Far from the Madding Crowd | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Far from the Madding Crowd | Chapters 37–39 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 37: The Storm—The Two Together

Gabriel Oak is at work protecting the ricks when Bathsheba Everdene arrives. She sets out helping him by carrying sheaves of reeds up a ladder to him so he can thatch. She mentions that her husband had promised to see to the safety of the crop. While they work, she reveals the circumstances of her marriage, in part that she had not set out to Bath intending to wed but to end her engagement with Sergeant Troy. He had revealed that there was another woman, and in her jealousy and upset, she married him.

Chapter 38: Rain—One Solitary Meets Another

Gabriel continues to work after she leaves, even after the rain comes. He remembers that eight months ago "he had been fighting against fire in the same spot as desperately as he was fighting against water now—and for a futile love of the same woman." Afterward, he leaves and comes upon Boldwood, who reveals that his own ricks are not secure and that he will likely lose 90% of his crop. He admits how severely the loss of Bathsheba has sunk him, although he asks Gabriel not to share what he's just learned from Boldwood.

Chapter 39: Coming Home—A Cry

Bathsheba and Troy travel on the turnpike road one evening in October. He reveals that he's lost a sum of money gambling, and they argue. Their argument is interrupted when they see a woman. Bathsheba can see that Troy recognizes her, and he goes to speak to her. The woman, Fanny Robin, is in weak health. Troy gives her what money he has and makes plans to meet her on Monday. When he returns, Bathsheba presses for answers, which he refuses by whipping the horse and taking off at great speed so they cannot speak.

Analysis

As before, in Gabriel's presence, Bathsheba is once more calm and in control. She aids in the physical tasks to protect her interest, even as her husband is drunk and has insisted on revelry that resulted in all of her other workers being drunk and passed out. While Gabriel functions as if it were his own farm, protecting the crops and Bathsheba's financial interest, he also treats Bathsheba with the same kindness as he had before she married Troy. For her part, Bathsheba confesses that her less admirable qualities led her to marry Troy, in essence confessing that she had no more planned to marry him than she had planned to encourage Boldwood with her anonymous letter. The question as to whether that exonerates her from the consequences of her actions is one open for readers to debate. Most of the characters in Far from the Madding Crowd suffer the consequences of their actions. The consequences of Bathsheba's actions are borne most heavily by others rather than by her, though she does suffer in her own way.

A direct example of this suffering is the state of Boldwood. He has fallen into depression, disregarding his crops, which will most likely lead to heavy financial loss. His own culpability is not to be dismissed. He has pursued a woman who is not subtle in her dismissal. Love has ruined him and his farm, and it could have ruined Bathsheba's farm if not for Gabriel.

Likewise, the reader then sees the ravages of love on Fanny Robin. Gone is the optimistic girl expecting marriage to her beloved. She is broken, starving, and weak. While Bathsheba has only a slight understanding that her husband is tied to this woman's fate, and no awareness that the woman on the road is her former servant, the reader is aware that the suffering woman in the road is suffering for loving Troy—as is Bathsheba.

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