Under the Greenwood Tree: Metaphors

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The bees are killed by Geoffrey Day in order for him to take their honey. He argues it is better to kill them outright than to make them suffer twice by stunning then reviving them and then dying another time.


This killing of the bees is detailed, and is criticized by Fancy, and the act comes to represent a rural industry that involves the control of nature by humans.  It is demonstrably brutal and yet according to Geoffrey humanity is involved, as with this older method the bees only have to suffer once. Their deaths symbolize the way humans harness the natural world even for something as sweet as honey, and highlight how the rural way of life depends on such methods.


Church Choir

The choir is depicted as a living relic of the past and the novel charts the time when the men who constitute the choir are ousted by the organ on the suggestion of Shinar, and in practice by the Vicar and Fancy Day.


When the choir is of no further use in the church, the men sit in the nave with their families. They are dispersed in the crowd and their unity is literally and figuratively shattered.


Fancy Day

Fancy is both a significant, central character and a symbol of the future. She represents the new times in that she is an independent woman earning a living as a teacher. Further to this, she is also a symbol of a new order because as the organist in church she ousts the past as represented by the choir. The organ is also a representative of what is to come in that this is a piece of technology that replaces the work and voices of a group of men.


Fancy’s role is somewhat complex, though, as she also finally marries Dick. With this marriage, both the past and future are given consideration and the novel allows conclusively for rural life, tradition and the past to be included in the times to come.


Mr Maybold’s Umbrella

When Dick stops to speak to Fancy on his way home from a funeral he stands outside in the rain and is soaked through. Shortly after, Mr Maybold calls on Fancy and she notices immediately how his possession of an umbrella marks him out from Dick. She also makes a mental note of how it is made of silk.


The umbrella is a rudimentary signifier of the class difference between Dick and the vicar, and it is also a reminder of how easily Fancy is swayed by material possessions. Readers are invited to assume that Fancy is influenced by such luxuries because she is a woman, and is therefore made into a stereotype of a woman who is easily seduced by privilege. As one who represents the future, Fancy is also seen to typify one of her class and her time, as one who is seduced by wealth and the possession of it. Her marriage to Dick is a final saving grace.

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