Hardy took the title of this novel from Thomas Gray's poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751):
Far From the madding crowd's ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
In this case "Madding" means "frenzied". The title may be ironic: the five main characters -- Bathsheba, Troy, Boldwood, Oak, and Fanny Robin -- are all passionate beings who find the "vale of life" neither quiet nor cool. Hardy said that he first introduced Wessex in this novel. It was successful enough for him to give up architectural work and pursue a literary career.
A man struggling to make a future for himself, Gabriel Oak works hard and passionately as a sheep herder. He takes out a loan on good faith only to have his prospects run over a cliff. The catalyst to this need to succeed starts at the sight of Bathsheba Everdene, a head-strong young woman visiting relatives in the country. At first sight he is in awe but she is indifferent. After a series of events, let-downs and deaths, the two find themselves face-to-face again after an embarrassing confrontation months earlier. The only difference is that there is a significant role reversal in status and sense. Thrown together in the name of great farming, they loathe and avoid each other at all costs. Bathsheba, our immature heroine, plays with hearts, but eventually knows the pain that she has caused. Fuelled by the doubts of so many that such a woman could run a farm, she forges ahead, agreeing to heartless arrangements. But the oddities of fate save her from herself and set her on the right road. After what seems like a painfully long time, she grows up and listens to the small wise voice of her heart. Hardy does readers a favor by relating the realistic selfishness of everyday people and their struggle for happiness--illustrating that while we can be extremely stupid at times, the heart can also make us wise.--Submitted by Melissa
Gabriel Oak -- a man of good nature and intentions. He goes to church on Sundays - although he does not always listen and thinks more about dinner - and works honest work for his money. Bathsheba Everdene - a middle class woman who does not always make the right decisions and often acts on impulse, but really does care for the ones she loves. These two people are the hero and heroine of the novel. One is an ordinary farmer who can get by. The other is an upper class bailiff who has inherited a farm and workers. They meet when Bathsheba visits her Aunt. Oak develops an attraction to her and soon they frequently bump into each other. Oak happens to be looking for a job at one point in the novel and Bathsheba has one going! It is a perfect opportunity for Oak to get to know Bathsheba. The novel is one of romance and passion. When the reader put it down after reading a couple of chapters, they are left with questions buzzing around their minds - how will Mr Boldwood react with the Valentine? Will Oak have pity and help Boldwood and Bathsheba? What is Bathsheba going to do now that Troy has declared his love of another woman? This is an exciting read and will leave the reader itching for more.--Submitted by L.R.S.
This is one of the finest of Thomas Hardy's novels. Thomas hardy specialized in writing novels that probed deep into the human soul. Since he did that he was able supremely to show his characters not just in thought but in action too. This novel is the story of a woman and how a single flaw in her soul leads to devastating consequences for her and the men she meets and relates to in different ways. It is also the story of a woman finally coming to terms with life, understanding herself, discovering real things, living in real happiness. In a way the characters are shockingly recognizable and by doing that Hardy brings out all our observations to the surface and intimately and thoroughly exposes and discusses that not didactically but as a story! That is the inexpressible beauty of the novel and in fact all his novels. You can spend time profitably reading it. You will identify with the characters and their trials, tribulations, joys and sorrows. You will be led by the wisdom of hardy to look at the characters deeply and starkly and you will experience the feeling of being a kind of God who can see the deep workings of the human soul. That is the power of Hardy's novels and especially of this one. He writes with care, delicacy, sympathy and yet with an unparalleled ruthlessness. There is no cheap sentiment or obfuscation here, there is s recreation of life and you can take it or leave it but it is vibrant and real. It is a thought experiment...What happens when such and such meets such and such? In that sense the novel is suspenseful and entertaining in that higher sense and it is difficult to stop after you have crossed the first 20 pages. Try it and you will see all of the above and more to be true. Do not go from life without reading Hardy. You will miss something tremendous and vibrant. Happy discovery!--Submitted by Narendra Kumar Vellanki
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