Sheep are central to the livelihood of almost everyone in Far from the Madding Crowd. Many characters are directly responsible for taking care of sheep, and other characters, like Bathsheba and Gabriel Oak, have significant financial investments in sheep, but these animals are not static elements of a bucolic country landscape. Instead, they symbolize the fraught dangers of life in the country, and the ways in which a single fateful event can irrevocably change someone’s life and livelihood. By themselves, sheep do not possess the same kind of determination and motivation as humans. Instead they can be easily led astray—by the dog who forces them over a cliff to their deaths, or out of their field into a neighboring field of clover, which poisons them. These animals thus also represent the interdependence necessary to social life, as the characters cannot simply let the sheep be, but must watch over them and take care of them, putting the flock’s safety before their own. At one point, the women at Boldwood’s party are even compared to sheep huddled together during an impending storm. Animal instinct, then, is something shared by both humans and sheep— both species must understand (however vaguely) that certain forces, like Mother Nature, have power over them.
Lambs and Sheep Quotes in Far From the Madding Crowd
The sheep were not insured. –All the savings of a frugal life had been dispersed at a blow: his hopes of being an independent farmer were laid low—possibly for ever. Gabriel’s energies patience and industry had been so severely taxed, during the years of his life between eighteen and eight and twenty, to reach his present stage of progress that no more seemed to be left in him.