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Far from the Madding Crowd | Chapters 7–9 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 7: Recognition—A Timid Girl

Bathsheba Everdene is also in shock. She hesitantly says that she does want a shepherd, and the villagers, who are impressed and grateful for Gabriel Oak's intercession in containing the fire, encourage her to hire him. She does so. After she leaves, Gabriel sees a girl who asks that he keep his seeing her secret. He gives her money and goes on his way in search of lodging.

Chapter 8: The Malthouse—The Chat—News

At the malthouse, Gabriel greets several of the locals by name. Some of them know of Gabriel's grandfather and father. He asks about Bathsheba and discovers that she recently arrived. Her uncle took ill and died, and it appears to the locals that she intends to keep his farm. He also learns that her father went bankrupt and was adulterous. The locals continue to gossip about Bathsheba's family when a man enters to report that Bathsheba has caught her bailiff Pennyways stealing from the granary and attacked him like "a cat." She agrees not to prosecute, firing him instead. News also comes that her servant, Fanny Robin, has gone missing. Bathsheba summons them to her farm and asks for their help. She learns that Fanny had been seen with "a bundle" and that Fanny had a suitor—a soldier from Casterbridge. William Smallbury offers to ask after Fanny at the Casterbridge barracks the next day.

Chapter 9: The Homestead—A Visitor—Half-Confidences

Bathsheba sorts through papers and rubbish when a guest arrives. Farmer Boldwood, wealthy and fortyish, has come to inquire after the missing girl, Fanny. Bathsheba, being untidy and not wanting to meet him in that state, sends her refusal. He leaves, and she discusses him with her servants, Liddy Smallbury and Mrs. Coggan. They also discuss marriage proposals. Bathsheba says she has had one but refused him as "not quite good enough" for her.

Analysis

This section of the novel highlights its serial nature. The chapter at the malthouse introduces a host of characters, but there are no real advancements in story. The characters, assorted colorful country folks, are of a type popularized in pastoral novels. They come across as simple and hardy, prone to gossip and folk wisdom, rather than deeper thought. Some critics from the era thought Hardy did not make them quite crude and simple enough.

The novel also draws a difference between Bathsheba and the sweet and trusting Fanny Robin. Gabriel offers Fanny the kindness and care he has already offered the lambs and crops. Fanny, described as a trembling, vulnerable creature, responds gently. The astute reader will know already that her fate is not positive, but that it also will tie into the fates of the main characters. The reader, and the characters, can also assume that a "bundle" could very well be a baby.

In contrast, Bathsheba acts harshly. She must consider her appearance when Boldwood arrives, knowing that suitors will be part of her life as a farmer. She brazenly discusses her unnamed suitor whom she had rejected, opening a frank reflection on the different considerations that people with substantial property make. However, Bathsheba also seems to be subtly floundering a bit, trying to figure out what to do about the household, the awkwardness of Gabriel's arrival, and what it means to manage this farm. She is only 20 years old, and she has no advisors—no mother or father, no solicitor. She is on her own, and her confidante Liddy, a sweet and kind local woman, is the same age, also not experienced in any of the matters before Bathsheba.

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