a woman, meanwhile, pride is more often portrayed as a vice.

After Troy’s apparent death, Bathsheba does decide that she must pay for her headstrong decisions of the past. Part of her penance involves her relationship to Boldwood, even as she struggles to determine whether agreeing to marry him would, in fact, be a properly moral show of penance. In general, the tragedies and deaths in the novel suggest that weakness and mistakes do ultimately lead to some kind of retribution—even if the novel shies away from implying that there’s a divine accounting that balances out good and evil in the end. The book also implies that penance may not have to be eternal. There is not exactly a fairy-tale ending to the novel—the final chapter includes a tiny, quiet wedding that takes place amid eerie fog—but Oak and Bathsheba are finally permitted to be together, implying that mistakes can be corrected and pride accounted for.

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Pride and Penance Quotes in Far From the Madding Crowd

Below you will find the important quotes in Far From the Madding Crowd related to the theme of Pride and Penance.
Chapter 1 Quotes

She did not adjust her hat, or pat her hair, or press a dimple into shape, or do any one thing to signify that any such intention had been her motive in taking up the glass. She simply observed herself as a fair product of Nature in a feminine direction—her expression seeming to glide into far-off though likely dramas in which men would play a part—vistas of probable triumphs—the smiles being of a phase suggesting that hearts were imagined as lost and won.

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene, Gabriel Oak
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Gabriel’s first image of Bathsheba is of a woman who clearly cares about her appearance and is eager to admire herself. Here, Gabriel notes that there’s no reason for her to look into the mirror—nothing to adjust—other than her vanity and pride. It’s not exactly a positive first impression. Nonetheless, Gabriel’s observation also sets up a number of the motivating forces of the novel. It foreshadows some of the book’s major conflicts, conflicts in which, indeed, “men would play a part.” While Bathsheba is described as majestic in her awareness of her own power over men, however, there’s no sense that she understands just what the consequences of such power may be.

As the narrator will state later on, Bathsheba knows little about how love functions beyond the surface—indeed, this ignorance will in many ways lead to her own suffering. Gabriel’s powers of observation are acute enough to allow him to study Bathsheba and foresee some of what awaits her in the future, even if he cannot, of course, foretell precisely what will unfold.


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Chapter 2 Quotes

The image as a whole was that of a small Noah’s Ark on a small Ararat, allowing the traditionary outlines and general form of the Ark which are followed by toy makers, and by these means are established in men’s imagination among the finest because the earliest impressions, to pass as an approximate pattern.

Related Characters: Gabriel Oak
Page Number: 9-10
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the narrator describes the small hut belonging to Gabriel Oak, who has established himself in Norcombe in order to become a self-sufficient sheep farmer. Part of the purpose of the comparison to Noah’s Ark is to emphasize just how isolated Gabriel’s position in the countryside is: he is alone with his dogs and sheep (which is why, perhaps, Bathsheba’s presence is so intriguing to him). But the book also often includes references to biblical and mythological affairs in describing characters as well as the natural setting. Ararat is a mountain in what today is eastern Turkey, where Noah’s Ark was said to have come to rest after the flood that takes place in the Book of Genesis. To compare Gabriel’s hut to this ark is thus to emphasize the nobility and dignity in his work, and the pride he takes in it, despite his lowly social status.

At the same time, it’s perhaps best to not always take such comparisons altogether seriously—the idea of the shabby shelter as a world-historical ark is also meant to provoke a smile given the gulf between the two contexts. That the description subsequently includes a comparison to the arks that are fashioned by toymakers underlines the irony, as well as signaling the approximate and even vague nature of the comparison—it wouldn’t necessarily keep up under scrutiny.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“What I meant to tell you was only this,” she said eagerly, and yet half-conscious of the absurdity of the position she had made for herself: “that nobody has got me yet as a sweetheart, instead of my having a dozen as my aunt said; I hate to be thought men’s property in that way—though possibly I shall be to be had some day.”

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene (speaker), Gabriel Oak
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

After Bathsheba’s aunt tells Gabriel that her niece has had plenty of suitors, and he goes away dejectedly, Bathsheba runs after Gabriel. He’s encouraged by her apparent eagerness, but soon it becomes clear that she hasn’t hurried after him in order to accept his proposal. Indeed, Bathsheba herself begins to realize that her purpose perhaps hasn’t merited such eagerness. Nonetheless, she wants to make clear to Gabriel that she won’t stand being considered as the property of a man, not to mention a girl to be handed around between a number of different suitors.

It’s not clear why exactly Bathsheba feels the need to share this conviction with Gabriel, especially as she admits that while she is free and independent now, she may not always be—a pragmatic acknowledgement of the historical reality in Victorian England, in which women were subject to their husband’s authority far more than in recent times. But for now, it does seem both that Bathsheba wants to maintain her independence, and that she wants Gabriel to understand her desire for such independence. He’s seen her at her most proud and vain, and she hopes that he can come to recognize the more positive sides of such character traits as well.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Among these heavy yeomen a feminine figure glided—the single one of her sex that the room contained. She moved between them as a chaise between carts, was heard after them as a romance after sermons, and was felt among them like a breeze among furnaces. It had required a little determination—far more than she had at first imagined—to take up a position here, for at her first entry the lumbering dialogues had ceased, nearly every face had been turned towards her, and those that were already turned rigidly fixed there.

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

For the first time, Bathsheba attends the corn market at Casterbridge: she’s the only woman among the many farmers that have come to buy and sell their goods. While Bathsheba seems entirely comfortable and at ease here, such apparent confidence belies her uncertainty. She’s acutely aware of how much everyone is ogling her: the extra level of scrutiny that women always have to face in her society is exacerbated by the fact that she’s occupying a role that’s quite rare for women, being the owner of a farm herself. At the same time, part of Bathsheba does appreciate the fact that all eyes on her. Rather than cowing in the face of attention, she is inspired by it to act the part of a woman in authority until she becomes it. Bathsheba is described as a kind of breath of fresh air for the other men—a “breeze among furnaces”—that shakes up the monotony of daily life and suggests changes to come.

Chapter 13 Quotes

So very idly and unreflectingly was this deed done. Of love, as a spectacle Bathsheba had a fair knowledge; but of love subjectively she knew nothing.

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene
Related Symbols: The Valentine
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

Bathsheba and Liddy have been teasing each other about the idea of sending a valentine to Boldwood instead of to little Teddy Coggan, as Bathsheba had first intended. They decide on it almost thoughtlessly, though Liddy in particular seems to derive a certain amount of glee from the idea of the serious, grave Boldwood receiving such a note. Bathsheba, in turn, adds a further element of intrigue by placing, at the last moment, a joke seal saying “Marry me” on the envelope.

As the chapter ends, the narrator foreshadows some of the major conflicts to come, suggesting that as “unreflectingly” as Bathsheba acted, she will have more than occasion to reflect on it in the future. So much of this novel, indeed, deals with the unpredictable and in many ways unstoppable consequences of seemingly unimportant, circumstantial events. But in this case, disaster is invited by cause and effect directly linked to a careless action that was rooted in a flaw in Bathsheba’s character. She is vain, flirtatious, and proud, and, as the narrator notes, her apparent confidence masks a greater immaturity. Bathsheba thinks of love as a natural extension of the admiring gazes of the men at the market, for instance: a “spectacle” that may make her the center of attention, may even cause her some discomfort, but one in which the stakes are relatively low. The rest of the novel will depict her increasing knowledge and maturity regarding the “subjective” elements of love and its relationship to pride.

Chapter 16 Quotes

Boldwood’s blindness to the difference between approving of what circumstance suggests, and originating what it does not, was well matched by Bathsheba’s insensibility to the possible great issues of little beginnings.

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene, Mr. Boldwood
Related Symbols: The Valentine
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

Boldwood has been attempting to figure out how Bathsheba could have sent him such a forward valentine, with its bold seal stating, “Marry me.” Here he watches Bathsheba across the room at the corn market as he tries to reconcile her lack of apparent interest in him with the flirtatious boldness put into evidence by the valentine. This passage suggests that Boldwood and Bathsheba are equally blind to the reality of their situations, though in different ways. Boldwood is too eager to create a reality based on too slim evidence: clinging to this apparent proof, he’s willing to wave away any other, more convincing, objections. Bathsheba, meanwhile, failed to understand that such a careless decision might have great consequences—including the consequences of Boldwood’s attraction, jealousy (as will be seen a few lines later as he watches her negotiate with another farmer), and ultimately obsession. Even while Bathsheba never manages to fall in love with Boldwood, then, the book suggests that in some ways their weaknesses have something similar about them: they both are faced with lessons to learn from such weakness, though Bathsheba will learn hers better than her suitor will.

Chapter 19 Quotes

In every point of view ranging from politic to solicitous it was desirable that she, a lonely girl, should marry, and marry this earnest, well to do, and respected man. He was close to her doors: his standing was sufficient: his qualities were even supererogatory. Had she felt, which she did not, any wish whatever for the married state in the abstract, she could not reasonably have rejected him as a woman who frequently appealed to her understanding for deliverance from her whims.

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene, Mr. Boldwood
Page Number: 113-114
Explanation and Analysis:

Boldwood has asked Bathsheba to marry her, and she considers this, her second marriage proposal, with slightly more reflection than her first. Having lived and grown a little more since she so eagerly, if thoughtlessly, ran after Gabriel, she now recognizes that marriage is not necessarily just a matter of love but also a social, economic, and moral question. She takes a step back in order to judge Boldwood as coolly as she judges the labor done on her farm: in this she finds little to object to in his character and social position. Bathsheba understands that while part of the problem in accepting Gabriel’s proposal would have been their different social statuses, no such gap exists between herself and Boldwood. And his moral standing is no less suitable.

Nonetheless, Bathsheba’s most well-considered judgments cannot make her desire something that she does not. It’s not simply that Bathsheba doesn’t love Boldwood; the book also emphasizes here that she doesn’t want the “married state” at all. Still, Bathsheba never declares that she’ll never marry, that she refuses the institution as such; she simply wishes to remain independent for as long as it suits her, despite all the advantages to the contrary choice.

Bathsheba would have submitted to an indignant chastisement for her levity had Gabriel protested that he was loving her at the same time: the impetuosity of passion unrequited is bearable, even if it stings and anathematizes; there is a triumph in the humiliation and tenderness in the strife. This is what she had been expecting, and what she had not got.

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene, Gabriel Oak
Page Number: 117-118
Explanation and Analysis:

Bathsheba has confided in Gabriel about Boldwood’s feelings for her, and after she asks what he thinks of her conduct, he criticizes it sharply (though not cruelly). Bathsheba’a pride is hurt by this criticism, and she tries to account for it by suggesting that Gabriel merely wishes she’d marry him instead—but he softly corrects her, saying that he no longer thinks of or wishes for this. His apparent indifference seems almost malicious to Bathsheba when joined to his poor opinion of her behavior to Boldwood. While she herself can’t imagine being with Gabriel, she likes to imagine that he’s still in love with her, and the evidence to the contrary wounds her. Bathsheba finds it difficult to recognize that Gabriel, too, has a proud character, and that he too only reluctantly reveals all his weakness to others—perhaps why he’s unwilling to share with Bathsheba that he still has feelings with her.

Chapter 24 Quotes

He had been known to observe casually that in dealing with womankind the only alternative to flattery was cursing and swearing. There was no third method. “Treat them fairly and you are a lost man,” he would say.

Related Characters: Sergeant Francis Troy (speaker)
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

Following Bathsheba’s initial encounter with Troy, the novel paints a brief character sketch of the man, who is new to Weatherbury. Though he’ll become Bathsheba’s third suitor, is quite different from the first two. This passage explains some of his worldview, particularly relating to women. Already, Troy has flattered Bathsheba to the state of embarrassment, though she hasn’t been sure whether to be pleased, offended, or suspicious. But Troy’s flattery has little to do, it seems, with Bathsheba herself, or with Troy’s own feelings: rather, it’s a mode that he adopts whenever he finds himself around women, in order to best “deal” with them.

Troy’s view of women is prejudiced and in many ways offensive. To him, women lack subtlety—he has to either flatter their vanity or yell at them—and he believes that women can be easily manipulated. Troy seems to understand the relationship between the sexes as a kind of contest, in which one person needs to win above the other. And it’s a kind of performance or play, in which authenticity is replaced by good acting. One problem with this view, as the book will go on to show, is that it makes it difficult for Troy himself to know when his feelings are real rather than performed.

Chapter 28 Quotes

Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant women love when they abandon their self-reliance. When a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away.

Related Characters: Sergeant Francis Troy, Cain (Cainy) Ball
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

Such a description of Bathsheba, as she falls in love with Troy, relies upon prior characterizations of Bathsheba as independent, proud, and self-reliant. But it also attempts to describe women in general—and in that general thrust, seems not all too different from Troy’s own characterization of “woman” in an earlier chapter. The novel is making the point that, given how much farther Bathsheba had to fall, her loss of self-reliance is more acute than that of a “weak” woman. Once she abandons her self-reliance, her very sense of self is thrown into question, and she no longer knows how to define herself. As a result, the book suggests, she’ll lean even more on Troy, becoming even more reckless and desperate. Character traits in general, it’s suggested here, are not immutable but subject to change. This may be for the better—take Gabriel’s growing maturity as a result of his own tragedy, for instance—but may also go awry.

Though in one sense a woman of the world it was, after all, that world of daylight coteries, and green carpets, wherein cattle form the passing crowd and winds the busy hum; where a quiet family of rabbits or hares lives on the other side of your party-wall, where your neighbour is everybody in the tything, and where calculation is confined to market days. Of the fabricated tastes of good fashionable society she knew but little, and of the formulated self-indulgence of bad, nothing at all.

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator continues to attempt to explain how Bathsheba, who until now has been independent, headstrong, and self-reliant, has fallen for Troy in so dramatic a way. It’s not only that the distance she had to fall was so great—that point that was made in the previous quotation. Here, the book emphasizes the particular setting of the book, and the extent to which Bathsheba has been confined all her life in this setting. In many ways, Hardy does show that life in the countryside of England, in his fictionalized Wessex, is radically different than in the city. Bathsheba’s “society” is made up of a “quiet family of rabbits” or cattle that “form the passing crowd.” She has been ogled by other farmers, but has not yet had to navigate in an interpersonally complex social world that has its own codes and ways of doing things.

Hardy never states straight out that country life is simple while urban life is complex. Indeed, much of the novel shows the complexities and conflicts within natural laws. In this sense Bathsheba is increasingly a “woman of the world”; but the novel emphasizes that this world has little to do with another world that exists alongside it, and which Troy knows how to navigate deftly.

Chapter 30 Quotes

“You are taking too much upon yourself!” she said vehemently. “Everybody is upon me—everybody. It is unmanly to attack a woman so! I have nobody in the world to fight my battles for me, but no mercy is shown. Yet if a thousand of you sneer and say things against me, I will not be put down!”

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene (speaker), Mr. Boldwood
Page Number: 179-180
Explanation and Analysis:

Bathsheba has attempted to avoid Boldwood, since she’s just sent a letter to him telling him that she cannot marry him, but by the luck of circumstance she’s run into him on the road anyway. Now Boldwood loses his grave, somber demeanor entirely, beginning to rage against his lot—recognizing not only that Bathsheba has refused him, but that her affections belong to another, to Troy. Bathsheba initially tries to suffer Boldwood’s anger in silence, but when he claims that this is all “woman’s folly,” she begins to lose her temper herself.

Bathsheba is fed up with being judged, observed, and condemned on all sides. As a woman and the mistress of the farm, she is subject to more scrutiny than anyone else, and, in addition to that, she lacks a single other person who can truly understand what her situation is like. Her conflicts are all her own: there’s no one she can turn to who might advise her exactly how to act or what to do. Bathsheba clearly understands the double standard that applies to her, and the unfairness of the way she’s treated—even if she has erred gravely. At the end, nevertheless, she reclaims some of her pride, not to flatter herself but simply to maintain a sense of self and sanity in a hostile world.

Chapter 35 Quotes

Having from their youth up been entirely unaccustomed to any liquor stronger than cider or mild ale, it was no wonder that they had succumbed one and all with extraordinary uniformity after the lapse of about one hour.
Gabriel was greatly depressed. This debauch boded ill for that wilful and fascinating mistress whom the faithful man even now felt within him as the eidolon of all that was sweet and bright and hopeless.

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene, Gabriel Oak
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

In honor of his recent marriage to Bathsheba, Troy has declared an extra celebration as part of the annual harvest supper held at the farm. He’s told all the women and children to go home and for all men (unless they’re not up to the challenge—in which case they may risk losing their jobs) to enjoy brandy with him. Neither Bathsheba nor many of the farm hands wanted this extra level of revelry, but Troy insisted. Now, as Gabriel begins to prepare for a heavy storm, he sees that all the farm hands have fallen into a drunken stupor.

While he’s upset and angry, Gabriel knows not to be too harsh on the men—it’s Troy’s fault that they’ve succumbed after such debauchery. He’s upset that no one is able to assist him on the farm, but he’s also upset because he recognizes that this is an inauspicious beginning to Bathsheba’s own marriage. Gabriel knows how proud Bathsheba continues to be, how accustomed to insisting on her own will, but now that will is matched and perhaps exceeded, especially given that it’s a man now in authority. This passage is a reminder that Gabriel’s feelings for Bathsheba, his “eidolon” (an idealized, often phantom-like image), have not gone away: he watches with trepidation for the conflicts that he fears will ensue.

Chapter 37 Quotes

All the night he had been feeling that the neglect he was labouring to repair was abnormal and isolated—the only instance of the kind within the circuit of the county. Yet at this very time, within the same parish, a greater waste had been going on, uncomplained of and disregarded. A few months earlier Boldwood’s forgetting his husbandry would have been as preposterous an idea as a sailor forgetting he was in a ship.

Related Characters: Gabriel Oak, Mr. Boldwood
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:

Gabriel has managed, with Bathsheba’s help, to secure the ricks, keep the animals safe, and ensure that all the wealth and time represented by the farm’s produce is kept safe from the storm. Throughout, he’s thought bitterly about just how little Troy cared about the farm’s well-being, not to mention the extent to which Troy’s thoughtlessness prevented nearly everyone else on the farm from helping him as well. As a result, Gabriel has felt isolated and alone, fighting against the kind of neglect that would be unthinkable to most farmers.

Here, however, in conversation with Boldwood, he realizes that Troy isn’t the only careless one in Weatherbury, even if Boldwood’s negligence seems to come from a quite different place. Gabriel is particularly distressed because, unlike Troy, Boldwood wasn’t always this way: according to Gabriel, the farmer used to be as at home in his fields as a sailor in a ship. Gabriel knows enough to guess what has changed: Boldwood’s pride has been laid low by Bathsheba’s marriage refusal and preference for Troy, and he’s grown apathetic about everything else in his life. Gabriel realizes, here, that few others are paying attention to Boldwood’s plight; it will be up to him, as it often is in such situations, to monitor the man, even if Boldwood is technically his own rival.

Chapter 40 Quotes

Her pride was indeed brought low by this despairing perception of spoliation by marriage with a less pure nature than her own. She chafed to and fro in rebelliousness, like a caged leopard, her whole soul was in arms, and the blood fired her face. Until she had met Troy Bathsheba had been proud of her position as a woman; it had been a glory to her to know that her lips had been touched by no man’s on earth, that her waist had never been encircled by a lover’s arm. She hated herself now.

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene, Sergeant Francis Troy
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:

It hasn’t been very long since Bathsheba married Troy, but the excitement of the courtship has certainly faded away. Now, it’s become clear that Troy was never supportive of Bathsheba’s pride even in its more valuable manifestations, in her independence and self-reliance. For a long time—up to and including her refusal of marriage to Gabriel and to Boldwood—Bathsheba had felt that the bar for giving up her independence had to be set high. Yet Troy didn’t exactly meet such a bar; he simply seduced Bathsheba according to another logic entirely.

Bathsheba, though, hasn’t quite learned to submit to her husband as he would like, and as the standards of Victorian society required. She understands that she does have to submit to many of her husband’s decisions, but she doesn’t like it, and refuses to accept his authority without difficulty. The description of Bathsheba as a “caged leopard” bolsters such an idea of liberty now penned in and a free spirit now in chains. Bathsheba’s new situation of dependence doesn’t precisely, however, make her despise her husband: it more accurately makes her despise herself, as someone who isn’t able to maintain her own independence. This is portrayed as perhaps the greatest tragedy of Bathsheba’s marriage.

Chapter 41 Quotes

Suddenly, as in a last attempt to save Bathsheba from, at any rate, immediate pain, he looked again as he had looked before at the chalk writing upon the coffin-lid. The scrawl was this simple one: “Fanny Robbin and child.” Gabriel took his handkerchief and carefully rubbed out the two latter words. He then left the room, and went out quietly by the front door.

Related Characters: Gabriel Oak
Page Number: 254
Explanation and Analysis:

Gabriel has carried Fanny Robbin’s coffin back to the farm, where Bathsheba has asked that it remain in her home before being taken to the churchyard the next day for burial. Although the book doesn’t mention exactly how Gabriel knows to look at the chalk writing, Gabriel is known to be an excellent observer and always discreet. He is one of the first to learn the secret of Fanny’s pregnancy, and although this rumor will begin to spread throughout the village, it won’t be because of him. Instead, Gabriel, as always, is eager to do whatever he can to make things easier for Bathsheba. He knows that, given the love of gossip among the villagers and the very small, interconnected world that they all inhabit, it will not be possible to keep this a secret for long. He may even suspect that Bathsheba may come to fully understand the relationship between Gabriel and Fanny. Unable to prevent that, nonetheless, Gabriel still wants to keep Bathsheba innocent and retaining some shred of pride for as long as possible.

Chapter 42 Quotes

The one feat alone—that of dying—by which a mean condition could be resolved into a grand one, Fanny had achieved. And to that had destiny subjoined this reencounter to-night, which had, in Bathsheba’s wild imagining, turned her companion’s failure to success, her humiliation to triumph, her lucklessness to ascendancy; it had thrown over herself a garish light of mockery, and set upon all things about her an ironical smile. But even Bathsheba’s heated fancy failed to endow that innocent white countenance with any triumphant consciousness of the pain she was retaliating for her pain with all the merciless rigour of the Mosaic law: “Burning for burning; wound for wound; strife for strife.”

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene, Fanny Robbin
Page Number: 260
Explanation and Analysis:

Bathsheba has looked into the coffin and been given incontrovertible proof that Fanny was pregnant—between the color of her hair and the circumstantial evidence, she has guessed too that her own husband was the baby’s father. Bathsheba’s feelings for Fanny, nevertheless, remain very complex. On the one hand, she continues to feel pity for Fanny, who, like Bathsheba herself, suffered at the hands of Troy. Both women have felt alone and isolated in a world made by and for men. And yet on the other hand, Bathsheba recognizes Fanny as her full rival, especially since Bathsheba continues on some level to love her husband—and yet the fact of Fanny’s death means that it would be cruel for Bathsheba to feel angry at or jealous of the girl.

Bathsheba seems almost to want Fanny’s body to mock her, to give her a justification for hating her, even as she knows that would be wrong. While she cannot find any shred of “triumph” in Fanny’s expression, Bathsheba thinks of the Mosaic law—the one that includes the idea of an “eye for an eye”—in helping her to come to terms with her own relationship to Fanny. Bathsheba, indeed, feels like she is being made to suffer personally in retaliation for what Fanny has suffered—suffering that, at least until this point, Troy has managed to escape entirely.

Chapter 45 Quotes

The persistent torrent from the gargoyle’s jaws directed all its vengeance into the grave. The rich tawny mould was stirred into motion, and boiled like chocolate. The water accumulated and washed deeper down, and the roar of the pool thus formed spread into the night as the head and chief among other noises of the kind formed by the deluging rain. The flowers so carefully planted by Fanny’s repentant lover began to move and turn in their bed.

Related Characters: Sergeant Francis Troy, Fanny Robbin
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:

Troy has just completed perhaps the first major selfless act of his life, buying a fancy engraved tombstone for Fanny and spending a long time planting flowers around it. But as he sleeps, the narration moves to a description of the church, where the spurt from an old, ugly gargoyle is positioned in precisely the right place to wash out all the work that Troy has done. For Troy, this act has been one of penance and retribution: he’s accepted, to a certain extent, his own guilt for what he has done, and hopes to account for it by this small gesture. What Troy, unlike Bathsheba, for instance, fails to understand is that penance (at least in this novel) doesn’t work that way—it’s never simply a single act that can be accomplished and the guilt done away with.

In addition, Troy has not yet felt the full coldness and indifference of nature’s laws. He’s a man of the town and is used to getting his own way rather than having to bow to a force greater than humans. Nature doesn’t care where the water from the gargoyle pours down, even if it may seem like it’s laughing in Troy’s face. Unlike Gabriel, Troy won’t learn a valuable lesson about the necessity of working within nature as a result of this event; instead, he’ll react petulantly and run away again.

Chapter 50 Quotes

“I don’t know—at least I cannot tell you. It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.”

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene (speaker), Mr. Boldwood
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:

Boldwood is trying to convince Bathsheba once again to give him a positive response; this time, though, he’s attempting to extract not an actual agreement to marry him, but a promise to at least consider marrying him in six years, since she’s not yet a legal widow. As Bathsheba, who doesn’t want to marry Boldwood any more than she ever has, tries to tell Boldwood that she does respect him, he insists on knowing exactly how much she likes and respects him. It’s that demand that leads Bathsheba to the frustration she expresses in this passage. She’s frustrated that Boldwood, as always, is asking more of her than she can give, pushing and pressuring her in a way she finds overwhelming, given that she has no one to turn to of her gender and social position.

Here, she links that sense of isolation to the very language she uses. It’s not, of course, that only men speak English: the idea is that public life in society is, in her experience, directed by men—the laws that define and circumscribe everyone’s actions, the articles in the newspapers, even the gossip at Warren’s malt-house, are all written or spoken by men. Bathsheba may assert her own authority by claiming her own right to such language, but here she has a more sober outlook on the possibility of this act of reclamation, suggesting that a woman trying to play by men’s rules may never be able to express herself just as she wishes.

Chapter 53 Quotes

The household convulsion had made her herself again. The temporary coma had ceased, and activity had come with the necessity for it. Deeds of endurance which seem ordinary in philosophy are rare in conduct: and Bathsheba was astonishing all around her now, for her philosophy was her conduct, and she seldom thought practicable what she did not practise. She was the stuff of which great men’s mothers are made.

Related Characters: Bathsheba Everdene
Page Number: 333
Explanation and Analysis:

Boldwood has just shot Troy and has left the house in order to give himself up to the authorities. When Troy had ordered Bathsheba to come along home with him, she had been frozen in place: this was the culmination of the gradual erosion of her cool, calm sense of authority. Now, however, the crisis seems to have jolted her back into such an authoritative position. Just as in the corn market, everyone in Boldwood’s home now looks at and admires her; here, however, Bathsheba isn’t flattered. She is matter-of-fact about this ability to keep calm amid a tragedy. At the same time, even the novel itself, which mostly portrays Bathsheba as a competent and successful businesswoman, reveals itself to be a product of its time, describing Bathsheba not as a great woman herself but as the kind of woman who might give birth to a great son.