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MonkeyNotes-Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
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Chapter 28

At eight o'clock that evening, Bathsheba travels to some land near a hill opposite her home. The area is full of tall ferns. Still unsure of her decision to meet Troy, Bathsheba stops and turns homewards. She then thinks of the disappointment she would cause Troy by her absence and decides to stay and meet him. In truth, Troy is already present and ready with his sword.

As Troy demonstrates the sword drill, he also explains the movements. Bathsheba is thrilled by the excitement of Troy's performance. Troy tests her courage by flashing the sword close around her. Bathsheba is frightened, but she is not harmed. Troy finally ends his exercise by cutting off a lock of Bathsheba's hair and complimenting her bravery. As a caterpillar crawls over the front of Bathsheba's dress, Troy kills it with the point of his sword. Bathsheba is now completely powerless and sits down on the heather. As he is taking leave, Troy asks to keep her lock of hair, bends and steals a kiss from her, and swiftly disappears amidst the ferns. Bathsheba is upset, feeling like she has committed a sin.


Notes

The meeting for the sword demonstration finally establishes Bathsheba's relationship with Troy. He has a glamorous air, which contrasts glaringly with Oak's sturdy, practical, and abiding abilities and with Boldwood's calm and serious behavior. Bathsheba is so completely carried away by Troy and his showmanship and emotional appeal that she has to seat herself on the heather.

Hardy uses the sword as a sexual (phallic) symbol for the passion of Troy and Bathsheba. The standards of literary propriety of his time kept Hardy from a frank portrayal of erotic attraction; therefore, he cleverly describes it in the thinly disguised metaphor of a sword. Troy's taking a lock of her hair signifies that he has seeks something tangible of Bathsheba. In fact, women's hair has long been used in literature and song as a symbol of their sexuality. Bathsheba's strong sense of guilt at the end of the chapter does not come simply from a stolen kiss, but because of her own erotic feelings. Women were taught a strict division of roles; they were either mothers and wives, or they were prostitutes. The women of the former group were warned against displaying any of the traits of the latter group, especially sexual passion.

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MonkeyNotes-Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

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