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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
PART 1: The First Winter
The book begins on a cold and starry Christmas Eve in Mellstock. Dick Dewy, an ordinary looking young man, is singing on his way home through the woods. Five other villagers, also traveling towards the Dewy house, join Dick, including Michael Mail (a "bowed and bent man"), Robert Penny (the village shoemaker), Elias Spinks (a man who walked "perpendicularly and dramatically"), Joseph Bowman (an ordinary human being), and Thomas Leaf (a weak looking man whose arms appear to dangle nervelessly in the wind). Dick tells all five of them that his father and grandfather have been eagerly awaiting their arrival. In fact, all of the Mellstock men's choir will be meeting at Dick's house, assembling for the annual carol sing. The five villagers tell Dick that they are delighted at the thought of drinking from the new barrel of cider that Dick's father is going to tap for them.
This first chapter is largely introductory. Hardy begins his description of the lovely Mellstock landscape in the very first paragraph of the novel. He also establishes the harmonious co- existence of the villagers with one another and with nature. In fact, the song that Dick Dewy is singing recalls the kinship between human life and the seasons. The structure of the novel will actually follow the seasons.
The mood is immediately light and cheerful. The night is cold, crisp, and starry. Dick Dewy is obviously in a jovial mood as he sings a happy song. When he encounters other villagers, he is genuinely delighted to see them and tells them that his family eagerly awaits their arrival. The unusual physical characteristics of the rustic villagers are even humorously described by the author, adding to the light mood. There is a sense of festivity about everything, for the choir is gathering to have cider at the Dewy home and then proceeding to have their annual Christmas carol sing. This first chapter clearly establishes that Hardy is writing about a setting that he knows and loves.