Under the Greenwood Tree Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Under the Greenwood Tree: Part Two Chapter 1 to 5

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Part Two: Spring


Summary: Chapter One ‘Passing By the School’, Chapter Two ‘A Meeting of the Choir’ and Chapter Three ‘A Turn in the Discussion’

As spring advances, Dick often walks near the school on his way to or from home. The nineteenth time of doing this he sees her at her window and receives a friendly greeting. At other times, he is rewarded with ‘an actual meeting face to face on the open ground’. He thinks about her ‘every little movements’ for hours later and is not sure how she feels about him.


Chapter Two refers to the main members of the Mellstock parish choir, who are standing outside Mr Penny’s workshop. His premises are described and it is explained that he has no sign over his door as ‘advertising in any shape was scorned’ as with ‘old banks and mercantile houses’: ‘... it would have been felt as beneath his dignity to paint, for the benefit of strangers, the name of an establishment the trade of which came solely by connection based on personal respect.’


The men talk about the vicar and one says ‘he’ is not to blame, she is as, “‘she’s the bitter weed’”. The changes brought in by the vicar are mentioned, such as how he does not let men put their hats in the font during service and now, the tranter says, “‘tis to turn us out of the quire neck and crop’”.


They move on to talk about the previous vicar, Mr Grinham, and how he never troubled them: “‘And he was a very honourable good man in not wanting any of us to come and hear him if we were all on-end for a jaunt or spree, or to bring the babies to be christened if they were inclined to squalling.’” Old William goes on to defend Mr Maybold, the latest vicar, and his son does the same as he recalls how he speaks to them whether they are dirty or clean. This chapter ends with them seeing Dick coming up the street.


In Chapter Three, the tranter says his son, Dick, is “‘a lost man’” and says it is his mother’s fault for inviting “‘the young woman’” to the party at Christmas. Mr Spinks turns the conversation slightly and asks how Mr Maybold knew that she (Fancy) could play the organ. When Dick approaches, they tell him of the ‘alteration’ and he blushes and says Miss Day particularly wished not to play because she is a friend of theirs.


The tranter proposes they go down to the vicar and say they know that every tradesman likes to have his own way in his workshop and the church is his. They just ask if they can stay on until Christmas and then give way to the young woman. They agree to this and decide to go to Reuben’s house for bacon and cider for fortification beforehand.


Analysis – Chapter One ‘Passing By the School’, Chapter Two ‘A Meeting of the Choir’ and Chapter Three ‘A Turn in the Discussion’

The earlier references to change and the fear of replacement are emphasized at this point as it transpires that Fancy is to play the organ in church and will replace the choir. The older tradition is set to be replaced by the more modern individual and with the help of technology. The choir is all but made redundant.


The choir’s allegiance to the past is also exemplified in Mr Penny’s decision to not submit to the practice of advertising his trade. By refusing to lower his dignity, in his interpretation, he avoids engaging with capitalism and lives according to his means. Both the choir and Mr Penny belong to an era which has disappeared, if it ever existed, and the narrative invites us to mourn over this loss of simplicity and relative innocence.




Summary – Chapter Four ‘The Interview With the Vicar’ and Chapter Five ‘Returning Homeward’

The next day at 6 pm they leave the tranter’s house and he tells them to keep in step as this looks better. They are shown into the vicar’s house and Reuben, William and Tommy Leaf go in to the study to talk with him.


After some preamble, Reuben tells the vicar how he likes to look things in the face, and gazes out of the window. William and the vicar do the same, ‘apparently under the impression that the thing’s face alluded to were there visible’. Reuben asks for the choir to be given more time, till Christmas, and “‘as a fair thing between man and man’”. The vicar says he will give them more time and has no personal fault to find with the choir. He does not want to change the church music in a “‘forcible’” manner and does not want to hurt his parishioners’ feelings either. He has spoken definitely on the subject at last because one of his churchwardens has brought to his notice that he knows a player of the organ.


Reuben says they understand the young lady did not want to play particularly and the vicar agrees and explains that the churchwarden “‘has been so anxious for a change’” that he could not keep refusing his consent. The vicar then blushes and explains he has also thought of asking Miss Day to play. On being questioned, he also tells them that it was Mr Shinar who wanted the change and Reuben exclaims and says he has no ear for music and adds that he took against the choir at Christmas. The vicar says he does not think Mr Shinar bears any ill feelings toward them.


The others come to the study door when they hear movement (when a pen falls on the floor). Mr Penny tells the vicar how his chin is bleeding from a shaving cut and everyone else looks too.


The vicar brings the conversation back to the choir and says he knows they will meet him half way and Michaelmas would be convenient for both parties. Reuben agrees and says, “‘then we make room for the next generation’”.


On the walk home, in Chapter Five, Reuben says that Shinar is “‘at the root of the mischief’” and sees that Shinar is for putting Miss Day forwards. Bowman blames ‘Fancy Day’ for them having to leave the gallery and Mr Penny says his wife thinks Mr Maybold is in love with Miss Day. They also talk of her (Fancy’s) father, Geoffrey, and how silent he is.


Analysis – Chapter Four ‘The Interview With the Vicar’ and Chapter Five ‘Returning Homeward’

As Reuben says, the choir must now ‘make room for the next generation’ as Fancy is to take over the playing of the organ in church at Michaelmas. This change will occur on the instigation of Shinar and at the final request of the vicar and so the choir are relegated to the past.


Fancy is used as the means to oust the choir, but by showing her preference the vicar and Shinar also demonstration an affection for her in their bid to elevate her in front of the congregation. All of these machinations occur while Fancy is off-stage, so to speak, and as yet is known only by her absence.



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