Far From the Madding Crowd

Far From the Madding Crowd

Lambs and Sheep Symbol Analysis

Lambs and Sheep Symbol Icon

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 Far From the Madding Crowd quotes below all refer to the symbol of Lambs and Sheep. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Far From the Madding Crowd published in 2003.
Chapter 5 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Gabriel Oak
Related Symbols: Lambs and Sheep
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lambs and Sheep Symbol Timeline in Far From the Madding Crowd

The timeline below shows where the symbol Lambs and Sheep appears in Far From the Madding Crowd. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
Class Status and Mobility Theme Icon
...called “Farmer.” As a boy he was a shepherd, then a bailiff, before leasing the sheep farm that includes Norcombe Hill and stocking it with 200 sheep—a venture that he recognizes... (full context)
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
...Gabriel comes out and paces the well-cleared fields slowly but deliberately. He carries a new-born lamb back into the hut and places it on hay in front of the stove before... (full context)
Chapter 3
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
Amused and surprised, Gabriel returns to his sheep. An hour later, the girl returns seated properly, with a bag of bran. A boy... (full context)
Chapter 4
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
...to visit Bathsheba’s aunt. Then, one of his ewes dies: he decides to carry its lamb in a basket over to Mrs. Hurst, the aunt, accompanied by his dog George. (full context)
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Class Status and Mobility Theme Icon
...Hurst says Bathsheba is out but invites him in, and he says he’s brought a lamb for her to rear, as girls like to do. Then Gabriel says that his real... (full context)
Chapter 5
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
...only George answers, but Gabriel remembers he had left the two dogs eating a dead lamb on the hill, so he goes to bed. Just before dawn, he hears a strange... (full context)
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
...sky, silent and still like Napoleon at St. Helena. Horrified, Gabriel races through, seeing the sheep’s footprints. The dog comes and licks his hand. Gabriel looks over the cliff, and sees... (full context)
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
Class Status and Mobility Theme Icon
...to feel pity and sorrow for the fate of the animals—then he remembers that the sheep are not insured, and his life’s savings are gone. He leans against a rail and... (full context)
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
Class Status and Mobility Theme Icon
...realizes that the young dog must have been in high energy to drive all the sheep into a corner, through the hedge, across the field, and given them enough momentum to... (full context)
Chapter 7
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
Class Status and Mobility Theme Icon
...wrist, he feels a throb of “tragic intensity” that he’s often felt in his over-driven lambs. (full context)
Chapter 12
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
...market at Casterbridge, full of burly men carrying saplings with which to poke pigs and sheep as they move throughout the room. Only one woman glides among them, and heads turn... (full context)
Chapter 15
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
Class Status and Mobility Theme Icon
...framed pictures. Meanwhile Gabriel appears in the entry, looking healthy and vigorous and carrying four lambs over his shoulder. Poorgrass asks about this year’s lambing, and Gabriel says he and Cainy... (full context)
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
The nearly lifeless lambs now, revived by the fire, begin to bleat again, and Gabriel gives them milk. Henery... (full context)
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
...Ball bursts in to say the ewes need Gabriel. He jumps up, marks the infant sheep with “B.E.”, then leaves with Cain. Boldwood leaves with him, and as they approach the... (full context)
Chapter 17
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
...he resolves to go speak to her. As he approaches, Bathsheba looks up from the lambs that they are treating, and Gabriel too turns to look at him. Gabriel immediately suspects... (full context)
Chapter 18
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
...love have settled into a persistent, manageable feeling. He goes to see her at the sheepwashing pool, where Gabriel, Coggan, Moon, Poorgrass and Cain Ball are assembled. Bathsheba stands by them... (full context)
Chapter 20
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
...number of men run up to the house and tell Bathsheba that 60 or 70 sheep have broken the fence and gotten into a field of clover: if they aren’t pierced... (full context)
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
The first sheep dies, and Bathsheba grows increasingly agitated. Little by little, her conviction not to call Gabriel... (full context)
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
...of gratitude, still chastises him for his unkindness. He murmurs confusedly, and hastens onto the sheep. He manages to recover 57. Only four die. When he’s done, Bathsheba asks with a... (full context)
Chapter 21
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
The shearers kneel by the open side doors over a panting captive sheep. It’s a picture of today in a 400-year-old frame: Weatherbury is unchangeable compared to cities,... (full context)
Class Status and Mobility Theme Icon
Bathsheba watches Gabriel lop off the fleece of a sheep and, seeing its flush, murmurs that the sheep is blushing at the insult. Gabriel is... (full context)
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
...They speak in low tones, inaudible to Gabriel, though he imagines it’s not about the sheep. Embarrassed, Bathsheba looks at the ground, growing redder and redder. Sadly, Gabriel continues to work. (full context)
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
...riding habit: she and Boldwood ride off. As Gabriel watches them, he accidentally snips the sheep in the groin: Bathsheba notices the blood, and reprimands Gabriel for his carelessness. Gabriel knows... (full context)
Chapter 35
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
...his house, followed by black spiders; he goes outside and sees, over the hedge, the sheep crowded close together in a corner. He is even more certain now that he’s right:... (full context)
Chapter 49
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
In September the Greenhill Fair takes place, the annual sheep fair that draws crowds from far away. Bathsheba’s and Boldwood’s flocks require a great deal... (full context)
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
...As she waits outside, Boldwood comes up to her and asks her nervously about her sheep. They begin to talk about the Turpin play: Boldwood says he’d be pleased to get... (full context)
Chapter 53
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
...and rushes to Boldwood’s house, where all the women are huddled against the walls like sheep in a storm. Bathsheba is sitting beside Troy’s body, his head in her lap, clasping... (full context)