Far from the Madding Crowd By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Chapter 21

Summary

Gabriel had been gone about twenty-four hours when, on Sunday, men came running to Bathsheba to report that many of her sheep had broken into a field of clover. "'And they be getting blasted,' said Henery Fray. . . . 'And will all die as dead as nits, if they bain't got out and cured!' said Tall."

Bathsheba shouted at the men for not having gone directly to the fields to do something about it. Despite her velvet dress, she too ran to the fields. The animals were very ill. When she asked what to do, the men told her that the sheep had to be pierced to be relieved, and that only Oak knew how to perform this operation. Bathsheba was furious. She thought of Boldwood, but the men told her that some of his animals had been similarly affected by vetch the other day, and he had sent for Gabriel. Still Bathsheba refused to consider this. Suddenly a sheep fell dead, and Bathsheba sent a message ordering Oak to come.

The men waited until Laban Tall returned with word that Gabriel would not come unless properly asked. After another sheep died, Bathsheba wrote the request and added at the bottom: "Do not desert me, Gabriel!"

When Gabriel appeared, Bathsheba looked at him with gratitude but reproved him for his unkindness. He went at once to lance the animals. He did forty-nine successful operations. There was only one mishap. Four other sheep had died before his arrival. Fifty-seven sheep were saved.

"'Gabriel, will you stay on with me?' she said, smiling winningly, and not troubling to bring her lips together again at the end, because there was going to be another smile soon.

"'I will,' said Gabriel.

"And she smiled on him again."

Analysis

The chapter serves less to point up Bathsheba's strongmindedness than as a picture of the vicissitudes of farm life and an appraisal of the constancy of duty on a farm. Gabriel's delay is a matter of discipline, to show Bathsheba that she is dependent on the skills of others and must deal fairly with them.

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