Summary and Analysis Chapter 17



On Saturday at the market, Boldwood saw Bathsheba. "Adam had awakened from his deep sleep, and behold! there was Eve. . . . and for the first time he really looked at her." He found her beautiful, but, unaccustomed to judging women, "he furtively said to a neighbor, 'Is Miss Everdene considered handsome?'" The neighbor assured him that she was. Boldwood was overcome by jealousy as he watched her talking with a young farmer.

Bathsheba was aware of having made an impression and regretted her capriciousness. "She that day nearly formed the intention of begging his pardon. . . . The worst features of this arrangement were that, if he thought she ridiculed him, an apology would increase the offense by being disbelieved; and if he thought she wanted him to woo her, it would read like additional evidence of her forwardness."


Hardy briefly shows the new awareness of Bathsheba and Boldwood for each other, and thus gives a new twist to the plot. We begin to realize that Boldwood is extraordinarily naive about women and probably would be impervious to most pursuit simply because he would not know it for what it was. But Bathsheba's bold "Marry me" is, if nothing else, direct. The frivolity of her gesture is lost on Boldwood, just as the possibility that a careless act might have tragic consequences was lost on Bathsheba.