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MonkeyNotes-Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
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Chapter 18

Boldwood lives alone in Little Weatherbury farm. He is a tenant farmer, considered an aristocratic member of the landed gentry, and enjoys a lot of respect in the community. His fine stock of horses is proof of his prosperity. Boldwood leads an ordinary, peaceful life, which suits his calm temper. Although very serious by nature, he is known as a kind man. If his mental balance is disturbed, however, he reacts with extreme emotion, as seen in his reaction to the valentine. His feelings of love are strongly aroused by the card he receives. Bathsheba herself would never guess how serious an effect her teasing valentine has made.

On an early spring day during the time the sheep set out to graze, Boldwood looks out into the far, level meadows. He sees three figures, those of Miss Everdene, Shepherd Oak, and Cainy Ball. The sight of Miss Everdene causes an emotional reaction in Boldwood and he decides to go and speak to her boldly. As he approaches the meadow gate, he notices that Oak and his mistress are engaged in the task of getting a lamb to adopt a ewe as mother, for the ewe has lost her own lamb. One of the twins of another ewe is given as a substitute. When Bathsheba notices Boldwood, she blushes. Gabriel observes the change in Bathsheba's expression and looks up to find the cause. Oak immediately relates this meeting to Bathsheba's card that he has earlier seen; he thinks that Bathsheba has been toying with Boldwood's feelings.

Boldwood himself is overcome by shyness when he sees the two of them. He acts confused and is unable to speak because of overwhelming emotion. He, therefore, turns away and walks from the field. Bathsheba, on the other hand, is quite sure that Boldwood has come around to meet her on purpose. She is disturbed by the strange action of his leaving and determines to discourage him in his attentions to her. Unfortunately, Bathsheba's foolishness has set off a train of circumstances that are already beyond her control.


Notes

In this chapter, Hardy further develops his main characters. Boldwood's deep and serious nature is depicted. He has worried tremendously about the valentine and resolves to confront Bathsheba about it. When he approaches her, however, he is overcome with emotion and cannot utter a word. The author also reveals that Bathsheba is not so silly and flirtatious as some of her actions make her out to be. She realizes the foolishness of her sending the valentine and thinks about apologizing to Boldwood. She is bothered, however, that she does not seem to have Boldwood in her control. She is sure he has come to the field to see her, and yet he walks away without paying her much attention. She is bothered by his strangeness, which foreshadows his later actions in the book; she decides to discourage any future attention he might show her. It is ironic that in the first chapters of the book, Bathsheba was bothered by Boldwood's not paying attention to her; now she is haunted by his interest. Oak is uncomfortable about the encounter and senses that Bathsheba has been toying with Boldwood's emotions. It is one of the first negative thoughts he has had about his boss.

The chapter also provides another look into the pastoral landscape. Hardy gives an interesting description of the "taking" of the lamb.

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MonkeyNotes-Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

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