Far from the Madding Crowd | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Far from the Madding Crowd | Chapters 31–33 | Summary



Chapter 31: Blame—Fury

Bathsheba Everdene is on her way to meet Liddy Smallbury, who is on holiday visiting her sister. Bathsheba comes upon Farmer Boldwood, who has received her letter. He confronts her, and she confirms the rumors he's heard that Sergeant Troy has romanced her. She confirms also that Troy has kissed her, causing Boldwood to curse the man. Boldwood asks her to take back her refusal, and he presses that if she'd not met Troy, she would've wed him instead. She agrees about the circumstances but will not take back her refusal. Boldwood presses her to keep Troy away, lest Boldwood lose control and attack the man. They part with Bathsheba worrying that Boldwood's anger will lead to revenge.

Chapter 32: Night—Horses Tramping

Maryann sees someone steal into the paddock and take a horse and carriage. The narrator says that only two figures could do this. "They were a woman and a gipsy man. A woman was out of the question in such an occupation at this hour"; consequently, Gabriel Oak and the others are alerted. Jan Coggan and Gabriel borrow two of Boldwood's horses and set out after the thief. When they catch up, they discover that the "thief" is Bathsheba. She left a note in chalk that they'd not read; she'd taken her horse and carriage and set off for Bath. Bathsheba has decided she has two choices: to tell Troy to stay away until Boldwood's anger lessens or to follow the advice of both Gabriel and Farmer Boldwood and end things with Troy. Either way, she believes she must go to him.

Chapter 33: In the Sun—A Harbinger

A week passes before a note arrives from Bathsheba to Maryann saying that Bathsheba will be delayed longer still. Another week passes, and Cain Bell arrives to report he saw Bathsheba and a soldier arm-in-arm in Bath. The men gossip, and Matthew Moon points out that "maids rather like your man of sin." The chapter closes with Gabriel Oak's mood soured, and Coggan privately asking him, "What difference does it make whose sweetheart she is, since she can't be yours?" Gabriel replies tellingly, "That's the very thing I say to myself."


As Bathsheba becomes more emotionally invested in Sergeant Troy, she also must confront Boldwood's obsessive level of interest in her. Although they are not engaged, and she has not actually jilted him, Boldwood remains exceptionally upset. Bathsheba sees his extreme response as potential trouble resulting from this situation.

Here, then, the narrator gives both a reminder of Bathsheba's atypical traits (by the examples of her skill in riding and her willingness to steal away in the night). This scene also echoes the earlier scene in which Fanny Robin leaves to go to Sergeant Troy. In that case, she goes to marry him, which doesn't come to pass. Here, Bathsheba goes to end her relationship with Troy, and the reader can logically presume that this, also, is not what will come to pass. Bathsheba, for all of her other traits, is impulsive. She sets off intending to protect Troy from the results of his actions, much as she protected Gabriel from the results of his folly with the smoke in his cottage.

Gabriel finally has a crisis in his devotion to Bathsheba, and although Jan does not understand it, the reader can interpret his reasoning for despairing that Bathsheba has gone with Troy: while Gabriel may be resigned to not being with her, he still loves her and wants her to be happy. He knows, as does the reader, that the path she's chosen is not a path to happiness.

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