Far From the Madding Crowd

Far From the Madding Crowd


Thomas Hardy

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Far From the Madding Crowd: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

On February 13, Bathsheba and Liddy are sitting by the piano, and Liddy asks Bathsheba to play the Bible and Key game, a game that predicts couples, though Bathsheba thinks it’s foolish. Finally, though, she agrees to play, and as she says the verse and turns around the book, she blushes guiltily. She refuses to tell Liddy whom she imagined as a suitor. Liddy’s thoughts turn to Mr. Boldwood, and says his pew is just opposite Bathsheba at church—but he never once turned to look at her, unlike everyone else.
The Bible and Key is a kind of “spin the bottle” game that involves imagining potential couples and waiting to see which one is revealed as ‘true.’ It’s implied that Liddy’s thoughts turn to the very person that had been Bathsheba’s choice in the game.
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After a silence, Bathsheba says she forgot about a valentine she’d bought for little Teddy Coggan. She writes a valentine and dips it in the envelope. Laughing, Liddy said it would be such fun to send it to old Boldwood. Bathsheba pauses, thinking that though it’s silly, she’s a little disconcerted that the most dignified man in the parish won’t meet her eyes, and that even Liddy might remark on it. Bathsheba remarks that she doesn’t care to send the valentine to Teddy, who can be so naughty. They toss the hymn book (like tossing a coin): since it lands shut, she says she’ll send it to Boldwood. She sees a seal with some funny motto, though can’t remember which it is: she stamps it onto the envelope, and they read, “Marry me.” They send the letter off.
Here as elsewhere in the novel, Hardy mixes biblical allusions with other ‘folk’ traditions like valentines or, later, various superstitions held by the farm hands. Bathsheba recognizes her own sense of pride in even caring about Boldwood’s apathy with respect to herself, although Liddy is also fanning the flames of this sentiment with her scheming ideas. The novel emphasizes, here, just how idle and thoughtless Bathsheba’s sending of the valentine is, a lack of concern that will contrast with everything that unfolds later.
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