Far from the Madding Crowd | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Far from the Madding Crowd | Chapters 22–24 | Summary



Chapter 22: The Great Barn and The Sheep-Shearers

Bathsheba Everdene, Gabriel Oak, and several other workers shear sheep, and she is impressed by his skill and speed. He, however, falters and cuts a sheep when Boldwood arrives to speak with her. She leaves with Boldwood to see his Leicesters (a kind of sheep) and puts Gabriel in charge. The men gossip again and criticize her. Henery Fray says he believes Boldwood kissed her at the sheep washing. Gabriel objects, and the gossip and talk continue until the maltster speaks. The gossiping men appease him, and the chapter ends with Gabriel in a foul mood.

Chapter 23: Eventide—A Second Declaration

Bathsheba Everdene hosts a supper with the local men, Gabriel Oak, and Farmer Boldwood. There is singing, and eventually, she asks Gabriel to play his flute while she sings. Boldwood accompanies her as well. Afterwards, Bathsheba and Boldwood withdraw. He presses his proposal again, and she says that if she can be a good wife, she will marry him, but she needs more time to decide.

Chapter 24: The Same Night—The Fir Plantation

The narrator discusses Bathsheba's habit of walking to check the area at night—and Gabriel Oak's similar watch over her affairs. On her walk, she is knocked down, accidentally, by a stranger. The stranger, Sergeant Troy, has his spurs caught in her dress. He flirts with her as he detangles himself, and ultimately, he tells her, "I've never seen a woman so beautiful as you. Take it or leave it—be offended or like it—I don't care." Afterwards, Bathsheba debates as to whether she is insulted or not. Ultimately, she decides she is not. The narrator points out that "It was a fatal omission of Boldwood's that he had never once told her she was beautiful."


The change in Bathsheba's relationship with Gabriel presents itself as they shear sheep together. They are working side-by-side, and she is flattering him for his skill. However, Boldwood's arrival again sets their relationship aside. Boldwood pursues her more aggressively.

Another chapter in this section focuses on character and setting, indicating again the serial nature of this novel. A pattern emerges in which the malthouse sections appear as sketches of the natives—their speech, thoughts, and personalities. This section also highlights Gabriel's steadfast loyalty to Bathsheba. Even as she has walked away with Boldwood, even as Gabriel is surrounded by gossiping locals, he continues to defend her. When Henery says that Bathsheba and Boldwood were kissing, Gabriel refutes it: "What a lie!"

The pressure of Boldwood's declaration and the traits that mean he should be appealing as a husband (wealth and standing) are enough that Bathsheba agrees to consider his proposal. Neither Boldwood's qualities nor Gabriel's steady devotion is enough to hold her attention when the third suitor, Sergeant Francis Troy, arrives. What he possesses that the other men do not is a charm and ease of words that the reader already knows he has used to seduce Fanny Robin. Troy, clever and handsome and nearer her age than Boldwood is, meets her when she is alone. He takes the chance to flirt and flatter her—which appeals to her vanity.

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