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Far From the Madding Crowd

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Hazel 12th December 2006 04:29 PM

 

Bathsheba inherits a farm and with it 3 suitors determined to marry her, but she makes a bad choice and with this choice comes great tragedies. The plot as simple as I can make it.

 

This was my first Hardy book and I will definitely go on to read more. I really loved the names that Hardy gave to his characters: Gabriel Oak; the solid, decent, dependable shepherd, Farmer Boldwood; the middle-aged, stern and forthright farmer, and Francis Troy, the philandering rake who is also a soldier.

 

It is the events that appear out of character that cause much of the tragedy here and to Hardy's credit the events are credible and almost inevitable. My favourite creation of Hardy's was to make the normally laconic Boldwood, desperate, needy and bullying as he begs Bathsheba to promise to marry him on a number of occasions. I was actually embarrassed for him and felt a great deal of discomfort as Bathsheba squirmed.

 

I am not normally enamoured with country novels, or descriptions of the land and animals that go with this kind of novel but it seemed a perfect setting for this tale and was as much a character within as any of the humankind.

 

Surprised how much I enjoyed this and regretful that I have lived Hardy-free for so long!

 

David 12th December 2006 05:26 PM

 

Great novel, Hazel, and I'm quite envious at what you have left to discover! I also enjoyed those characters and Hardy really is skilful at taking people whom you would not think to be particularly endearing, yet giving them something through which we can empathise. Not just Boldwood, but the foolish, vain Bathsheba too. Some classic scenes, including the gloriously symbolic sword exercises Troy demonstrates to Bathsheba!

 

I'm also a huge fan of the rustic chorus, who just crack me up: some fantastic characters! You also begin to see Hardy's elegy for the disappearing ways of life in the country as the Industrial Revolution moves out from the cities to mechanise the fields. There is a sense of both celebration and sadness.

 

The inevitability you mention, Hazel, is a key concept in his writing - the idea of character being fate, as well as the patterns and cycles in lives on both the small scale of the individual as well as the grand scale of humanity form the backbone of his thinking.

 

This novel, when looked at across Hardy's work, always has the feel for me of one of Shakespeare's later comedies, such as Twelfth Night: much to amuse, but a dark undertone that threatens to consume. Just as the darkness breaks out in Shakespeare's tragedies, so that happens here with the later books, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. They have less of the lightness, but they are much the better novels.

 

chuntzy 12th December 2006 07:00 PM

 

Both of the above messages have brought back some good memories of reading Thomas Hardy. I, too, started with 'Far From the Madding Crowd' and then the novels David mentions. The last one I read was 'Jude the Obscure'. A terrific writer: I'll just have to borrow the latest biography of him by Claire Tomalin.

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I've just finished this and like some of you it was also my first Hardy.

 

I found the depiction of the pastoral scene very warm and inviting, but with that darker edge that David mentions.

 

Parts of it were very powerful, particularly where Boldwood was concerned. His desperation was unnerving and it was interesting to see how he was able to exert his influence over Bathsheba, whose resolve and independence was very much shattered in her dealings with Troy.

 

I almost felt angry at her for getting so caught up in him that she was stubbornly blind to his faults.

 

And...

 

 

I thought it was a pity that she had to lose her independence and bravery so she could live happily ever after with the solid, dependable Oak.

 

I look forward to reading more of Hardy though.

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My first Hardy too, I think. I'm now on chapter three. I will return to this thread when I am a bit further through.

 

An aside: Is there any reason why 'heroines' in nineteenth century novels are almost always brunette? I love it as I am too, ;) but was dark hair somehow viewed as more beautiful than fair in those days. Nowadays I detect that blonde is generally seen as more beautiful than dark...

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An aside: Is there any reason why 'heroines' in nineteenth century novels are almost always brunette? I love it as I am too, ;) but was dark hair somehow viewed as more beautiful than fair in those days. Nowadays I detect that blonde is generally seen as more beautiful than dark...

 

As you will discover during the OU course, Hilary, dark and fair hair in the 19th became symbolic of moral standing and the sentimental heroines parodied in much of what you will be reading tended to have blonde hair - the heroines the readers were asked to identify with, which challenged contemporary Victorian values, tended to have brown hair.

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Then I'm glad I noticed before I started the course... ;) Phew, I had a thought. :D

 

:D Stands you in great stead for this course! Two weeks off of my exam and I am beginning to wonder why I bothered!

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Oh goodness, two weeks... at least it will all be over soon though. How have you got on so far?

 

I've done well this year but it cost a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and means I don't have to work quite as hard for the exam, but I hate revising. Revising has no prescribed structure and no guarantees. Plus you know while you are doing it that you are only ever going to use about 20% of what you revise. Plus out of 12 or 13 books I have to choose 6-8 to revise - what if I choose the wrong ones?!

 

Fortunately, Hilary you will be relieved to know that you only have to revise D&S or MM - not both! I have plumped for D&S as I enjoyed it more.

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I'm now over halfway through and am loving it. I love the fact that one of the farmworkers is called Mark Clark, and another is married to an imposing older woman and only known as Susan Tall's husband! Some of the names and characters feel a bit comically Dickensian, albeit in a rural setting. Gabriel Oak is wonderful though.

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I'm about 80 pages from the end now.

What's funny is that in the first third I was urging Bathsheba to choose Ganriel Oak over the other two, but when I got further through I was urging him not to wait for her, as I was starting not to like her very much and thought he was too good for her. But now Troy is being so awful, I feel sorry enough for her to want her to end up with Gabriel Oak again. I have no idea what happens, everyone keeps saying how dark Hardy is so I have no certainty that they all even make it to the end alive! Exciting stuff!

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I have finally finished this, having read it in two installments, starting in September, and breaking off to re-read Jude The Obscure and a couple of books by Edith Wharton for a U3A class.

 

This was not the first time I have read it, but the last time was a good 45 years ago and that had later been overshadowed, and spoiled for me by the 1967 film version. It was a joy to re-read it and be reminded of the things I had loved about it all those years ago.

Like others of Hardy's novels the characters bring disaster upon themselves by making bad decisions, but knowing how the plot pans out left me free to revel in Hardy's glorious descriptions of the 'Wessex' landscape, his memories of the rural life of his childhood and of his parents day, and his wonderful, loving, humorous depictions of the 'rustics'.

I was driven on many occasions to hunt for the various folkdance tunes and songs that are mentioned - having a couple of CDs of them, including one featuring Hardy senior's, and Thomas's own violins.

 

There are plenty of Hardy novels that I haven't read before, and I really must try some of them.

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As a Dorset lad born and bred, I've taken far too long to read my first Hardy novel. I really liked this book, not just for the fantastic descriptions of the countryside I grew up in, but for the fine characterisation that runs through the book. Whilst I found Bathsheba quite an annoying character at times, I thought she came across as being very complex - on one hand a strong woman running a farm full of men, yet powerless when faced by Troy and naive in dealing with Boldwood. The set-pieces that highlight Gabriel's virtues were really enjoyable - saving both the harvest during the storm and the sheep that have been poisoned. I wish I could say all Dorset men are like this, but I'm afraid Mr Oak puts us to shame. :o

 

I'm quite keen to give a few more Hardy books a try and was thinking of trying 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' next. A lot of people have mentioned the 'dark undertones' in this story and I'm keen to see how these manifest themselves and develop in later works. How did I go for so long without Hardy in my life?

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Far From the Madding Crowd is my favourite Hardy, full of strong characters who seem to act for themselves rather than carrying a heavy authorial burden, as in Tess or The Mayor. Oak is a marvellous touchstone of goodness character who recalls to me Joe Gargery in Dickens - but Gabriel is of course more intelligent and has much greater inner life. Bathsheba is a modern woman in many respects and convinces as a person more than the usual Hardy heroine. One sympathises with them all, even the villainous seducer,Troy.

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I found the characters in this book to be a bit detached emotionally. I didn,t sympathise with any particular character which is unusual, except maybe with Gabriel slightly, but more for his predicament than any likeablility factors. I found the book lacked passion in some parts, and left you disappointed at certain conclusions. The author has got such a talent with description though, really beautiful descriptions of landscape, countryside and nature in both its cruelty and purpose.

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I loved this book. I adored the melodramatic moments, but most of all I connected with Hardy's love of nature and the countryside. I was so touched by the descriptions of burning hay ricks and the storm. His writing is beautiful.

 

I hated Bathsheba!

 

I fully plan to read every other hardy book. I have Jude waiting.

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I hated Bathsheba!

A bit strong, I think. I don't recall anything she did that was hateful, although she was thoughtlessly cruel to Boldwood, and somewhat stupid in matters of the heart.

 

I have Jude waiting.
I look forward to seeing your thoughts on Sue Bridehead, over on the 'Jude' thread :D

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Just finished my second reading of this. It must have been ten years since my first reading. How delightful then to find so much more richness in a second read.

 

Only now has it struck me that the names Hardy chose had other connotations. Oak, yes, because of his strenght and dependability. Troy, has to relate to some mythalogical meaning that I have yet to research but must reflect on Sergeant Troy's character. Boldwood, a seemingly upright and sturdy character who burns so easily with passion that ultimately destroys. And Bathsheba Everdene has so many meansings of a much desired woman of country origins. Well, that's how I see it this time around. And this time too I saw so many references to the mythalogical and the religious in the general narrative that I had not noticed first time around.

 

Added to all this are the fabulous descriptions of town and countryside, of such wonderful characters that populated the area giving an in depth picture of how life used to be. All of this added yet another layer of pleasure and enjoyment to a wonderful read.

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Just finished my second reading of this. It must have been ten years since my first reading. How delightful then to find so much more richness in a second read.

 

Only now has it struck me that the names Hardy chose had other connotations. Oak, yes, because of his strenght and dependability. Troy, has to relate to some mythalogical meaning that I have yet to research but must reflect on Sergeant Troy's character. Boldwood, a seemingly upright and sturdy character who burns so easily with passion that ultimately destroys. And Bathsheba Everdene has so many meansings of a much desired woman of country origins. Well, that's how I see it this time around. And this time too I saw so many references to the mythalogical and the religious in the general narrative that I had not noticed first time around.

 

Added to all this are the fabulous descriptions of town and countryside, of such wonderful characters that populated the area giving an in depth picture of how life used to be. All of this added yet another layer of pleasure and enjoyment to a wonderful read.

 

Agreed. A very satisfying novel, but I can't help wondering what sort of life Bathsheba and Gabriel would have together. Would it end, as Hardy seems to suggest, in tame domesticity? Or would the flighty woman rebel and defy her sober master of the house, take another lover, perhaps a city slicker or even a ploughman? What about a vulgar gamekeeper?

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