Far from the Madding Crowd | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Far from the Madding Crowd | Chapters 55–57 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 55: The March Following—"Bathsheba Boldwood"

Come March, they are awaiting Boldwood's fate. The supposition is that he is mentally unwell. Sets of women's clothes, jewelry, and the like are found at his house, intended for Bathsheba. The packages are addressed to "Bathsheba Boldwood." The chapter closes with the revelation that Boldwood's fate is to be confined, not executed.

Chapter 56: Beauty in Loneliness—After All

With spring, Bathsheba is "revived." Come summer, she is better still. She has had her late husband buried with Fanny Robin, and has words for him inscribed on the stone that he had erected for Fanny. She goes to see the stone and meets Gabriel Oak there. He tells her that he will be leaving, and she is hurt by this. Come Christmas day, she sees him and the next day receives his letter that he is leaving. She goes to his cottage, confronts him, and in doing so, she learns that there is talk that he is waiting in hopes of wedding her and thus having her farm and her. She calls this "too absurd—too soon," but when he repeats that it is absurd, she is offended. They clear the air between them, and she admits to her feelings. Brief talk of a wedding is begun.

Chapter 57: A Foggy Night and Morning—Conclusion

Bathsheba wants the "most private, secret, plainest wedding that it is possible to have." Gabriel endeavors to give her this, but ultimately a few people know of it. She tells Liddy that morning. He tells Jan the night prior. Gabriel and Bathsheba are wed.

Analysis

The conclusion of the novel, unlike some of Hardy's later novels, is a somewhat happy one. Bathsheba's husband and obsessive suitor both met their logical fate, but so too does Gabriel. Troy's death is surely not a moment to rejoice, but it is a foregone conclusion. His actions bring about Fanny's fall from purity and her death; his taunting of Boldwood earlier when Boldwood did not yet know that Troy had married Bathsheba, as well as Troy's actions in letting his wife think him dead, all set forth clues that his death is near. Boldwood's growing obsessiveness toward Bathsheba also sets his fate into motion. He hastens a bad end by his own choices—pressuring Bathsheba to wed even though he knows she is uninterested, and then murdering her husband. Early on in knowing Bathsheba (Chapter 26), Troy remarks that Bathsheba is the sort of woman "a hundred men always covet—your eyes will bewitch scores on scores into an unavailing fancy for you—you can only marry one of that many." This is the truth of Bathsheba's experience. More to the point, Troy continues that, "Out of these say twenty will endeavour to drown the bitterness of despised love in drink; twenty more will mope away their lives without a wish or attempt to make a mark in the world" (here he describes Boldwood's future state). He goes on, saying "twenty more—the susceptible person myself possibly among them—will be always draggling after you, getting where they may just see you, doing desperate things." This latter description seems to fit Gabriel Oak, but he is the one man who is happy at the end of the novel. Like his namesake, he is steady and strong. It is to him that Bathsheba gives her heart at the end.

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