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Far From the Madding Crowd is the second novel by Thomas Hardy I read. It was selected by my book club as the book for our July meeting. I was reluctant as I'd found Tess of the D'Ubervilles quite hard work. I was reassured by other members that this book was better as it wasn't so depressing!
Published in 1874 this novel is a type of romance, but is mostly about people and relationship dynamics. In the beginning we meet Shepherd Gabriel Oak who has fallen for local maiden Bathsheba Everdene. After Bathsheba leaves the village, by a turn of events Gabriel ends up being employed by her at the farm she inherited from her late uncle. He still feels an attachment to her. Meanwhile Bathsheba unwittingly attracts an neighbour, an older farmer by the name of Boldwood, who proposes. Bathsheba feels guilty for leading him on and tells him she will consider his proposal. Meanwhile she meets the exciting and dashing Sergeant Troy....
The rest of the book is taken up with the dynamics of the love 'rectangle'(?!) Bathsheba's feelings for each man and the feelings the man have, that drive them to behave as they do for the remainder of the book.
I have to admit I struggled with this book and come our club meeting I was not the only one who hadn't finished it! Usually I can get used to the old fashioned language after a few chapters, but it took a lot longer here. I guess it took me until at least half-way into the book for me to engage with the story and get into it. While Tess is indeed more depressing, I still found it an easier read!
After all this book is a classic, and I would hesitate to say to people not to read it, I think people need to try this author and see how they get on, as many people seem to love it much more than I did, and the premise is interesting.
A bit about the author Thomas Hardy.
Hardy was born in 1840 near the county town of Dorset. His mother came from an impoverished background but with a love for literature and education. She taught him to read by the age of four and then instilled in him a great love for reading. His father (a keen violinist) gave him a love of music. Two other main influences on his life were that of the church and the natural countryside.
After his schooling he was apprenticed with an architect but still kept up with his reading of great literature including Alfred Tennyson, George Eliot, Shakespeare, and Alexander Dumas. "The Origin of Species" is said to have had a profound effect on him too.
For more detailed accounts of his life please visit http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/hardy/ it is not too heavy-going and quite informative.
"Far from the Madding Crowd" was one of Hardy's earlier novels, written in 1874. The title is said to be taken from a line in Gray's "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" - 'Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife'. It is possibly his most pastoral of all his novels and concentrates a lot on character and setting.
An outline of the story.
Gabriel Oak, a down-to-earth shepherd proposes to Bathsheba Everdene, a forthright and independant but vain young woman. She declines. Oak falls upon hard times and in searching for work, inadvertantly finds work on a farm that has fallen recently into the hands of Miss Everdene.
Miss Everdene is what would nowadays be described as a 'livewire' and throughout the novel, learns the hard way in lessons of love and life. She infatuates an older gentleman Mr Boldwood who owns a neighbouring farm with dire consequences and repeatedly casts aside and then repents with Oak. After a whirlwind romance and unsuccessful marriage with Sergeant Troy (very much her match in being confused about love), Bathsheba starts to change as a person.
The imagery and scenery.
Hardy is very descriptive in this novel and leaves no bit of weather, land, farm animal or labourer to the imagination. From the first chapter, you are transported to hills of lush pastures, and the hard but ultimately fulfilling life of the simple country folk that worked the land.
The characters are very complex and no one character is purely evil or saintly which instantly makes the story more believable and somehow more human. The names are certainly not chosen at random: from Gabriel Oak who is the reliable, strong, unfaltering character; to Sergeant 'Frank' Troy - exotic, charming and deceptive (one imagines Trojan horses amongst other Homer references).
And (as is also the case in "Tess of the D'Urbervilles"), the colour red is used as subtle warning to the reader of impending doom to one of the heros of the novel - whether it be from the colour of a character's clothing or blood or ink. This creates a sense of suspense and transforms an already amazing story into a gripping page-turner.
I could write reems more about the detail and structure of the book but am reluctant to scare any would-be Hardy readers away!
After reading this novel, I was left with a thirst for more - more of Hardy's novels, to explore the 'Wessex' countryside further, and to learn about the history of the time. This is truly a classic that should be on a every good home's bookshelves without exception.
Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd, the most pastoral and famous of his Wessex novels, was first published in 1874. The story concerns the elusive, beautiful and wayward young Bathsheba Everdene and the various men who develop a romantic interest in her over the course of the novel. Bathsheba arrives in the country to live with her aunt, Mrs Hurst, at the start of the book and soon attracts the attentions of local shepherd Gabriel Oak, who surprises Bathsheba by proposing marriage. 'His Christian name was Gabriel, and on working days he was a young man of sound judgment, easy motions, proper dress, and general good character,' writes Hardy. 'On Sundays he was a man of misty views, rather given to postponing, and hampered by his best clothes and umbrella: upon the whole, one who felt himself to occupy morally that vast middle space of Laodicean neutrality which lay between the Communion people and the drunken section.' Oak's offer of marriage is gently rejected (she advises him to find someone rich to marry) by the independent and thoroughly modern Bathsheba - who then moves away to the village of Weatherbury.
Their paths are destined to cross again though when Gabriel loses his prized flock of sheep in an accident and is forced to travel around the area looking for some work to make ends meet. After he stumbles across a fire at a farm and helps to put it out, he decides to ask the owner of the land for work. The veiled owner turns out to be Bathsheba - having recently inherited the estate from her late Uncle. Bathsheba, despite an initial awkwardness at meeting him again, allows Gabriel to work as her shepherd on the land and he soon becomes her faithful friend and an invaluable employee with his knowledge of the countryside. As Gabriel, who still has strong feelings for Bathsheba, bides his time, she inadvertently attracts the attentions of the reclusive Farmer Boldwood after a childish Valentine prank backfires. His love for Bathsheba fills Boldwood with 'a fearful sense of exposure' and he too proposes marriage. Adding to the complications even further are expert swordsman and all round rakish rogue, the handsome and dashing Sergeant Francis Troy, who Bathsheba herself becomes smitten with after a chance encounter one night.
Far from the Madding Crowd, a charming rural idyll, becomes increasingly engrossing as we follow the knotty personal life and ups and downs of Bathsheba Everdene and the three very different men who all attempt to win her for themselves. Possibly, Far from the Madding Crowd takes a few pages to get into fully but for me this book is like The Moonstone in that once you get into it you can't put it down. Bathsheba is an appealingly vivid character and is given a memorable entrance into the book, admiring herself in a looking-glass on a carriage as Gabriel looks on. 'What Possessed her to indulge in such a performance in the sight of the sparrows, blackbirds, and unperceived farmer who were alone its spectators, - whether the smile began as a factitious one, to test her capacity in that art, - nobody knows; it ended certainly in a real smile. She blushed at herself, and seeing her reflection blush, blushed the more.' Bathsheba's beauty and independent nature soon stirs up local interest and a vague - sometimes unrequited - love triangle (or even quadrilateral) ensues.
The feisty Bathsheba is generally held up to be a character slightly ahead of her time in that she operates in what was still largely seen to be a male province with her farming and land interests. Hardy sometimes includes passages and scenes where Bathsheba is the only woman at some country event or sale and we get a real sense of her standing apart from everyone slightly but not letting it get to her. My favourite line in the book is Bathsheba's wonderfully defiant - 'I shall be breakfasted before you are afield. In short, I shall astonish you all.' The story is essentially Bathsheba's road to finding her true love and filled with tragedy, flirtations, biblical references, misunderstandings, incident, and ruminations on the differences between men and women and different types of people. 'It is difficult,' says Bathsheba. 'For a woman to define her feelings in a language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.'
Each of Bathsheba's potential suitors has their distinct strengths and the sweep of the story always makes you curious to see what will happen. Boldwood offers money and security, Oak has good character and kindness, and the dashing and caddish Troy is exciting. 'IDIOSYNCRASY and vicissitude,' writes Hardy. 'Had combined to stamp Sergeant Troy as an exceptional being. He was a man to whom memories were an encumbrance, and anticipations a superfluity. Simply feeling, considering, and caring for what was before his eyes, he was vulnerable only in the present. His outlook upon time was as a transient flash of the eye now and then: that projection of consciousness into days gone by and to come, which makes the past a synonym for the pathetic and the future a word for circumspection, was foreign to Troy. With him the past was yesterday; the future, to-morrow; never, the day after.' You do find yourself hoping for a particular outcome which adds to the readability of the book a great deal.
There might be a tad too much farming detail in Far from the Madding Crowd for some tastes but these elements do add greatly to the overall atmosphere of the story and Hardy's descriptions of nature, ancient rural traditions, stars in the night sky and the countryside in general are always enjoyable. 'The fields and sky were so much of one colour by the snow, that it was difficult in a hasty glance to tell whereabouts the horizon occurred; and in general there was here, too, that before-mentioned preternatural inversion of light and shade which attends the prospect when the garish brightness commonly in the sky is found on the earth, and the shades of earth are in the sky. Over the west hung the wasting moon, now dull and greenish-yellow, like tarnished brass.' Hardy's almost nostalgic feelings for the countryside and its ways are a major theme of the novel although the main absorbing appeal of the book lies in the great characters and their intertwining relationships and interactions.
Far from the Madding Crowd is a compelling and classic story with the majestic backdrop of Hardy's Wessex countryside in all its glory and different moods.
---Introduction--- It was on holiday in Scotland that I chose to read the bulk of this particular book. Whether it was the magnificent Highland scenery that inspired the read (albeit the rugged mountainous terrain would hardly substitute for the fictional lowlands of *Wessex) or the more than common flock of sheep that put me in mind of the characters, I'm not sure; but having spanned a gap of some 24 years since the first time I read the book, this is an account of my experience. ---Thomas Hardy--- Thomas Hardy was born in June 1840 in Higher Bockhampton, just outside Dorchester. In 1874 ?Far From the Madding Crowd? was published in serial form in the Cornhill Magazine in twelve numbers, illustrated by H. P. Allingham. Hardy went on to write and publish much loved works such as ?The Mayor of Castorbridge? and ?Tess of the D?Urbervilles? that caught the public imagination and are still read in vast numbers today. ---Far From The Madding Crowd--- Far from the Madding Crowd is set in rural 19th century England. Based in Wessex, the story is established in and around the south of England approximating to the New Forest region of Hampshire in the main. Gabriel Oak is a shepherd who has made his own way in the world. Having built up his own flock based on hard work and a soon to be paid loan, he is doing well as a reputed expert in his trade. On a particularly unremarkable day, he encounters the beautiful and daring Bathsheba Everdean. Headstrong and flamboyant, Bashsheba saves Oak from suffocating in his Shepherd?s tent triggering a longing for ?..The young girl with the remarkably pleasant lips and white teeth?. Before long, Gabriel asks for Bathsheba?s
hand in marriage but she declines as she doesn?t love him. Following an unfortunate accident resulting in the loss of Oak?s flock, their paths cross again in the nearby village of Weatherbury. Down on his luck, Gabriel is hired by the now mistress of her own farm, Bathsheba in a twist of fate not lost on the young woman. Ensconced as the closest thing to nobility in the district, Farmer Boldwood is the perennial Bachelor who takes life all too seriously. With a bad experience in love at an earlier age colouring his outlook, a misguided prank involving the mischievous sending of a Valentine to Boldwood leads to a dangerous obsession with the naïve sender, Bathsheba that ultimately ends in tragedy. Meanwhile, the dashing romantic military figure of Sargent Troy is stood up at the alter by the unfortunate Fanny Robin. With a rogue?s eye for adventure and more than a hint of cynicism, Troy finds his way into all of the main character?s lives but, in the main, Bathsheba?s to set the metaphorical cat among the pigeons and give the story it?s catalyst for melodrama and disaster. ---My Thoughts--- Far From The Madding Crowd has been an established part of the school curriculum for many years and it?s easy to see why. At 318 pages long, it's a reasonable length and, unusually, not written from any one perspective. Adopting the position of several different characters at alternate times, there's more of a narrative feel to the telling than anything else. In terms of a pure reading experience then the book is a relative page turner. With short, punchy chapters, the magazine format is clear for all to see with chapter?s headed up by the main events of the sequence. For example, chapter 2 is entitled "Night-The Flock-An Interior-Another Interior
"and only lasts for 6 pages. As to the actual construction of the work then it?s hard to fault Hardy. Technically, the writing is exemplary and the label of genius has been used in Hardy?s case by many over the years. An absolute pleasure to read, Hardy builds on his great skill with the ability to paint mental pictures in the reader?s mind that places the audience squarely in the middle of a vista that would not be out of place in a Constable painting. For me, the title of this piece speaks volumes. There?s more than a suggestion of subversion in the notion that life revolves around the towns and cities of the time and that the country is a pastoral existence of peace and loving. Clearly, Hardy refutes this through pot-boilers like this one and the carefully constructed soap opera eschews the idea in an overly dramatised plot intended to shock and entertain. There is a clue on p.113 as to where the author is coming from ??.In comparison with cities, Weatherbury was immutable. The Citizen?s Then is the rustic?s Now. In London, twenty or thirty years ago are old times; in Paris ten years, or five; in Weatherbury three or four score years were included in the mere present, and nothing less than a century set a mark on it?s face or tone.? Hardy has a wonderful talent for drafting pen-pictures of his main characters. Of Boldwood, that stoicism is captured succinctly on page 94 after having received the Valentine?s card. ??His equilibrium disturbed, he was in extremity at once. If an emotion possessed him at all, it ruled him; a feeling not mastering him was entirely latent. He was always hit mortally, or he was missed.? It does appear that Hardy uses the rustic characters as a way of lending a sense normality to proceedings allowing the principal characters to play out their excesses. I guess it?s th
is aspect that struck me the most; the way the book reads more like a play. It wouldn?t be unkind to compare the goings on to those most over the top of operas or an overblown Greek tragedy. Perhaps more up to date, today?s soap operas would show a strong resemblance to the twists and turns of the events included in a Hardy production. It?s easy to see why the Victorians of the day would have revelled in the scandal included in a Hardy story whilst at the same time sharing an outrage at Hardy?s oblique handing of sensitive social issues such as divorce. Of course, not everything is plain sailing with a classic like this. There were passages that I found hard work at times usually involving the conversations in the Inns and the like as the text and subtext was often mundane in today?s terms. The apparent religious undertones of a still worshipful rural population seemed dated by today?s standards although it?s that gentle dogma that gives a gentle balance to the overriding morals that Hardy chews over in his plot. With something of a chequered love life himself, maybe it is no surprise that the writer ponders the inner workings of love and lust and eventually appears to conclude that a mutual respect in a form of loving seems to make more sense than a passionate love affair that will serve only to disrupt all of those around (this point becomes much clearer towards the end of the book). ---Conclusion--- Like any other story, books like this stand all fall by the characters involved. Compared by some to a Shakespearean comedy, I would have to disagree, if only that I couldn't really detect a comedic aspect in the story. What I do know is that I empathised with the flighty Bathsheba; I admired the stoical Gabriel Oak and I wanted to shake the vulnerable Boldwood. As for Sargent Troy then a few hisses would
have been at home as the villain of the piece strutted the literary boards. Hardy?s realism and literal pragmatism stirred many an emotion in the Victorian arena of the day. It?s hard to imagine these days unless you chose something particularly emotive such as the ordination of Gay clerics or the social acceptance of minority groups in general (merely examples, mind) Hardy stands astride English literature of his time and stands amongst the greats of his era. He deserves the respect that other similar writers deserve (Cookson, Bronte etc) but if I had to draw a comparison in terms of style then it would be with a writer I am very fond of i.e. Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes stories. Both wrote in a magazine format, both could tell a mean story, both are well worth discovering if you?ve never tried them before. Of course, there will be those who might find this too staid bearing in mind when it was written or even put off by having been force-fed the book at school. All I can say is try again on your own terms. I did and I?m very glad I returned to Wessex. Thanks for reading Marandina *Wessex did exist at one time. Hardy himself confirms that, in his case, the counties included were: Berkshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Hampshire, Dorset, and Devon ISBN: 1 84022 466 5 Available to buy online at Amazon for just £1.50 in paperback format.
This is a tale set in the countryside of Thomas Hardys Wessex. The story is about a young and beautiful woman who inherits a farm, and the men who fall in love with her. The main characters are.. Gabriel Oak.... Trained as a shepherd his social status varies during the book, but his farming skills are the ones that gain him the respect of others in the main. He is 28 years old well built and mild mannered. His features are unremarkable, Hardy describes them like this....' Gabriel's features adhered throughout their form so exactly to the middle line between the beauty of St. John and the ugliness of Judas Iscariot, as represented in a window of the church he attended, that not a single lineament could be selected and called worthy either of distinction or notoriety.' Although confident with sheep and farm work he was awkward and prone to blushing when in the company of an attractive woman. Bathsheba Everdene... A young and attractive woman with black hair. She is aware of her beauty and likes men to notice her , but she also inexperienced and lacks judgement in these matters. She also has the difficult task of running the farm that she inherited from her uncle, it being unusual in those times for a woman to be in cahrge of such a business. Mr Boldwood.... A gentleman farmer , middle aged, and rumoured to have been jilted when younger. The gossips think that he is likely to remain a bachelor as many women have attempted to court him and failed. Sergeant Troy...A dashing young cavalry officer. He is clever and confident with words, his looks and flair for flatttery make him very attactive to women. He first meets Bathsheba while walking along a path at night, his spurs get entangled in the hem of her dress and he makes the most of freeing the dress. 'You are a prisoner , miss; it is no use blinking the matter,' said the soldier drily. 'I must cut your dress if you are in such a hurry.' 'Y
es-please do!' she exclaimed helplessly. 'It wouldn't be necessary if you could wait a moment'; and he unwound a cord from the little wheel. She withdrew her own hand, but, whether by accident or design, he touched it. Bathsheba was vexed; she hardly knew why.' Fanny Robin... A pretty young woman who worked as a maid. She only makes a few short appearances in the book but is vital to the outcome. The estate workers and local malthouse owner. Hardy sometimes refers to them as 'natives'. These serve two purposes, one is a touch of comedy and the second allows Hardy to pass on information and histories of the gossiping of the workers. One of my favourite lighter moments is in Warrens Malthouse. Gabriel Oak is drinking there after putting out a fire and the maltster offers him some food... 'The cider will go down better with a bit of victuals. Don't chaw quite close, shepherd, for I let the bacon fall in the road outside as I was bringing it along, and maybe 'tis rather gritty. There 'tis clane dirt, and we all know what that, is as you say, and you bain't a particular man we see, shepherd.' 'True, true-not at all,' said the friendly Oak. 'Don't let your teeth quite meet, and you won't feel the sandiness at all. Ah! 'tis wonderful what can be done by contrivance.' The setting .... Hardy set his novels in an area he called Wessex which was centered around Dorset. He didn't want a completely ficticious area so he revived an old one, he based his towns on real places but gave them his own names ie. Casterbridge was actually Dorchester. Describing the countyside and buildings in great detail was very important to Hardy, and this can slow the book down at times. I find Hardy's books to be slighlty less melodramatic than Dickens, the fate of the characters being brought about by nature and coincidence rather than planned by unworthy c
haracters. Some of the key events in this book are brought about by ... a young sheepdog, an inheritance, a valentines card, mistaking a church name and a storm. I first read this book at school and detested it as we slowly picked it to pieces. Picking it up again some years later, I can enjoy it for what it is, a good love story set in the countryside. My copy is part of a specially bound collection, but Hardy's books are widely available in paperback from any bookshop.
This novel tells the story of Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors; Gabrial Oak, Sergeant Troy and Farmer Boldwood. They are three very different men, Farmer Oak as his name suggests is strong and dependable, Farmer Boldwood has hidden depths and Sergeant Troy is a dahing, handsome but faithless soldier. Bathesheba is beautiful and independent and this is what attracts the three men. It isn't however simply a love story the characters are well drawn and strong. They belong to a different age, but we can still identify with them. They share the same universal emotions of love, fear, pain and joy. The backdrop to the story is beautifully drawn it illustrates a bygone age where the pace of life was slower, people walked from place to place, the malthouse was the centre of village life and a time when silence could easily be found. One of my favourite passages illustrates this: "To persons standing on a hill during a clear midnight such as this, the roll of the world eastward is almost a palpable movement...it is necessary to stand on a hill at a small hour of the night...long and quietly watch your progress through the stars." The story moves at a sedate pace, but it has the same mix of tragedy and joy found in more modern fast-paced stories. A lot of the comments in this book won't make much sense to a modern audience, some books explain them but they don't detract from the story and they add to the olde worlde ambience. I recommend this book, let yourself be immersed in a 'living' history and realise that we humans haven't changed much!
Far from the Madding Crowd is the story of a woman who inherits property, struggles to be accepted as a person in her own right despite the attitudes and social etiquette of the time. She is pursued by various admirers and acting upon not-so-sound advice finds herself in many amusing situations, only to find that the person she least expects is her Knight in Shining Armour. This is a thoroughly modern read and most enjoyable. Iwould recommend it to anyone. Not the typical "Classic" ie Heavy, but light and humorous.
I first read a Hardy book about a year ago - the mayor of casterbridge - just because there happened to be a copy in the house so hey, I read it. I really enjoyed it and didn't find it at all hard work like i have done with other 'classic'. anyway, that is why i bought Far from the madding crowd..... The book is about a girl, or should i say woman? who seems to attract all sorts of admirers and who rather enjoys the complications that it causes and the stress for those poor blokes!!! The way it is written makes you want to keep on reading and i don't know how anyone coped when this was orginally serialised in a magazine because i would never be able to wait for the next chapter. Hardy's work is so easy to read and is really funny when you wouldn't expect it to be. I know that Hardy is not really oldy worldy but i really hadn't expected to laugh at this stuff!!!!!! Also, the book is incredibly risque as Hardy's work often hints at sexy stuff (into which i will not delve right now) and at unconventional relationships for the time. If you feel that you should be reading stuff that is 'good for you' try Hardy because it is surprisingly entertaining.