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Far From the Madding Crowd



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

This is probably my favorite book ever. My introduction will not do it justice and/or spoil the plot -- at a very basic level.

Bathseba Everdene rejects Gabriel Oak's proposal - because she is too young yet to know if the match is a wise one for her. She inherits her Uncle's farm and with the strength and ambition of youth determines to manage the estate herself, not realizing that Oak has her back the whole time. When she sets in motion events that cause her elder neighbor, Boldwood, to fall in love with her, she does not reject, but postpones the decision to accept his proposal. Then she meets the dazzling Sgt.Troy, succumbs completely to youthful desire, and hastily marries him. And then nature takes it course...

Having read this novel several times during various decades of my life, it becomes more clear with each reading the author is making a profound statement on mankind's position within the universe. Old generations must give way to the present generation. The present generation must be careful not to be so impatient, self indulgent and short-sighted in the rush to modernization. Attempts to speed up nature in this manner may result in tragedy. Gabriel owns a watch that can tell the minutes with precision, but the hours can be off so he uses the stars to tell time. Respect and attention to the rhythms and smallest details or nature, and also to the vastness of the universe, all simultaneously, can guide mankind towards a more peaceful, happy existence.

While the main characters illustrate this core message beautifully, Hardy also uses supporting details from descriptions of the sky, the landscape, architecture, and animals (especially the dogs!) to share his lesson. Everyone should read this book several times, and keep a dictionary at hand - Hardy uses some terms that have concise meaning contemporary to his time, but may not be so well known in our present day. (To me that just reinforces the whole experience.)--Submitted by Anonymous

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Recent Forum Posts on Far From the Madding Crowd

The shepherd's hut incident

There was an incident in one of the early chapters which seemed a bit unlikely. Gabriel Oak is in his shepherd's hut. Because it is the middle of winter, he lights a fire in it without opening one of the ventilation slots. He falls asleep and is nearly suffocated. He is saved by Bathsheba who is alerted by the dog barking. Could this sort of thing happen? I would have thought anyone would wake up long before the oxygen running out. Maybe the risk was carbon monoxide poisoning.

Gabriel Oak

There is something about Gabriel Oak I don't entirely like. He is a bit domineering. In one chapter he tells the other men they'll taste his fist if they spread nasty rumours about Bathsheba. Who was he to start laying down the law? He had only been at the farm five minutes. It was particularly unpleasant because they were harmless, mostly older men in the main. In a later chapter he basically refuses to accept a dismissal from Bathsheba, arguing that she, as a woman, was not competent to run the farm. A little after that, Gabriel tells a woman to go to bed as he and Jan Coggen take off to track down a horse thief. She doesn't have to take orders from Gabriel.

The book of Ruth

In one of the chapters, Bethsheba, prompted by Libby, uses a key and bible to foresee the name of her future husband. How does this work? Bethsheba turns red, but does not say why. The book of Ruth, which is where she opens the bible, has only four pages. I read through it, but there was no mention of a Gabriel. It mentions a landowner called Boaz quite a bit, but there is no Boaz in FFTMC. Even accounting for the greater use of Old Testament names in the 19th century, the only men's names that were still in usage were David and Jesse.

Sheep in clover

In chapter 21 the sheep break into a field of clover, which causes their bellies to expand. The flock is in danger of dying, so Gabriel Oak has to lance their stomachs at a certain point to let the gas out. Is too much clover or vetch dangerous to sheep? Does lancing their stomachs cure them? I would have thought pricking a hole in a sheep's stomach would cause perotinitis or blood poisoning.

Lambing season

I started reading Far From the Madding Crowd. So far, the main thing that puzzles me is that most of Gabriel Oak's ewes have been delivering their lambs in winter, starting about Christmas I think, and continuing through February. I am no countryman, but I thought lambing started in spring. Is Hardy using poetic licence or did sheep used to give birth in winter in Victorian times?

Far from the madding crowd

hey i was just wondering how do the minor characters influence the outcome of the story? thanks

Thomas Hardy

Hey, does anyone know or anywhere I can find (or know of) religeous texts or quotes from sources that relate to Thomas Hardy's 'Far from the Madding Crowd'? Thanks in advance for any help :)

Just to say

I just have to say that im in year 10 and i love this book, the way Hardy writes is absolutely brilliant, his style and imagery are awesome...this book scores 11 out of 10.:D

Far from the MADDING(???) Crowd

This may be a dumb question, but what does the title mean? I (maybe naively) thought that I would be introduced to a 'crowd' that went by the name 'Madding' and someone wanted to get 'far from' them. I've heard people use this phrase in speaking. I had always heard of this novel and thought they were borrowing the phrase from the novel. Evidently the novel's title is borrowed from a popular phrase. Anyone know what it means???

contact me

Hi I suess Bethsheba marrying Gabrial Oak is the most approprate thing she has done, because In the first instance though it appears that Bethsabha married Oak for financial security, as he will be taking care of the farm and all the business dealings of besthaba, But when u analyse the other alternatives it becomes that the reason behind that marriage is not so, when u find that bold wood is also a rich person, who had many servants, and even Oak was working for boldwood, by marrying Boldwood Behtsheba would have been in a better position even financial, and more over he loved her very much. But still she rejected boldwood when he mabe a marrage proposal, the reason for this could be the bitter expirence she has encountred earlier by marrying Troy in a very hasty and unthoughtful manner, she married Troy even though she is not well aware of his character and his nature, and as a result of this she had suffred a great deal, So she was not ready to marry again someone, whome she had not understood well, and with whome there was a little scope of understanding him as the conversation with him was always too short, and even in such short conversation he only spoke how much he loved her, but she had a doubt always in her mind that what a true nature of the person may be, he had little friends in his village, and seldom interacted with the other people, he was filled with pride, On the other hand, Oak who had known Bethseheba since long time, he though deep in his heart loved her more that anything in the world, but was very shy to spent out his fellings to her, but still he loved her, even though she was married to Troy, and his chances of marrying her has completely diminished, he did not resort to hate, but he still stayed with bethsheba in all the times, he was a shoulder on which Bthsebha would rest her head and cry out her grief during the time of sorrow, and even he resolved to forsake her and go to America, when he sences that he staying here would bring bad name to Bethseba, his love for bethsheba was unconditional, even bethseba understood him too well, love should spring out not in a haste on impluse ( has happened in the case of boldwood on seeing the valiantine card from Bethaseba) but is is a slow process which grows with understanding and complete trust, this is how love sprout between Oak and Bethsabha, and surely her marring Oak she had made a most wisest decision out of true love and understanding Do u have any comments on this Please u can contact me my e mail address is [email protected] Regards Alfred

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