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MonkeyNotes-Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
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Chapter 23

Excitement over the shearing supper is felt at the beginning of this chapter. The feast is set on a long table next to the farmhouse. Sticking the table in the parlor window supports one end. Bathsheba sits at the head of the table, but not with her farm hands. Benjamin Pennyways, the dismissed bailiff, is present. Bathsheba asks Oak to sit at the bottom of the table and act as host to all the villagers. When Boldwood comes, Bathsheba asks Oak to shift from his place. Oak, silently and unhappily, gives up his seat to Farmer Boldwood, who seems unusually happy.

Supper is over, and Coggan entertains everyone with songs. He is followed by Poorgrass, who sings a song of his own composition. Coggan's son is so overcome by the song that he laughs hilariously, and his father scolds him. Poorgrass, however, is so upset by young Coggan's behavior that he refuses to continue. At that moment Jacob Smallbury restores peace by starting a ballad which seems to be unending. Even after dusk, the merry-making continues. Bathsheba has retired from the party and surveys the scene from her window as she knits. Gabriel all at once notices that Boldwood is also missing from the table. When Liddy lights candles inside, Gabriel sees Boldwood seated next to Bathsheba.

Her farm hands request Bathsheba to sing the next song from the window. To the tune of Gabriel's flute, she sings about a soldier and his bride, ironically foreshadowing her own marriage to Troy later in the novel. Boldwood accompanies her in his bass voice. The villagers enjoy their singing. Observing Boldwood and his actions toward Bathsheba, Gabriel reaches the conclusion that Boldwood's position is now more secure. Finally, Bathsheba wishes them all goodnight and shuts the windows. As Oak leaves with his fellow farm hands, they praise Pennyways, in sarcastic tones, for his return to honest ways.

Inside, Boldwood and Bathsheba are having a serious conversation. Boldwood again urges her to marry him, and Bathsheba, stalling for time, promises to give her answer after five to six weeks. As Boldwood prepares to leave, Bathsheba feels somewhat ashamed about her behavior towards him. Even though she is still sorry about the valentine she sent as a joke, she still feels happy about winning the love of a man like Boldwood. Her vanity is still very much in place.


Notes

The chapter about the shearing supper further develops character. The relationship of Boldwood and Bathsheba gains intensity, as evidenced by his being inside the house with Bathsheba. The rustics ability to have fun is also depicted. They are shown in a joyous mood, while Gabriel continues to remain calm. The easy- going, harmonious relationship between Bathsheba and her farm- workers can also be noticed in this chapter.

After supper, there is musical entertainment provided by several characters. Bathsheba's song is of particular importance. She ironically sings of a soldier and his bride, which foreshadows her own marriage to Troy. Pennyways's reabsorption into the rustic community shows that the rustics are willing to forgive him for his past crimes. Oak's self-effacement is seen in his giving away the place of honor at table to Boldwood. Finally, Bathsheba sounds a false note when she raises Boldwood's hopes of securing her as a bride.

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MonkeyNotes-Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

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