Far from the Madding Crowd | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Far from the Madding Crowd | Chapters 28–30 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 28: The Hollow Amid the Ferns

Bathsheba Everdene and Sergeant Troy meet in the evening in a hollow, moss-covered and hidden. Troy lifts a sword and begins to demonstrate cuts and thrusts. He tells her to stand and warns, "don't flinch." When she asks if the sword is sharp, he lies and says it isn't. She stands as he demonstrates swordplay around her, and at the end, he gives proof that he'd lied about the sharpness of the blade by severing a lock of her hair and by spearing a caterpillar from her bodice. Sergeant Troy kisses her and leaves.

Chapter 29: Particulars of a Twilight Walk

Bathsheba sees Gabriel Oak when she is walking at twilight. He speaks boldly to her about her romantic choices, about trifling with Boldwood, and about his own feelings for her: "You know, mistress, that I love you, and shall love you always." Bathsheba defends herself, Troy, and their actions. In anger, she fires Gabriel again—although she retracts it shortly later. Bathsheba asks Gabriel to leave, and he sees Troy waiting for her. After they part, Gabriel checks on the story Troy has told Bathsheba that he slips into church by the old tower door. The door is blocked by ivy, confirming that the story of attending church services is a lie.

Chapter 30: Hot Cheeks and Tearful Eyes

Sergeant Troy departs, kissing Bathsheba a second time before he goes. Bathsheba pens a letter to Boldwood to say she cannot marry him. She overhears a conversation between servants about her relationship with Troy and denies it all, but then immediately confesses to her servant Liddy Smallbury that she loves him. She alternates between anger and despair about him, frightening Liddy as she asks for both confirmation that he is a good man and insists on honesty, but then refuses to allow the truth. Liddy consoles her as best she can.

Analysis

The lead-in to the sword demonstration is a moment of tension. This particular scene was thought melodramatic by some contemporary critics. What the scene does for the book, though, is to highlight Troy's traits. He is a skilled swordsman, and he is a liar. Bathsheba, for no reason other than Troy's word, accepts Troy's claim that the sword is blunt. For his part, the implication is that he is talented enough that she is not at risk, so he chooses to lie to her for his own ease. His lying for his own sake is a trait he shows with Fanny at first and now with Bathsheba.

Gabriel knows of Troy's low character through his relations to Fanny Robin. He does not reveal this knowledge to Bathsheba, however. Instead, he points out that Troy is not what he suggests he is and that she is being disloyal to Boldwood. He also refers to his own love for her—a sort of implication that he cares about her well-being and that is why he's speaking to her about her choices. Her temper, yet again, leads to firing him, but this time she moderates her anger. He ignores her firing, and she retracts it. Gabriel's character, his moral compass, plays here as well. When Bathsheba explains that Troy is a church-goer, relaying his explanation, Gabriel then checks on the story. His actions verify that Troy is a liar in this, too.

Both of these sections also emphasize a kind of naïveté that has not previously been a defining trait of Bathsheba's character. She has been defined for half of the novel as capable of handling a crisis (when Gabriel is unconscious from smoke inhalation) and rising to challenges (in taking on the farm), but impulsive (her riding, her valentine, her firing Gabriel). She has not heretofore been described as gullible. When Troy tells her things, no matter how they contrast with her own knowledge, she believes his words. Her conversation with Liddy emphasizes that she knows herself to be making a mistake; otherwise, she wouldn't seek advice that would justify her unwarranted trust of Troy.

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