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The major theme of the novel centers on the strength and goodness of true love. Fancy Day is the central character in the love story. She attracts three admirers: Dewy, Shiner, and Maybold. Even though Shiner and Maybold can offer her more elegance and material goods, Fancy wisely realizes that her heart belongs to Dick Dewy.
A minor theme of the novel is the difficulty of change. When the new vicar comes and brings an organ to replace the male choir, the congregation is horrified. When Fancy leads the young women in singing in the church, the congregation is equally aghast because only male voices have been allowed in the past.
The main mood of the book is light, romantic, and cheerful even though Hardy is traditionally viewed as a tragic novelist. Even the death of John Woodward's brother in a pool and Dick's attendance at a funeral of a friend do not destroy the happy mood.