Summary and Analysis
"Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant women love when they abandon their self-reliance. When a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away. One source of her inadequacy is the novelty of the occasion. She had never had practice in making the best of such a condition. Weakness is doubly weak by being new."
Bathsheba had talked of Boldwood to Liddy, but she spoke to no one of Troy. Gabriel, however, noticed and sorrowed over this new infatuation. He decided to talk with Bathsheba, basing his appeal on her unfairness to Boldwood.
Oak met Bathsheba one evening when she went for a walk. He spoke of bad characters in the neighborhood, wishing to imply that Troy was one of them. He said that in the absence of Boldwood, who would normally protect her, he thought it advisable to take on this role himself. Bathsheba assured him that no wedding with Boldwood was in prospect; she said she had given the farmer no answer.
Gabriel cited Troy's unworthiness. He considered him to be a man without conscience and on a downward course in life. Bathsheba countered his arguments. Oak begged her to be discreet: "Bathsheba, dear mistress, this I beg you to consider — that, both to keep yourself well honoured among the workfolk, and in common generosity to an honourable man who loves you as well as I, you should be more discreet in your bearing towards this soldier."
Again Bathsheba wanted to dismiss Oak for meddling, and again he agreed to go, but only if she were to hire a good bailiff. When she refused to do so, Gabriel refused to leave the farm. Then, "as a woman," she asked him to leave her alone. Gabriel saw her meet Troy but, not wishing to eavesdrop, he left.
Troy had told Bathsheba that he attended church secretly, entering by the side door. Gabriel, doubting Troy's truthfulness, checked this door; he found it overgrown with ivy and therefore impossible to enter.
We admire Gabriel for his honesty, fairness, and courage in confronting Bathsheba with her dalliance with Troy. Oak is almost certain that she will not heed him, but he deems it his duty to speak. We understand his point of view when his lack of faith in Troy's veracity is corroborated.