Far from the Madding Crowd | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Far from the Madding Crowd | Chapters 46–48 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 46: The Gurgoyle: Its Doings

When he wakes, Troy sees that the flowers he has planted have been washed away by the water-spout (a gargoyle). Troy does not replant them. He leaves to go to Budmouth. Bathsheba goes to the churchyard, where she sees Gabriel Oak looking upon the flowers and grave marker. She has Gabriel help her replant the flowers, and she gives an order for the water-spout to be turned away from the grave.

Chapter 47: Adventures by the Shore

Troy, meanwhile, has gone toward the sea. He makes a decision to strip down and swim, and the current carries him to sea. He is rescued by a ship.

Chapter 48: Doubts Arise—Doubts Linger

Upon reaching Casterbridge the following Saturday, Bathsheba learns that her husband has drowned. She swoons and is caught by Farmer Boldwood; upon learning the news, "a strange fire lighted up Boldwood's eye." He carries her to the inn. Bathsheba rouses herself and goes home. She refuses mourning clothes when Liddy offers, arguing that she thinks Troy is still alive. She maintains this opinion despite the provided evidence: his clothing on the shore and an eyewitness account of Troy struggling in the water. When his belongings are returned to her, she considers burning the curl of hair, but chooses not to do so.

Analysis

Troy's acts of respect to Fanny are washed away. The rain and the gargoyle remove his efforts to beautify her grave. He is genuinely grieving, but his grief comes too late for Fanny and their child.

In her dealings with the grave, Bathsheba behaves with the sort of public confidence that the reader may recall from her dealings in the marketplace. In front of witnesses, she acts calm and collected—although the reader knows she remains distraught.

Bathsheba's refusal to believe that Troy is dead seems illogical, yet the reader knows she is right. Upon reflection, the reader can see practical reasons she would assert that Troy is alive. As a widow, she returns to her former independence. Better still, because she believes her husband to be alive—and bigamy is illegal—she cannot wed. Whether or not Bathsheba consciously works out this level of machination is unspecified, but knowing what the reader knows about the laws of divorce, women's rights to property, and Bathsheba's disinterest in marriage, it is not surprising that she would choose to believe her husband is alive. Further, despite their recent quarrels and her new awareness of Troy's flaws, Bathsheba has been shown to believe the best of him in the past.

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