Far From the Madding Crowd

Far From the Madding Crowd

Watches Symbol Icon

Two of Bathsheba’s suitors, Gabriel Oak and Sergeant Troy, both have watches that they consult regularly and that seem, in many ways, an extension of their characters. This is a surprising similarity between two otherwise quite different figures. These watches are, of course, simply humdrum accessories that are far from uncommon, but in the novel they also serve as material objects, markers of status and position, that underline each character’s personality and relationship to the world. Gabriel’s watch is, like him—at least at the beginning of the novel—imperfect and even rather mediocre. It doesn’t always work, which often requires him to shake it or otherwise fiddle with it; sometimes he even has to use it in tandem with looking at the stars and constellations in order to know what time it is. But Gabriel’s watch reminds us of his pragmatism and willingness to work through difficulty in order to make things work himself. He does have a more successful relationship to the natural world, dealing with circumstances beyond his control not by rebelling against his fate but by working within the obstacles with which he is presented.

Gabriel’s pragmatic, reasonable attitude contrasts with Troy’s impulsive, childish behavior. Troy’s watch is elegant and expensive. It belonged to his father and it is important to him, but he thrusts it into Bathsheba’s hands when he’s courting her, before admitting that he hadn’t thought the gift through at all. It’s also through his mindless opening and closing of his watch that Bathsheba learns of Troy’s love for Fanny—an earnest love, certainly, but also one that gives his thoughtlessness a particularly cruel bent. As material possessions with their own quirks and attributes, then, watches in the novel also say something about their owners.

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Watches Symbol Timeline in Far From the Madding Crowd

The timeline below shows where the symbol Watches appears in Far From the Madding Crowd. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
Class Status and Mobility Theme Icon
Gabriel carries a small silver watch, once his grandfather’s, which doesn’t always work very well, such that Gabriel has to shake... (full context)
Chapter 25
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
Distracted, Bathsheba wonders what time it is: he looks at his watch, then cries that she should have his gold watch as a gift. Troy presses it... (full context)
Chapter 40
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
Sighing, Bathsheba gives him the money. Troy looks at his watch and reflexively opens its back case, revealing a lock of hair. Bathsheba gasps: he says... (full context)
Chapter 41
Epic Allusion, Tragedy, and Illusions of Grandeur Theme Icon
Conflict and the Laws of Nature Theme Icon
...Poorgrass stays, the less he feels troubled by the duties that await him. Finally, Coggan’s watch strikes six. (full context)
Chapter 42
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
...now lives alone. There’s a light on: Gabriel is reading. Then he looks at his watch and gets up. Bathsheba can’t bring herself to tap at the window and thus give... (full context)
Chapter 47
Women in a Man’s World Theme Icon
Pride and Penance Theme Icon
Class Status and Mobility Theme Icon
...Bathsheba wonders if Troy wanted to follow Fanny into the next world. She opens his watch case that night, and makes to throw the lock of hair into the fire, but... (full context)