Under the Greenwood Tree: Part Five Chapter 1 to 2
Part Five: ‘Conclusion’
Summary – Chapter One ‘The Knot There’s No Untying’ and Chapter Two ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’
On the last day of the story there is a gathering at Geoffrey’s home and the people include the Dewys, Mr Penny and some country ladies and gentlemen.
All the duplicate pieces of furniture have been moved out and Fancy is upstairs being dressed. The women talk about the previous readings of the banns and Fancy says how she is nervous and wonders how she will get through it. She also exclaims about people talking about other people, and is told “‘well, if you make songs about yourself, my dear, you can’t blame other people for singing ‘em’”.
Fancy goes on to worry about Dick coming on time and the men downstairs can hear and tease her of how men have been known to not turn up. The best man appears and tells her to not worry. He says Dick will not be long and has been delayed because the hive of bees his mother gave him has swarmed and he said he could not afford to lose them. He thought Fancy would not want this to happen either. Geoffrey says how Dick is a “‘genuine wise man’”.
Dick comes to the house and speaks of the size of the swarm and moves on to say that he cannot think what he has done to offend Mr Maybold. He explains that when the vicar first came to the parish he took to Dick and used to say he should like to see Dick married and would marry him whether his intended lived in the parish or not. He reminded him when he put in the banns but he did not seem to take kindly to the idea. Fancy only says, “‘I wonder’” and is described as ‘looking into vacancy’ and has beautiful eyes, ‘too refined and beautiful for a tranter’s wife; but, perhaps, not too good’.
It is a custom to walk around the parish in twos (with a partner) after the ceremony, but Fancy says she cannot make a show of herself in this way. The others say how they did it and she says, “‘respectable people’” do not, but as her mother did she will.
As they leave the house, it is noted that Reuben is wearing gloves, a ‘hall-mark of respectability’, for the first time and at Fancy’s request. Fancy says it is proper for the bridesmaids to walk together and others of the older generation dispute this and say it was always a man walking with a woman. Dick says it is up to Fancy to decide, and is described as seeming to be ‘willing to renounce all other rights in the world’ now that he is on the point of marrying her. She says she would rather have it as her mother did, and every man is now with his maid. They walk among the dark perpendicular firs.
In the final chapter, the scene is set after the ceremony and there is a party in Geoffrey’s garden. This goes on into the evening and Fancy influences how those gathered behave with ‘propriety’. Furthermore, she tries to wear a ‘matronly expression’.
At the end of the meal, Dick and Fancy prepare to leave for Dick’s new cottage near Mellstock and he asks how long she will take to put on her bonnet. The novel ends with them driving away and Dick says they are so happy because “‘there is such entire confidence between us’”. He dates this from the time she confessed to that little flirtation with Shinar and has thought since then how “‘artless and good’” she is for telling him such “‘a trifling thing’”. Fancy says how she can hear something, a nightingale, ‘and thought of a secret she should never tell’.
Analysis – Chapter One ‘The Knot There’s No Untying’ and Chapter Two ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’
The marriage between Dick and Fancy concludes the novel and this is perhaps in keeping with the tone of a narrative that begins at Christmas and ends with a traditionally happy ending.
This ending is, of course, made more complex than it appears, however, as Dick’s forthright trust of Fancy is based on his supposition that their relationship is based on honesty. Her secret acceptance of the vicar’s marriage proposal invites the readers to question the sanctity of marriage and to look at this particular ending as one that unites the lovers but casts a shadow over the notion of true love.