Far from the Madding Crowd

by: Thomas Hardy

Chapters 49 to 51

Summary Chapters 49 to 51

Boldwood contrives to take Bathsheba home from the fair, and on the way, he reminds her that Troy is dead and asks her whether she would consider marrying him. He asks her to take pity on him, even though she does not love him. Bathsheba is intimidated by him almost to the point of fear, and through timidity and guilt, she tells him, "I will never marry another man whilst you wish me to be your wife, whatever comes--but to say more--" It is another half- promise. Finally, she agrees to tell him for certain at Christmas whether she is willing to marry him six years later.

Bathsheba asks Gabriel for advice a few weeks later, telling him that if she does not give Boldwood her word, she thinks he will go out of his mind. Gabriel replies that "The real sin, ma'am, in my mind, lies in thinking of every wedding wi' a man you don't love honest and true." After their conversation, Bathsheba feels piqued that Gabriel has not mentioned his own love for her.

The Greenhill Fair chapter, Chapter 50, contains an enormous amount of factual information about life in Dorsetshire. One of Hardy's projects in this novel is to preserve a detailed account of the rural habits of the region that he saw becoming extinct in an age of increasing industrialization. The agricultural economy would suffer in the late 1800s through competition with produce from other countries. Faster transportation and technological advances in refrigeration meant that by 1900, the English no longer had to subsist on food grown on British soil alone. The agricultural fair, then, is a ritual that Hardy sees dying out, and the chapter serves as a sort of historical document or record.

Much of the plot of this chapter is built around unlikely coincidence: Troy meeting up with Bathsheba, being recognized by Pennyways but not by his wife, being able to steal the note that Pennyways gives Bathsheba. The intense acceleration of events in this part of the novel makes it seem far less realistic than the slower, more carefully drawn scenes in the novel. Yet Hardy's somewhat contrived states of affairs allow him to experiment with interesting psychological situations. The way the characters respond to their strange circumstances sheds light on their personalities and minds. For example, the fact that Troy persists in hiding from Bathsheba, despite being in her immediate presence, exposes the depth of his callousness: he has not seen her in months, she is in mourning for him, and yet he still waits to see how financially well-off she is before making his presence known.

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