Far from the Madding Crowd By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Chapter 4

Summary

Gabriel ascertained in town that the young woman was Bathsheba Everdene. "This well-favoured and comely girl soon made appreciable inroads upon the emotional constitution of young Farmer Oak." He waited to watch her each day at the milking and dreaded the time when the cow should go dry and Bathsheba would no longer come to the shed. He constantly repeated her name. "I'll make her my wife, or upon my soul I shall be good for nothing!"

Seeking an excuse to visit her, Gabriel decided to take as a gift a tiny lamb whose mother had died. He groomed himself with care and set forth, accompanied by his faithful dog, George. From behind a hedge near her house he heard a feminine voice calming a frightened cat. He called out that his dog was "as mild as milk," but nobody answered.

Once inside the house, Gabriel told the girl's aunt, Mrs. Hurst, of his desire to marry and inquired whether Bathsheba had suitors. Hoping to make a match, the aunt assured him that Bathsheba had many. Abashed, her would-be wooer replied, "That's unfortunate. . . . I'm only an everyday sort of man, and my only chance was in being the first comer." Forlorn, he walked away but was pursued by the tomboy calls of Bathsheba, who regretted having been away when he visited. Naively, she assured him that there were no other suitors. "'Really and truly I am glad to hear that!' said Farmer Oak, smiling . . . and blushing with gladness."

Earnestly, Gabriel promised her all manner of things, including a piano. Hesitating over some of the items, Bathsheba said at last, "I've tried hard all the time I've been thinking; for a marriage would be very nice in one sense. People would talk about me and think I had won my battle, and I should feel triumphant, and all that. But a husband — ." Finally Bathsheba admitted that she did not love Gabriel, and although the farmer said he would be happy if she just liked him, Bathsheba replied, "You'd get to despise me." Gabriel vehemently asserted, "Never. . . . I shall . . . keep wanting you till I die." He asked if he could come calling. She laughingly replied that that would be ridiculous, considering his feelings. "'Very well,' said Oak firmly. . . . 'Then I'll ask you no more.'"

Analysis

With pronounced humor, Hardy gives the details of Gabriel's courtship of Bathsheba. He spruces up for his visit, polishing the silver chain of his watch and cutting himself a new walking stick. Auntie's boasts of numerous suitors for Bathsheba; Gabriel's offers of a piano, newspaper notices, and cucumber frames; Bathsheba's eagerness to be a bride unencumbered by a husband these are all amusing and convincing bits of life. The scene also gives us a chance to see more of Bathsheba's vanity and an aspect of Gabriel we had not yet observed — pride.

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