Under the Greenwood Tree: Top Ten Quotations

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  1. "To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature." p. 7 This first sentence of the first chapter introduces the readers to the rural backdrop of the novel. The reference to the individuality of trees is also a figurative means for introducing the individuality of the characters we are about to encounter.
  2. "Only the uninitiated body of men he addressed could understand the horrible bitterness of irony that lurked under the quiet words ‘useless ones’, and the ghastliness of the laughter apparently so natural." p. 34 At this point, the men in the choir in the gallery have just been challenged by the united sound of the schoolgirls singing.
  3. "Dick wondered how it was that when people were married they could be so blind to romance; and was quite certain that if he ever took to wife that dear impossible Fancy, he and she would never be so dreadfully practical and undemonstrative of the Passion as his father and mother were." p. 48 Dick’s youth and newness to the experience of love is encapsulated in this criticism he has of his parents.
  4. "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."p. 54 Mr Penny’s scorn for advertising dates the period as one not yet fully consumed by commercialism. Capitalism in this instance has not become the norm and is withstood still by such an older member of the parish.
  5.  "After a silence that was only disturbed by the fall of an apple, a long-checked sigh from Dick, and a sob from Fancy, he said with real austerity, “tell it all; – every word!”."p. 104 The reference to the apple is evocative of Eden, although Fancy’s temptation is more to do with her desire to claim she has been tempted than having actually committed a sin of betrayal.
  6. "If ever a woman looked a divinity, Fancy Day appeared one that morning as she floated down those school steps, in the form of a nebulous collection of colours inclining to blue. With an audacity unparalleled in the whole history of schoolmistresses – partly owing, no doubt, to papa’s respectable accumulation of cash, which rendered her profession not altogether one of necessity – she had actually donned a hat and feather, and lowered her hitherto plainly looped-up hair, which now fell about her shoulders in a profusion of curls." p. 132 Fancy’s elaborate dress is detailed and because of this she is critiqued in the narrative as both a coquette and yet also independent of the opinion of others. Her ornamental demeanour is, then, depicted as double-sided as she both heralds in the future of independent women, but is also one who depends on the flattery of men.
  7. "Having nothing to do with conducting the service for almost the first time in their lives, they all felt awkward, out of place, abashed, and inconvenienced by their hands." p. 134 The choir have been replaced by modernity in the shape of Fancy playing the organ, and these men are now seen to symbolize how those from the recent past are now regarded as out of date and redundant. Modernity and capitalism puts an end to the way of life they are used to, and, it is suggested here and elsewhere, independent women are tied to this change.
  8. "After a few timid notes and uncertain touches her playing became markedly correct, and towards the end full and free. But, whether from prejudice or unbiased judgement, the venerable body of musicians could not help thinking that the simpler notes they had been wont to bring forth were more in keeping with the simplicity of their old church than the crowded chords and interludes it was her pleasure to produce." p. 134 The judgement of the displaced choir reveals a correlation between tradition and simplicity, and with modernity and complexity. Their replacement by Fancy heralds a change that they are seen to be powerless to resist.
  9. "Now among dark perpendicular firs, like the shafted columns of a cathedral; now under broad beeches in bright young leaves, they threaded their way: …" p. 153-54 In this quotation, the wedding party make their way to and from the church and is an instance of an old custom being retained despite Fancy’s initial reluctance. The reference to the ‘columns of a cathedral’ suggests a pantheism that is liberated from the confines of a church.
  10. "The propriety of every one was intense, by reason of the influence of Fancy, who, as an additional precaution in this direction, had strictly charged her father and the tranter to carefully avoid saying “thee” and “thou” in their conversation, on the plea that those ancient words sounded so very humiliating to persons of decent taste; …" p. 155 Fancy’s preference for propriety resembles that of Mrs Dewy’s earlier in the novel. Fancy is seen, however, to have pressed further with the requests that her family behave according to the rules of normative class-based behavior. 

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