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Main page » Fiction literature » Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy


The novel opens with the fiddlers and singers of the choir--including Dick, his father Reuben Dewy, and grandfather William Dewy--making the rounds in Mellstock village on Christmas Eve. When little band plays at the schoolhouse, young Dick falls for Fancy at first sight. Dick, smitten, seeks to insinuate himself into her life and affections, but Fancy's beauty has gained her other suitors, including a rich farmer and the new vicar at the parish church. The vicar, Mr. Maybold, informs the choir that he intends Fancy, an accomplished organ player, to replace their traditional musical accompaniment to Sunday services. The tranter and the rest of the band visit the vicar's home to negotiate, but reluctantly give way to the more modern organ. Meanwhile, Dick seems to win Fancy's heart, and she discovers an effective strategem to overcome her father's objection to the potential marriage. After the two are engaged secretly, however, vicar Maybold impetuously asks Fancy to marry him and lead a life of relative affluence; racked by guilt and temptation, she accepts. The next day, however, a chance meeting with the as-yet-unaware Dick, Maybold withdraws his proposal; and Fancy, simultaneously, has withdrawn her acceptance. The novel ends with a humorous portrait of Reuben, William, Mr. Day, and the rest of the Mellstock rustics as they celebrate the couple's wedding day. The mood is joyful, but at the end of the final chapter, the reader is reminded that Fancy has married with "a secret she would never tell" (her final flirtation and brief engagement to the vicar). While Under the Greenwood Tree is often seen as Hardy's gentlest and most pastoral novel, this final touch introduces a faint note of melancholy to the conclusion.

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