Summary and Analysis Chapter 42



The workhouse had a small rear door three or four feet from the ground. Here, at about three o'clock, a bright wagon containing flowers drew up. Joseph Poorgrass backed the wagon to the door, and a plain coffin was lifted into it. A man wrote on the coffin with chalk, then covered it with a worn black cloth, and someone handed Joseph a certificate. He placed the flowers over the coffin and drove off. A heavy mist was falling, and gray gloom and quiet enveloped the wagon.

Passing through Roy-Town, Joseph came to Buck's Head Inn, a mile and a half from his destination. With great relief, he stopped at the inn. There, to his delight, were "two coppercoloured discs, in the form of the countenances of Mr. Jan Coggan and Mr. Mark Clark. These owners of the most appreciative throats in the neighborhood, within the pale of respectability," hailed him as he entered. Joseph explained that his peaked look was caused by the load he was driving. They drank, and drank again. Joseph said he had to be at the churchyard at a quarter to five, but the men went on discussing life, death, and theology. Poorgrass grew less concerned with time.

As the clock struck six, Oak arrived. He reproved the men, but, with drunken logic, Coggan explained that all the hurrying in the world couldn't help a dead woman. Joseph was now singing. He denied being drunk but said his malady of a "multiplying eye" had caught up with him. Oak drove the wagon back, reflecting on the rumor that Fanny had run away to follow a soldier. Due to Oak's and Boldwood's tact, Troy had not been identified as the man, and Oak hoped the secret would be kept.

When Gabriel reached Bathsheba's house, it was too late for the burial, and so Bathsheba ordered the coffin brought into the house, for to leave it in the coach-house seemed unfeeling. Troy had not yet returned.

Oak and three other men carried the coffin in, Gabriel lingered on alone, overcome by the irony of it all, and looked again at the writing on the lid. The scrawl said simply, "Fanny Robin and child." He took his handkerchief and carefully rubbed out the last two words, leaving visible only the inscription "Fanny Robin."


Even in death it seems that there can be no rest for Fanny. In her coffin, she still travels the roads of Wessex. Appropriately, it is Oak who comes to her aid in death, just as he once did in life; and, finally, her body is given lodging within a house.

Though their behavior seems rather callous, the men at the inn are merely accepting Fanny's death (as they have doubtless accepted many others) as the will of Nature. These people, instinctively close to Nature, accept the results of her actions without question.