Summary and Analysis
"The more emphatic the renunciation, the less absolute its character." This Gabriel learned when he heard that Bathsheba had gone to Weatherbury. Why or for how long she had gone, he did not know. His affection mounted, but he maintained his even temper.
The lambing phase of the sheepfarming over, he returned home for the luxury of sleeping in a real bed. He called the dogs, but only George responded. The younger dog, George's son, completely unlike his sire, was probably still eating a lamb carcass, a rare treat. George was competent and imbued with a sense of his responsibilities. The younger dog still lacked comprehension of what was expected of him.
Gabriel was roused from a sound sleep by the violent ringing of sheep bells. He rushed out, following the sound until he came to a broken rail at the edge of a chalk pit. Young George, evidently inspired by his meal, had zealously chased the sheep, driving them over the brink. Gabriel looked into the deep chasm. There, dead and dying, lay two hundred ewes, all heavy with an equal number of prospective young. There also lay all his hopes for a farm of his own. Gabriel's "first feeling . . . was one of pity for the untimely fate of these gentle ewes and their unborn lambs." Later, without rancor, he did his duty: He destroyed the dog.
Gabriel calculated that selling all his belongings and utensils would just cover the claims of the dealer who had staked him to his first independent venture. The debt was paid, "leaving himself a free man with the clothes he stood up in, and nothing more."
Similar to Hardy's use of color to portray external appearance is his philosophy as to the sensitivity of men and animals. Each creature has a sense of its purpose in life, to a greater or lesser degree. Thus, George's son must be destroyed to prevent further destruction, since he lacks all instinct for his trusted, position.