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Bathsheba thinks that Boldwood is generous in offering her everything in life, if only she will marry him. She considers Boldwood's proposal calmly and realizes that the match is socially desirable, more so because Boldwood is a respected man in the society. Marriage with Boldwood for its own sake is a good idea. However, Bathsheba neither loves Boldwood nor is she ready for marriage. The experience of being the mistress of her farm is an enjoyable one, and she wants to remain independent.
Bathsheba still feels that since she is responsible for Boldwood's feelings, she must do something to save Boldwood, as well as herself, from calamity. She, therefore, decides to seek Gabriel Oak's opinion and goes in search of him. Since the sheep shearing is to be performed the next day, Gabriel is busy grinding his shears. In fact, the whole meadow is echoing with the sound of the farm people sharpening their scythes, shears, and sickles.
Bathsheba sends Cainy Ball away and takes up the task of helping Gabriel. She talks to him as she works and asks him about the rustics' reaction to her talk with Farmer Boldwood. Oak tells her that the rustics expect the two of them to be married. Bathsheba scorns the thought, and instructs Gabriel to tell them that she will not marry Boldwood. Gabriel is both surprised and relieved by this statement; but he refuses to do the job of controlling the rumor.
Bathsheba is shocked by Gabriel's reaction. She is torn between pity for him as a disappointed lover and anger that he has stopped loving her. She, however, values his opinion, even on the personal level about her own marriage. When she asks him for his opinion on her behavior. Oak condemns her conduct. Bathsheba becomes angry, loses her temper, and orders Oak to leave her farm. Oak goes away with calm dignity.
In this chapter, Bathsheba's respect for Oak's opinion is shown. Gabriel is as independent as Bathsheba herself. He is fair and his mind never loses its balance even at the worst of times. Bathsheba, on the contrary, is like a child who gets angry when it is not given what it wants. When she is not praised, she loses her temper. The contrast in the natures of the hero and the heroine of the novel is clear in this chapter. The chapter also reveals Hardy's psychological insight into character. He exposes the suppressed feelings Bathsheba has for Gabriel Oak. Her feelings are made plain rather than kept hidden, as shown in her over-reaction to his plain speaking in answer to her questions. Bathsheba does not appreciate Gabriel's frankness and plain speech. His statement that he does not want to marry her any longer annoys her; but his patience with and understanding of her are remarkable. Gabriel is aware that Bathsheba is too young and immature to judge anything or anybody fairly. Even when he faces Bathsheba's "tantrum," he never loses his dignity or composure.