Far from the Madding Crowd By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Chapter 3

Summary

Next morning, Gabriel heard the girl's pony coming up the hill. Guessing that she had come to look for her hat, he hurriedly searched for it and found it in a ditch. Returning to his hut, he watched the girl approach. To avoid low branches, she lay flat on the pony, her face to the sky. No proper Victorian lady would ride thus, but "the tall lank pony seemed used to such doings, and ambled along unconcerned. Thus she passed under the level boughs."

On the girl's return to the cattle shed, a farm boy exchanged a milking pail for the bags of cereal she brought. When she emerged from the hut with the pail full of milk, Gabriel approached to return the hat. They exchanged a few civilities, which ceased when the girl realized from Gabriel's clumsy speech that he had witnessed her unconventional riding performance. This blunder "was succeeded in the girl by a nettled palpitation, and that by a hot face." Considerately, Gabriel turned away from her blushes. When a slight sound made him turn back, she had gone. Crestfallen, he returned to his work.

Five days later, on a freezing day, the fatigued Gabriel came from his rounds into the hut. Putting extra fuel in his stove, he promised himself that he would adjust the ventilator, but he fell asleep before he did so. When he came to, his wet head was lying in the girl's lap. She explained that his dog, barking frantically, had fetched her from the milking shed and brought her to the hut. Finding no water, she had revived him with the milk. She reprimanded him for his carelessness but smiled when Gabriel tried to express his thanks and told her his name. The girl became a bit coquettish as he tried to shake her hand, but his ineptness and lack of sophistication in not trying to kiss it irked her once again. She left, her name still unknown to him.

Analysis

By having Oak continue to observe from a distance the object of his infatuation, Hardy is able to elaborate upon his description of the girl and her character. Her riding antics furnish a bit of comedy and also warn us that she is not a conventional young Victorian lady. There is a matter-of-factness in the girl's rescue of Oak and in her tart ridicule of his lack of judgment. Her coquettish behavior in the latter part of the chapter contrasts with her earlier hoydenism.

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