Far from the Madding Crowd By Thomas Hardy Summary and Analysis Chapter 50

Summary

Greenhill, the summit of a hill with an ancient rampart, was an ideal fair site. There were permanent buildings and also tents. Shepherds who had traveled with their flocks for days thronged in. The colors identifying the owners of the sheep formed a pleasing pattern. A pony wagon for first-aid to the sheep wove in and out. The sheep of Gabriel's two employers were admired for their breeding, beauty, and grooming.

As the day wore on and the sheep were sold, the shepherds turned their attention to a huge tent that would house the Royal Hippodrome's performances. Bands were playing and the crowds were tremendous, with folks like Poorgrass and Coggan adding to the shoving. Two performers' dressing rooms were at the rear of the tent. In one was a young man — Sergeant Troy.

Troy had signed on with the ship that had rescued him and "ultimately worked his passage to the United States, where he made a precarious living . . . as Professor of Gymnastics, Sword Exercise, Fencing, and Pugilism. A few months were sufficient to give him a distaste for this kind of life. . . . There was ever present, too, the idea that he could claim a home and its comforts did he but choose to return to England." He often wondered whether Bathsheba thought him dead.

Back in England now, he was reluctant to return to her; he expected her to be vengeful. He fell in with a traveling circus and became a daring rider. Billed as "Mr. Francis, The Great Cosmopolitan Equestrian and Roughrider," he found himself at Greenhill. Here he played the highwayman in an old love story.

Boldwood asked Bathsheba whether her sheep had done well. All were sold. Save for an appointment with a dealer, she was ready to leave. She inquired whether Boldwood had seen the play "Turpin's Ride to York" and whether the story was authentic. He assured her that it was and politely offered to get her a seat for the performance. This "reserved seat" proved to be on a raised bench covered with red cloth in a conspicuous section of the tent, and Bathsheba was the only person sitting there. She sat selfconsciously enthroned, her black skirts draped about her. Peeping from the dressing room, Troy saw her.

Troy explained to the show's manager that he could not go on because a creditor of his was in the audience. The manager, afraid to offend his leading man at this point, made a suggestion. "Go on with the piece and say nothing, doing what you can by a judicious wink now and then. . . . They'll never find out the speeches are omitted." Thus the "creditor" did not recognize him by his voice, and makeup and a beard disguised his appearance.

However, at the next performance Troy suspected that he had been recognized by his wife's former bailiff, Pennyways. Troy resolved to find the man and speak to him. When it was almost dark, he donned a thick beard and wandered about the grounds. Then he spied Bathsheba sitting in the refreshment tent. He found a point outside the tent where he could hear her, and he cut a small hole through the canvas so that he could see her. He saw Pennyways approach Bathsheba, who refused to listen to him. Pennyways then wrote her a note that said that her husband was alive. Impulsively, Troy reached under the edge of the canvas and snatched the note from Bathsheba's hand. Then he ran away. In the confusion, Troy found Pennyways, whispered with him, "and with a mutual glance of concurrence, the two men went into the night together."

Analysis

Hardy terms Greenhill the "Nijni Novgorod" of South Wessex; this refers to a town in Russia once famous for its annual fair.

Hardy's avowed purpose was to preserve all the culture and traditions of his countryside, and he put loving care into the planning of this elaborate chapter. One could argue that it contains too many coincidences, but it must be acknowledged that there are, as well, many colorful and realistic passages.

Troy is still impulsive and shrewd, but he lacks some of his former cockiness. He does not want Bathsheba to see him in his present circumstances. Although surprised at how attractive she still is to him, he wants to discover what he can about her financial situation before deciding whether or not to reveal that he is alive.

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After Troy and Bathsheba marry, what becomes of Fanny?




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