Under the Greenwood Tree: Themes
The relationship between Fancy and Dick is central to the love story, but it is also a means to represent the subtleties in class difference. Her background is one of education and learning a profession, whereas Dick has had no such advantages and hopes to continue in the same work as his father, as a tranter. When Geoffrey points out these inequities in their respective positions, Dick wonders at his own daring in presuming she would marry him.
Class, it would seem, means that she is superior to him. This superiority is short-lived, however, as Fancy is also seen to be easily seduced by material possessions and is less trustworthy than Dick knows her to be. In this respect, the class system is shown to be flawed and unfair as he believes himself to be lesser than her while the readers alone are made privy to her fall from grace.
By ending on the marriage between Dick and Fancy, and by spending most of the narrative dwelling on their courtship, the union of the sexes is depicted as a central thematic concern.
Although it occupies a central position, it should also be noted that the relations between the sexes are fraught with misunderstandings and at times a lack of communication. Men and women are seen to speak of the opposite sex in derogatory terms, and yet marriage is seen to also be inevitable and a tradition that links the past to the future.
The Passing of Time
This novel is set in a rural idyll that is for the most part light in tone, but this is often offset with the knowledge that this idyll is in a phase of transition and is possibly only ever a mythic time in the nostalgic past.
The displacement of the old order with the new is an ongoing theme as the choir of men are disbanded because of a desire for change, and, in the case of Shinar and the vicar, a desire for Fancy. Fancy comes to embody the concept of the new, of modernity, and the rousing voices of her female pupils on Christmas morning are just one example of how women represent the passing of time as men, the choir and simplicity are relegated in favor of modernity, technology and the new.