Under the Greenwood Tree Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Under the Greenwood Tree: Part Four Chapter 3 to 7

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Summary – Chapter Three ‘Fancy in the Rain’, Chapter Four ‘The Spell’ and Chapter Five ‘After Gaining Her Point’

The next scene is set the following month on a ‘tempestuous afternoon’. Fancy is walking from her father’s home towards Mellstock. She looks for shelter and goes to the nearest house, which is Elizabeth Endorfield’s. Here she thinks of how firm her father’s opposition has been to Dick. Nevertheless, they have seen each other since.


Mrs Endorfield is described as having a reputation of something ‘between distinction and notoriety’. She had ‘distinctly Satanic’ features and has been compared to a witch. She says to Fancy that she (Fancy) is down about her young man. Fancy says she wishes she could help her to put her father in “‘humour’” for it. Mrs Endorfield says she can help and “‘the charm is worked by common sense’”.  She gives Fancy a list of instructions which are not explained at this point and Fancy leaves saying she will follow them.


Mrs Endorfield’s advice is followed in Chapter Four. The advice is suggested when a Mellstock man tells Geoffrey he is sorry his daughter is not well and that she has no appetite. He goes to see her and has tea with her, and watches her ‘narrowly’. He sees her eat just one tenth of a slice of bread and butter and hopes she will say something about Dick, but she does not.


The following week Enoch says to Geoffrey that he hopes “‘poor Miss Fancy’” will be able to keep on at the school as he has heard from the baker that the amount of bread he has left her would starve a mouse. He has also heard she has had less butter too, and this is thought to have turned sour.


On Saturday, Geoffrey receives a note from Fancy saying not to send any rabbits as she fears she will not want them. Later in Casterbridge, he asks to pay her butcher’s bill as well as his own and he is surprised at how little she has ordered in a month.


He calls on Fancy, and Nan, the charwoman, tells him Fancy told her she is not getting up until the evening and says as she has given up eating she cannot work. He goes to Fancy’s room and notices how pale she is. He says how he did it for the best, in telling Dick he could not marry her, but he cannot let her die and if she wants him she will have him. ‘The invalid’ sighs and says she does not want Dick against her father’s will. He says it is not and that they may marry next Midsummer.


On leaving the schoolhouse, Geoffrey goes to the Dewy home and William answers. He says how Dick is not chatty anymore and is not the fellow he used to be. He asks him to let Dick know he wants him to come and see him tomorrow with Fancy, if she is well enough.


In Chapter Five, the visit to Geoffrey passes well and they have several days of happy courtship. The day of the Harvest Thanksgiving is chosen to be the day for ‘opening the organ’ in Mellstock Church and it so happens that Dick is called away to a funeral at this time. He lets Fancy know that he will miss her debut and she is described as bearing the news as best she can.


On the day, Dick takes a detour to see Fancy before she sets off and is ‘astonished’ at how well presented she is. After his initial delight, he has less comfortable feelings. He says if she had been going away he would not have cared to be better dressed than usual. He also says how different they are and she agrees that perhaps this is so. She asks for a kiss, and he agrees to this, and they go their separate ways for the day.


In church, the daughters of ‘the small gentry’ are critical of her hair, which is curled for the occasion, her hat and feather and the ‘sober matrons’ say, “‘a bonnet for church always!’” Fancy notices the vicar admire her, but is not aware he loves her as he has never loved a woman before.


The choir are no longer in the gallery and are dotted about the church, sitting with their relatives. They listen to Fancy play, but believe their simpler notes were more in keeping with ‘the simplicity of their old church’.


Analysis – Chapter Three ‘Fancy in the Rain’, Chapter Four ‘The Spell’ and Chapter Five ‘After Gaining Her Point’

The replacement of the choir is made complete when Fancy arrives to play the organ. It is of note that the choir no longer even sit together and are now dispersed among the congregation. Their unity is broken and the individual takes precedence over the group in this new order of things.


Fancy’s individuality is made all the more evident in her appearance and in her lack of concern of the censorious views of others, such as the ‘sober matrons’ and the daughters of ‘the small gentry’. She is depicted as vain and even flighty in her appearance, but inimical to this is a strength that will not be dominated by the opinion of others.




Summary – Chapter Six ‘Into Temptation’ and Chapter Seven ‘A Crisis’

Back in the schoolhouse after the service, Fancy thinks how weary she is of living alone and how ‘unbearable’ it would be to live with her father and stepmother again, and how it is another eight or nine long months before her wedding can take place.


She sits on a window sill and looks out at the rain. She sees Dick approach and they talk while he stands outside in the rain. He explains the mark on his coat is from the coffin as it was lowered into the ground. As he tells her this, she puts her hand to her mouth and covers a yawn, ‘for half a minute’. He asks for a kiss but cannot reach her as she does not want to expose her head to the rain. She offers her hand instead and they say goodbye. When he goes, she says to herself how poor and mean he looks wet through and without an umbrella.


Dick disappears and as she prepares to descend she looks in the other direction and sees another man dressed in black, with an umbrella, and is approaching her house. She cannot see his face, but notices the umbrella is made of ‘superior silk’. He knocks on the door and she answers to Mr Maybold the vicar.


He enters and says he has come to ask her to be his wife. Silence follows and she says she cannot. He asks her to not answer in a hurry and says he has loved her for more than 6 months and asks again if she will marry him. There is silence again and he implores her to not refuse. He also says they could move to Yorkshire and she could have whatever piano she liked, “‘anything to make you happy – pony-carriage, flowers, birds, pleasant society’”.


There is another pause and then she answers “‘yes, I will’”. He moves to embrace her and she says, “‘no, no, not now’”. She says the temptation is too strong to resist and asks him to leave. He waits until she controls herself and leaves saying he will come back tomorrow about this time.


The next morning, in Chapter Seven, the vicar writes a letter to his friend in Yorkshire and takes it to Casterbridge so as not to lose a day in its transmission. He meets Dick on the way and they walk together. The vicar says how successful the service had been the day before and Dick says he had wanted to be there because of Miss Day and the vicar does not know what he means. Dick explains that she is his sweetheart and they are going to be married next Midsummer. The vicar agrees that time slips along, but feels a cold and sickly thrill and realizes Fancy is ‘less an angel than a woman’.


Dick says he has good prospects and will be a regular manager of a branch of his father’s business. He has also had cards printed ‘to keep pace with the times’ and gives one to the vicar.


Dick takes a different path and the vicar stands on a bridge as he reads his card. After 10 minutes, he takes out the letter and tears it up into ‘minute fragments’ and drops them in the water. He then returns to the vicarage. He writes a letter to Fancy and informs her he knows she is not a free woman and asks whether she can ‘in justice to an honest man’ ‘honourably forsake him’.


He sends the note with a boy and on his way he passes another boy who is coming to the vicarage. He has a note from Fancy and in this she explains her ‘ambition and vanity’ and love of praise and wants to withdraw the answer she gave him last night. She also wants him to keep their meeting a secret. The last written communication between them is a note that states the following: ‘Tell him everything; it is best. He will forgive you’.


Analysis – Chapter Six ‘Into Temptation’ and Chapter Seven ‘A Crisis’

Fancy’s love of the material has been suggested up to this point, and strongly hinted at in the way she dresses, but it is the acceptance of the vicar’s marriage proposal that signals how tempted she is by expressions of wealth and luxury. To her credit, she changes her mind but the acceptance is noteworthy for highlighting how this novel critiques the temptations of capitalism. By being allowed to change her mind, Fancy is made an exception in the novel as the shift to a more capitalist society is seen recurrently here as inevitable as well as lamentable.


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