Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1840 - 1928)

Far From the Madding

Crowd
by Thomas Hardy (1840
- 1928)

Type of Work:

Characterization and psychological novel

Setting

"Wessex," England; 1869 to 1873

Principal Characters

Bathsheba Everdene, a capricious young
lady

Gabriel Oak, a dependable shepherd

Mr. Boldwood, a staid, wealthy farmer

Sergeant Frank Troy, an unscrupulous soldier

Fannie Robin, Troy's secret lover

Story Overveiw

Gabriel Oak quietly scrutinized his new
neighbor from across the hedge. Bathsheba Everdene appeared to be an overly-proud
woman, but he found himself attracted by her. Oak's ability and initiative
had taken him from humble origins to become a respected shepherd with sheep
of his own. Now he prepared himself with care to meet Miss Everdene, then
made his way to the house of her aunt to propose marriage. Bathsheba, flattered
by the farmer's offer, flamed his hopes for a while, but soon announced
that she could not marry, nor love, Gabriel.

Before long, Bathsheba unexplainably left
the area. Then fate dealt Gabriel another blow: his dog ran his flock of
sheep over a cliff, killing them all. "Thank God I am not married," he
mused. "What would she have done in the poverty now coming to me?"

Oak went to town to search for work. Unsuccessful,
at the end of the day he crawled into a cart to sleep. That night the cart
carried him toward Weatherford, the very town to which Bathsheba had moved.

Near the town, Oak spied a burning barn and bolted through the fields to
help. Putting out the fire, he discovered that the mistress he had served
was his own beloved Bathsheba, who had inherited her uncle's Weatherbury

Farm. Oak asked her to hire him as the farm's new shepherd. Hesitantly,

Bathsheba agreed.

While searching for local lodgings, Oak
encountered a slim, poorly-clad girl heading through the woods. Sensing
her despair, he pressed some money into her hand. This girl, Fanny Robin,
had once been a servant on the Weatherbury Farm.

On that cold, snowy night, Fanny came near
a barracks looking for her secret lover, 'Froy. They set a wedding date,
but on the appointed morning, Fanny mistakenly walked to the wrong chapel.

Troy, impatient and embarrassed by her late arrival, derided her and put
her off indefinitely.

One day, a Mr. Boldwood, a true "gentleman,"
approached the farm to seek news of Fanny, for whom he had long felt a
fatherly concern. Bathsheba, finding that Boldwood was wealthy, unmarried,
and seemingly indifferent to women, set out to make him her challenge.

Bathsheba personally began overseeing the
farm in an attempt to impress Boldwood. She skillfully took her place in
the trading market; and soon she was admired by all - except Boldwood.

Then one Sunday afternoon Bathsheba prepared
a valentine for Boldwood. Impetuously, she used a seal on the envelope
which read "Marry Me." Even Bathsheba could hardly imagine "that the dark
and silent shape upon which she had so carelessly thrown a seed was a hotbed
of tropic intensity"; and his reaction was indeed intense. Thc, elder gentleman
now became a virtual slave to his new-found feelings. When spring arrived,
the conservative Boldwood confronted Bathsheba in the fields and proposed
marriage. Though she would not agree to anything, Gabriel and the rest
of the workers considered her as good as married.

Later that season, the sheep broke their
fence and ate fresh clover. They would die if not quickly treated, but
only Gabriel knew how to cure them. Bathsheba sent a note demanding that
he come. He replied that he would not until he was addressed more courteously.

Desperately, she asked again. When he did come, and the sheep were saved,

Bathsheba "smiled on him..."

At shearing time, Gabriel Oak was content
to go about his work in the presence of Bathsheba. But Boldwood once again
interrupted his happiness, petitioning Bathsheba to be his wife.

One evening, while she inspected the farm,

Bathsheba met Sergeant Troy, full of flattery and offering gifts. This
soldier was "moderately truthful toward men, but to women lied like a Cretin."

Bathsheba fell for Troy "in the way that only selfreliant women love when
they abandon their self-reliance." Gabriel, fearing for Bathsheba, tried
to dissuade her ' but she would not listen. And Boldwood was almost beside
himself with jealousy and anger upon hearing Bathsheba confess her love
for Troy.

Soon the two suitors met. Boldwood at first
tried to bribe the soldier into leaving Bathsheba for Fanny. But when Troy
told him that he had to marry Bathsheba in order to preserve her honor,

Boldwood offered him money to do so. With a mocking grin Troy accepted
the money, went into Bathsheba's house, then returned