Book Review: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

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Far from the Madding Crowd explores themes of love, honor, and betrayal against the backdrop of a farming community in Victorian England. The story takes place in rural southwest England in a region called Wessex, which is also the setting for Hardy’s earlier book, Under the Greenwood Tree.

Although the setting may seem idyllic, the novel also portrays the challenging and often difficult realities of life in a farming community during that time.

I jotted down a few key points from Thomas Hardy’s book after reading it.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book review provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

Plot Summary

Gabriel Oak watched his new neighbor, Bathsheba Everdene, from across the hedge. Despite her prideful demeanor, he found himself attracted to her. Gabriel had worked hard to rise from humble beginnings and become a respected shepherd with his own flock.

He took the time to prepare himself before going to Bathsheba’s aunt’s house to propose marriage. Bathsheba was flattered by the farmer’s offer, but eventually rejected him, saying she could not marry or love him.

Soon after, Bathsheba left the area without explanation. Gabriel was later struck by another blow of fate when his dog led his entire flock of sheep off a cliff, killing them all. “Thank God I am not married,” Gabriel thought. “What would she have done in the poverty now coming to me?”

He went to town to search for work, but was unsuccessful. At the end of the day, he slept in a cart. That night, the cart took him to Weatherford, the same town where Bathsheba had moved. 

While passing through, Gabriel saw a burning barn and ran to help put out the fire. It turned out that the owner of the barn was Bathsheba, who had inherited her uncle’s Weatherbury Farm. Gabriel asked her to hire him as the farm’s new shepherd, and she reluctantly agreed.

As he searched for a place to stay in the town, Gabriel met a young, poorly-dressed woman named Fanny Robin walking through the woods. He could sense her despair and gave her some money. Fanny had once been a servant at Weatherbury.

On that cold, snowy night, Fanny was searching for her secret lover, Troy, at the barracks. They set a wedding date, but on the morning of the wedding, Fanny went to the wrong chapel. Troy was impatient and embarrassed by her lateness, and he scorned her and postponed the wedding indefinitely.

One day, Mr. Boldwood, a wealthy and unmarried gentleman, visited a farm to inquire about Fanny, whom he had a fatherly concern for. Bathsheba, seeing that Boldwood was wealthy and seemingly indifferent to women, decided to try to win his affections. She began managing the farm in an attempt to impress him and quickly gained the admiration of everyone except Boldwood.

On a Sunday afternoon, Bathsheba made a valentine for Boldwood with a seal that said “Marry Me.” Even she couldn’t have anticipated the intensity of his reaction. The older gentleman became obsessed with his newfound feelings for her. When spring arrived, Boldwood asked Bathsheba to marry him in the fields, but she refused. Despite this, Gabriel and the other workers at the farm considered her as good as married to Boldwood.

Later in the season, the sheep on the farm broke their fence and ate some fresh clover, which would kill them if not treated promptly. Only Gabriel knew how to save them, so Bathsheba sent him a note asking him to come and help. He refused unless she addressed him more politely, and when he finally did come and save the sheep, Bathsheba finally smiled at him.

During the shearing season, Gabriel was content to work in Bathsheba’s presence. But Boldwood once again interrupted his happiness by proposing to Bathsheba.

One evening, while inspecting the farm, Bathsheba encountered Sergeant Troy, who showered her with flattery and gifts. Despite his reputation for lying to women, Bathsheba fell for him and abandoned her self-reliance. Gabriel, worried about Bathsheba, tried to discourage her from being with Troy, but she wouldn’t listen. When Boldwood heard that Bathsheba was in love with Troy, he became jealous and angry.

The two suitors eventually met, and Boldwood tried to bribe Troy into leaving Bathsheba for Fanny. However, when Troy told him that he needed to marry Bathsheba to preserve her honor, Boldwood offered him money to do so. With a mocking grin, Troy accepted the money, went into Bathsheba’s house, and then returned to hand Boldwood a newspaper article announcing their marriage, which had occurred weeks earlier.

Troy, who was laughing loudly, then threw a bag of coins out the door. He hosted a fall harvest dinner, where all the men except Gabriel got drunk. Oak and Bathsheba spent the night together protecting the grain from a sudden storm. Unlike Oak’s devotion to her, Bathsheba soon realized that Troy was nothing more than an unreliable spendthrift and gambler. One evening, the couple encountered a very weak woman whom Bathsheba did not know. It was Fanny. Troy spoke with her privately, gave her the little money he had, and agreed to meet her at a later time. Then he left her there; and Fanny, in great pain and exhaustion, walked several miles to a poorhouse shelter. That night, the couple quarreled. Troy cruelly revealed that he cared for someone else; his love for Bathsheba had faded. Then he stormed out of the house.

The next day, Bathsheba learned from some neighbors that the poor woman they had met on the road the night before had died at the poorhouse. Not knowing that she had been Troy’s lover, Bathsheba compassionately had the encoffined body brought to Weatherbury Farm for burial. Gabriel sensed the truth about Fanny and Troy’s relationship, and, to spare Bathsheba from pain, he erased part of the inscription on the top of the coffin that read “Fanny Robin and child.”

However, rumors, fear, and loneliness overwhelmed Bathsheba. Suspecting that the coffin contained a secret, she lifted the lid and discovered the true identity of her husband’s lover – and their baby. At that moment, Troy walked in, still unaware of Fanny’s death. When he looked down at the pale, lifeless corpse, he was shocked. He fell to his knees and respectfully kissed the woman’s cold lips. “Kiss me too, Frank – Kiss me!” cried Bathsheba. But the soldier pushed her away: “I will not kiss you!”

Troy carefully prepared a grave for Fanny and arranged for a large tombstone to be carved with the inscription “Erected by Francis Troy in Beloved Memory of Fanny Robin.” However, when he returned to the cemetery the next day, he found that a rainstorm had damaged the gravesite. 

The disappointment caused him to flee from the village in distress. When he reached the coast, he took off his clothes and went for a swim, but the strong current almost pulled him under. Fortunately, a boat rescued him.

Meanwhile, someone found Troy’s clothes on the beach and it was assumed that he had drowned. Taking advantage of this belief, he sailed to America to escape his problems.

Bathsheba, although relieved that her husband was gone, did not believe that he had died. Boldwood asked her to agree to marry him in seven years, when Troy would be legally declared dead.

As Christmas approached, Boldwood threw a lavish party for the neighborhood. At the party, Bathsheba agreed to marry Boldwood if Troy did not return. Just then, there was a knock at the door and Troy burst in. When he grabbed Bathsheba’s arm to take her home, she fainted. 

Boldwood then pulled out a gun and shot Troy in the chest. He then turned the gun on himself, but a farm worker pushed it away just in time. Boldwood calmly declared, “There is another way for me to die,” kissed Bathsheba’s pale hand, and walked out of the building towards the jail, where he would be confined for life in an institution.

As time passed, Bathsheba became sick and was cared for by Oak, the caretaker of her farm. One day, Oak told her that he was planning to go to America. When she expressed her disappointment and need for his help, he explained that he was leaving because of her vulnerability. It eventually dawned on her that her last remaining supporter was leaving her.

In a moment of vulnerability, Bathsheba went to Oak’s quarters and finally admitted her love for him. She asked him to become the head master of Weatherbury Farm and they made plans for a private and secret wedding.

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Far From the Madding Crowd Review

Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd” takes readers on a journey to the lush, rolling hills of rural Dorset. With his naturalist’s eye for detail and his poet’s ear for language, Hardy weaves a rich tapestry of love, loss, and the timeless rhythms of the English countryside.

At its heart, this novel is a love story. But unlike many romantic tales, it is not simply a matter of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Instead, Hardy delves deep into the complexities of the human heart, exploring the many ways that love can both elevate and destroy us.

Through the eyes of his four main characters – the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene, the steadfast and loyal Gabriel Oak, the dashing and dangerous Sergeant Troy, and the stolid and reliable Farmer Boldwood – Hardy explores the various facets of love, from passion to obsession to unrequited longing.

But “Far From the Madding Crowd” is much more than just a love story. It is a celebration of the English countryside and the disappearing way of life that Hardy knew so well. His descriptions of the rolling hills, the vast fields, and the small villages that dot the landscape are so vivid that readers can almost smell the earth and feel the sun on their faces.

And yet, for all its beauty, the countryside is also a place of danger and hardship. Hardy does not shy away from the harsh realities of life on the land, from the devastating effects of a sudden storm to the backbreaking work of harvesting the crops.

In the end, “Far From the Madding Crowd” is a masterful work of literature that showcases Hardy’s incredible talent as both a storyteller and a wordsmith. His characters are vivid and real, his descriptions of the countryside are breathtaking, and his insights into the human heart are profound. Whether you’re a fan of romantic fiction, historical fiction, or simply great literature, this book is not to be missed.

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About The Author

Thomas Hardy is a famous English author who wrote the novel “Far from the Madding Crowd”. This book was first published in 1874, and it tells the story of a young woman named Bathsheba who has to choose between three suitors.

The novel was originally published in a magazine called The Cornhill Magazine and later released as a book. “Far from the Madding Crowd” was a huge success for Hardy and is still widely read today. In fact, it was his first major success as a writer.

Buy The Book: Far From the Madding Crowd

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