Far from the Madding Crowd | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Far from the Madding Crowd | Chapters 10–12 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 10: Mistress and Men

Bathsheba Everdene meets her employees, pays them, and lets them know that she will be managing the farm, and she intendsto "astonish" them. She is generous with their wages, and she stresses that they ought not to dismiss her because she is a woman. At this meeting, she also inquires after Fanny. Some report that Fanny may have gone after the young man she loves, whose name is unknown, when the regiment left. Gabriel Oak is assigned to work with Cain Ball. Gabriel muses that Bathsheba's cold attitude toward him never reveals that she and he have known each other.

Chapter 11: Outside the Barracks—Snow—A Meeting

Fanny Robin goes to the barracks to speak to Sergeant Frank Troy, who has promised her marriage. He is surprised by her presence. She presses him on the matter, and he offers a series of excuses and evasions. After she leaves, laughter erupts in the barracks.

Chapter 12: Farmers—A Rule—An Exception

Bathsheba's stance that she will be a farmer "by her own person, and by proxy no more" leads her to Casterbridge. The other farmers regard her not as an equal, but as headstrong and beautiful. One exception to this belief is Farmer Boldwood. When she sees him, and he gives her no notice, she finds him interesting. Liddy Smallbury tells her that he was jilted in youth, and Bathsheba suggests that he is simply reserved.

Analysis

Despite her utter lack of experience, Bathsheba puts on a brave face. She handles the paying of her employees, using it as a way to encourage them not to leave but also to get a sense of who they are and what they do. Her assistant for this matter, again, is not an experienced advisor but her maid. It is no wonder that both characters in the novel and critics of the novel accuse Bathsheba Everdene of having an excess of pride. With no experience and an abundance of youth, having no advisors, and being a woman, the odds of her succeeding at running the farm are not high. She is not likely to be taken seriously as a woman, and she lacks the training to adequately manage a farm.

This section also demonstrates the reader's first insight into the character of Sergeant Francis Troy. Fanny's approach to him at the barracks reveals her own naïveté, but it also shows his callous disregard. If he has been courting her, and the implication is strong that courting included sexual relations, he has either been lying to her about marriage or he has no social awareness of how important marriage is for a woman at this time. Fanny has left her position at Bathsheba's farm without a reference. She has not turned to family. She has left carrying a bundle. These clues reveal Fanny to be a "fallen woman" (a woman who has had sex outside of marriage), especially clear for a Victorian audience. The social expectations for a woman at this time were strict. She would have had very little chance of survival if she were found to be "fallen," and if that bundle were a child, her fate would be tragic without marriage. Even without that, she has given up her job, has no income, and is counting on Troy to follow through on his promises.

Troy, for his part, indicates that he has not prioritized her concerns. The permission he was to get has not happened because he "forgot to ask," and the barracks ring with laughter as Fanny leaves. Sergeant Troy comes across as despicable.

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