In a remote corner of early Victorian England, where traditional practices remain untouched by time, Bathsheba Everdene stands out as a beacon of feminine independence and self-reliance. However, when confronted with three suitors, among them the dashing Captain Troy, she shows a reckless capriciousness which threatens the stability of the whole community. Published in 1874, and an immediate best-seller, Far From the Madding Crowd established Thomas Hardy as one of Britain's foremost novelists.
Far From The Madding Crowd tells the story of Bathsheba Everdene, a beautiful and independent young woman who is sought by three very different suitors. Gabriel Oak is the first man to fall in love with her, and after her rejection he falls upon hard times and is forced to seek work as a shepherd. Of course it is Bathsheba who eventually hires him. Her second suitor is one Farmer Boldwood, a moody and passionate man who is awakened to Bathsheba's charms by a foolish Valentine's Day card she sends him, quite in jest. And the third is a dashing officer, Sergeant Francis Troy, who is as captivating and handsome as he is selfish.
Hardy really takes the time to set up his characters, and they are all very well written. Bathsheba in particular is a fascinating creation. In some ways she is quite a little feminist, having no inducement to the marriage state in the abstract that would tempt her to seize the chance when it is offered her. And after she catches her bailiff stealing, Bathsheba is determined to run her inherited farm herself — an unprecedented act for a woman in that time. But Hardy was something of a misogynist, and often peppers his narrative with derogatory comments about the female sex. One such example is this:
"'It was not exactly the fault of the hut,' she observed in a tone which showed her to be that novelty among women — one who finished a thought before beginning the sentence which was to convey it."
"When women are in a freakish mood, their usual intuition, either from carelessness or inherent defect, seemingly fails to teach them this, and hence it was that Bathsheba was fated to be astonished today."
Everything sensible and strong and intelligent about Bathsheba — and she is all of these things, despite her many faults — is presented as an aberration in her sex. I don't like to judge works by the standards of a different time, but I certainly was occasionally annoyed with this misogyny. Other times, once I understood Hardy was like that, it amused more than offended me.
Hardy's deep cynicism is not just directed toward women. God comes in for a fair share of the blame; Boldwood's disastrous encounters with Troy are called "Heaven's persistent irony" toward him. It is the gargoyles on the church, monstrosities sanctioned by religion, that are responsible for the horrific accident that disfigures Fanny's grave. Because of this mutilation, Troy's half-formed good resolutions produced by Fanny's death are instantly dashed, and the fault laid at Heaven's door:
"To turn about would have been hard enough under the greatest providential encouragement; but to find that Providence, far from helping him into a new course, or showing any wish that he might adopt one, actually jeered his first trembling and critical attempt in that kind, was more than nature could bear."
Apparently it is God's fault for not preventing this accident from occurring, for not helping this near-penitent on his new road. Indeed, it is almost as if God wants Troy to be damned and takes active steps to ensure that it is so. This is classic Hardy.
And yet religion is not portrayed in a uniformly bad light; Gabriel is observed by Bathsheba in the very act of kneeling in prayer, in direct contrast to her agitated and rebellious frame of mind. The reader is left with the idea that this bedtime prayer is a ritual of Gabriel's, and that it has a not inconsiderable share in helping him face his troubles calmly and with dignity. The focus here is on the man, however, and not the God to whom he is praying.
From the first Hardy sets up his characters on a large stage, not so much in their provincial surroundings but by the literary references he uses to describe them. When Gabriel Oak first sees Bathsheba from a distance, he is pictured as "Milton's Satan" watching Eve from a bird's-eye view. When Bathsheba arouses Boldwood's interest, he is compared to Adam awakening from his sleep to behold Eve. Frank Troy is called a "juggler of Satan" by Boldwood, who is then described as "an unhappy Shade in the Mournful Fields by Acheron." Other literary references abound, especially when Hardy describes Gabriel's slow intellectual development and the titles he studies (among them Paradise Lost, Pilgrim's Progress, and Robinson Crusoe). The reader is given to understand that these few titles have a profound effect on Oak and change him from the morally pliable man of the opening chapters to something of a solid rock, dependable and upright in all he does.
Despite the darker themes, Hardy is not all doom and gloom. His sense of humor is most often displayed in the rustic country folk of Wessex, whose mannerisms and foibles are treated with fond indulgence. One character, Joseph Poorgrass, suffers from what he calls "the multiplying eye" — a condition that only assails him in taverns when he's had a bit too much to drink. The relationships among these country folk are also portrayed in a comical light; one instance is the way the worthies of the village try to calm the affronted maltster by agreeing he is the oldest man they know. Young Cainy Ball's breathless recital of what he had seen in Bath is a small masterpiece of comedy, as he chokes and sprays his listeners with crumbs, and is remonstrated for his careless breathing and eating habits. Hilarious!
"'Now, Cainy!' said Gabriel, sternly. 'How many more times must I tell you to keep from running so fast when you be eating? You'll choke yourself some day, that's what you'll do, Cain Ball.'
'Hok-hok-hok!' replied Cain. 'A crumb of my victuals went the wrong way — hok-hok!, That's what 'tis, Mister Oak! And I've been visiting to Bath because I had a felon on my thumb; yes, and I've seen — ahok-hok!'"
In addition to the funny parts, there are some insightful and deftly written passages, like these:
"The suddenness was probably more apparent than real. A coral reef which just comes short of the ocean surface is no more to the horizon than if it had never been begun, and the mere finishing stroke is what often appears to create an event which has long been potentially an accomplished thing."
"A man's body is as the shell; or the tablet, of his soul, as he is reserved or ingenuous, overflowing or self-contained. There was a change in Boldwood's exterior from its former impassibleness; and his faceshowed that he was now living outside his defences for the first time, and with a fearful sense of exposure. It is the usual experience of strong natures when they love."
I listened to this on audiobook published by Tantor Media and read by John Lee. I very much enjoyed his narration, though I did find the lengthy descriptions of nature to drag a bit. Lee's character voices are excellent, with the exception of the female characters; a deep-voiced man just can't create a believably feminine voice.
I don't think I will ever enthusiastically recommend Hardy; he isn't an author whose works can really be loved, at least not by me. But they do have a quality about them that invites contemplation, mainly of the flaws of humankind and the apparently indifferent God reigning over the chaos we make of our lives. It's a different perspective for me, and one that I find deeply unattractive — and yet fascinating, in a grim sort of way. Hardy will never be a comfort read for me, but he does provoke thought, if not exactly admiration.
When Bathsheba Everdene, a beautiful young woman full of life inherits a farm and moves to the remote country she creates chaos in the hearts of the local men. She finds that her overseer has been stealing from the farm and fires him, determined to run the farm herself.
Gabriel, a local sheep farmer who is poor but rich in integrity soon proposes marriage to her but Bathsheba refuses him. She is not in love with him though she likes him very much.
Later she mischievously sends a valentine card to the wealthy farmer Boldwood. He too falls in love and becoming obsessed with her also proposes marriage. She refuses him as well for the same reason. She is not in love with him.
Then a handsome and charming young scoundrel of a
man, Sergeant Troy appears and Bathsheba falls madly
in love with him. They secretly wed but Bathsheba soon discovers that his one true love is one of her maids and that he is still in love with her.
Bathsheba eventually learns that Sergeant Troy is an unfaithful small minded husband who can be trusted neither with her heart nor her farm. When the young maid Fanny, who loved the Sergeant is discovered dying giving birth to his stillborn child he becomes terribly and inconsolably remorseful and leaves Bathsheba.
But this classic has much more to it than just the romantic interests. There is much about the farming and husbandry of those days that I found to be quite interesting. There are crops to be grown and harvested. There are also the interactions between all of the people in the novel.
My least favorite character was Bathsheba herself. She was a fairly flat character and even the peasant folk seemed to have more body to them.
I found this book to be lively & exciting which I know is quite the opposite of how some view Hardy's work. However I really enjoyed it and recommend it to those of you who enjoy the classics and to all Hardy lovers.
Gabriel Oak is a young farmer when he first sees Bathsheba Everdene. She is coming to stay with her aunt who is a neighbour of Gabriel's. Gabriel is quite taken by Bathsheba and he asks her to marry him. She declines saying that she has nothing and he is on his way up in the world and should have a wife who would help him achieve his goals. Soon after the tables turn. Gabriel loses everything he has and Bathsheba inherits her uncle's farm near Weatherbury. Fortune brings them together again with Gabriel working for Bathsheba. However, since Gabriel now has no prospects he cannot hope to marry her but he does everything he can to make sure her farm prospers. A neighbouring farmer, Mr. Boldwood, takes notice of Bathsheba and also proposes to her. She doesn't turn him down outright and indicates she might accept his offer in the future. Then along comes Sargeant Troy who grew up in Weatherbury. He is a dashing, good looking soldier and Bathsheba is swept off her feet. She marries Troy but soon regrets her decision. She also regrets how she treated Mr. Boldwood. Troy disappears in circumstances that make it appear he has died. Boldwood again asks Bathsheba to marry him when she is legally able and this time Bathsheba agrees even though she is honest with him that she does not love him. Then Troy reappears while Boldwood is throwing a Christmas party. Boldwoood shoots Troy and kills him. He is sentenced to be hung but after his neighbours petition for clemency his death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment. Oak is finally rewarded for his patient love and support of Bathsheba and they marry.
Hardy's descriptions of the countryside and the farming operations are so vivid that I could picture them exactly. Some of the scenes that really stood out for me were the storm on the night of the harvest celebration and the sheep-shearing scene. Perhaps having grown up on a farm that, although more modern still carried out those essential tasks, made it easier for me. It will be interesting to see if the other members of my book club who, for the most part, are urban raised felt the same way.
My first experience with Hardy came from Tess of the d'Urbervilles, which completely surprised me. I loved it. But it had been a while since then so I opened this one without a great deal of expectation despite the 'classic' status. After finding the first couple of chapters a little slow, general setting the scene type chapters, by the time we met Bathsheba again on her own farm I was really enjoying it.
Bathsheba Everdene is spirited and independent and fiercely determined to be able to run her uncle's farm after firing the stealing bailiff (manager). This was the part of her I most admired. She cared about the farm and her employees, she was resourceful and clever - I hadn't realised that female characters like her popped up in literature from the 1800s. What let me down was her stupidity when it came to men (although I realise without this there may have been no story!)
Gabriel Oak is our other main character in this story, and in him I can find few faults. His loyalty to Bathsheba may be considered a bit extreme but at least he wasn't crazy like Farmer Boldwood. No matter Gabriel's feelings, he put them aside to do his work and to build a friendship with Bathsheba that is perhaps one of my favourite literary friendships. He was the only one who would be completely honest with her and she respected his opinion even if she didn't always like it. What progressed seemed very natural, unlike her romances with Sergeant Troy and poor infatuated Farmer Boldwood, who I felt sorry for but really needed to just let go. He wanted her because he felt he deserved her, he loved her but without taking into account her feelings on the matter. There was no foundation for either of these romances like there was between her and Gabriel.
Hardy writes a great story although some of his description can get a bit tedious, I guess he just liked to set his scene. I really enjoyed the supporting characters in this novel as well as Bathsheba and Gabriel and I think it is a great addition to anyone's library.
A truly amazing book: rich, beautiful writing and a page turner. A big step forward in his writing, I felt. Proud Bathsheba thinks she can outwit love but is floored bu it; her suitors have very different fates from one another and the landscape, the stars and the animals provide a wonderful backdrop. The local farmhands are done with a lighter touch; still comical but not so laboured, somehow, and there are some beautiful scenes, for example Gabriel's observation of the movement of the stars. My favourite quotation was another bird-related one: "No Christmas robin detained by a window-pane ever pulsed as did Bathsheba now" (p. 247).
I studied this for O level but had forgotten the story, although certain rather random scenes and descriptions, such as Gabriel's face and the round hill he stands upon, were very familiar. Truly a privilege and a joy to re-read this book.
I both listened and read this book - great narration by Nathaniel Parker (the Artemis Fowl narrator) who gives a stellar performance of the quirky rural characters in this book. This is only the 2nd Thomas Hardy that I've read, but I've enjoyed them both. Great author.
After Troy and Bath sheba get married .Troy see that girl again ,but that girl died at the second day ,so Troy very sad ,and fall into river .Every body think he is died .So Bathsheba get married with a middle-aged man Boldwood ,who has never been in love before . .On their wedding ,Troy appears.So Bathsheba does not want get married with Boldwood .It makes Boldwood very angry , and he kills Troy. The result is Troy died and Blodwood go to prison.
At the end, Bathsheba’s love is Dak , only he accompany with she .So they get married
Bathsheba Everdeen and Gabriel Oak are the two co-protagonists, while Boldwood and Troy seem to be secondary characters that, to me, appear on the scene only to offset Bathsheba's weaknesses. Though Bathsheba is at the center of it all and, for a woman of that era, is certainly a redoubtable personality, Gabriel Oak seems to be the most positive and appealing character out of the four. Hardy dwells on the village life of the area, going into detailed description of nature and the colorful local characters - whose life, though "far from the madding crowd", gets suddenly disrupted by the unpredictable and volatile events. And yet, somehow, for me, neither the plot nor the deliverance of the narrative were at the level of Hardy's two aforementioned novels.
Far From the Madding Crowd
This classic starts off in the usual ho-hum way of introducing a main character through a description of his lineage, how he came to be where we find him, and the background of his present occupation. Don't get complacent. Both the fate of the main character in Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust and the devastating beginning of Ian McEwan's Enduring Love could have been inspired by what befalls Gabriel Oak in these first few pages. While Hardy's work is dense with tragedy, it is the tragedy of being human, not of being a victim. Devastations are unleashed by moments of pique. All of the drama takes place without props outside on English lanes evoking a universality to the pain of being human and the realization that we can all be victimized by our own emotions. Hardy's prose captures landscapes, weather, and the emotional palettes of his characters with equal aplomb. Sharply pin-pointed prose reaches and awakens places in the psyche possibly rendered dormant by exposure to much duller fare. Two chapters appropriately named "Storm" and "Rain" stand out as examples of Hardy's incredible ability to describe weather. If you like weather to be part of your reading experience, M. C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series provides that, along with great characters and cozy mysteries to be solved. If you like unrelenting suffering, you will like Joyce Carol Oates' We Were the Mulvaneys, or the classic by A. J. Cronin, Hatter's Castle. Available on dvd: A Handful of Dust, Enduring Love, Hamish Macbeth, We Were the Mulvaneys, Far From the Madding Crowd (classic), and the Masterpiece Classic remake of Far From the Madding Crowd.
Recommended March 2014
Such a contrast to Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Wouldn't Tess wish she were Bathsheba Everdene? Other than some undisclosed things that happened before the book started, it seems as though Bath has had a pretty easy life compared to the misery that Tess suffers at every turn. Having three guys vying for your attention doesn't seem like such a bad problem compared to Tess. And other than that, some corn possibly getting ruined from the rain. And sheep drama. I can appreciate Hardy's layered prose in this one, but I think I'm on Tess's team. Bathsheba is a great heroine but which of three suitors she ends up with isn't the best premise for a book that suits me. It's sad to lose the Bathsheba in the first few pages, seeing her improperly for the time she was in, lean back on her horse to avoid low branches (let alone not riding side saddle.) This Bathsheba turns into a suitor juggler and then wishes for the time when she didn't have to deal with all of it. I think reading about Bathsheba's backstory would have helped relate to her. Maybe I would have liked this one better if I read it before meeting Tess. You can't beat Thomas Hardy when it comes to great pastoral prose though.
It is about Bathesheba and the 3 men who love her - Gabriel Oak, Mr Boldwood and Sergeant Troy. each have their own qualities but it is Gabriel who loves her first and always. She rejects his initial marriage proposal because she does not love him.
She comes to the attention of Boldwood, who has the farm next to her, after she sends him a Valentine's card partly in jest. Boldwood has difficulty accepting that she does not love him either, but gives her up when she becomes fascinated by Sergeant Troy, the educated soldier - fey in attachment, apart from drink, gambling and women as a whole - who is more in love with another woman but marries Bathsheba more for her money than anything. She soon learns her mistake and learns to hate him, especially when he keeps asking for money to go gambling.
His possible death by drowning opens her up to be courted by Boldwood again, who continues to pressure her into committing to marry him, even when he knows she doesn't love him. A party at Christmas has a detrimental effect on all concerned.
Finally, Gabriel, her one true love, gets his girl.
This is the fourth of his books and the one I've enjoyed the most so far. It has a more consistent narrative, with fewer breaks, even though I believe this was also released in serial form.
The descriptions of nature get better with this book. I believe the description of salvaging the crops during the storm is considered to be a classic scene of the genre.
Boldwood is a disconcerting and not very nice character, poor of social graces, who falls in love with a woman he's never talked to and virtually bullies her into committing to an engagement that she doesnt want. (Everyone agrees in the end that he's more than a little mad).
Troy is a glittering distraction, who can also manipulate women (but in a different way), playing on Bathesheba's insecurities in order to make her marry him immediately (she goes to Bath to talk to him and he "suggests" that he'll have to give in to chasing after some other pretty girl if she doesnt marry him immediately, so she does).
Gabriel is solid and steady, watching her make mistakes but never letting her down, even though he still loves her.
As for Bathesheba? I dont know about her. I think she grows up during this book, finally marrying the man we all know she should have in the first place. She manages to take care of her uncle's farm, even though some people think she wont and does realise her mistake in marrying Troy, especially the way she did it.
Honestly, there was a lot to like about this novel. I liked Gabriel Oak. I love Hardy's use of crazy, creepy, mythic symbolism. I even liked the descriptions and the Shakespearian peasant characters. But halfway through it mostly just began to confuse and bore me, because the rest of Hardy's characters just confounded me.
The funny thing is that my feelings about the book were summed up in a Henry James quote on the back of the book, saying that the only believable element were the sheep. (Henry James's pastime seemed to be saying offensive things about English novelists. He also made derogatory comments about Dickens.) The person writing the copy on the back of the book quoted him in order to say that he was wrong, but nearing the end I started to agree with him. Almost all of the conversations involving Bathsheba just sounded so strange and artificial, and all of her motivations were elliptical and contradictory. I just didn't know what to do with her after a while. If I'd had more time, I would have happily finished it properly, but I don't feel like I missed very much.
Hardy, one of the Romantics, was guilty of many of the crimes I list above, though he cannot be blamed for what was taken so seriously for so long. "Far From the Madding Crowd" is spoilt by these contrivances; it is still worth reading as an early feminist novel (though written by a man it concerns the life and loves of one woman), and if you are interested in the English countryside you'll find this fascinating.