Exploring Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd
Exploring Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd

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3 Far From the Madding Crowd

Described image
Figure 4 Julie Christie as Bathsheba Everdene in John Schlesinger’s film of Hardy’s novel. In this image Bathsheba is shown as riding side-saddle, whereas in the novel we are told that she often rode astride - one instance of her independent attitude to social conventions for women at the time.

The discussion of Far From the Madding Crowd that follows will be most rewarding if you have time to read the novel, either now, or at some point as you work through this course. For those who don’t have time or opportunity right now, a synopsis follows. However, don’t read it if you don’t want to spoil the pleasure of finding out what happens if you plan to read it later.

Box 1 Synopsis of the novel

Far From the Madding Crowd is the story of Bathsheba Everdene, a young woman who attracts the fancy of three very different men: steady, reliable Gabriel Oak, a shepherd; the unreliable Sergeant Troy, and the gentleman-farmer Boldwood. All three propose to her. Bathsheba turns Gabriel down early in the story, but her head is turned by the flashy attractions of Frank Troy and she marries him secretly, unaware that Troy had been about to marry Fanny, a poor servant girl. Confusion over which church their wedding was to take place in leaves Troy feeling humiliated and Fanny distraught and destitute. Bathsheba and Troy’s marriage is disastrous and in the meantime Boldwood has become increasingly obsessed with Bathsheba. When Troy is missing, presumed dead, Boldwood wears Bathsheba down until he extracts a promise of marriage from her. Troy reappears ready to reclaim his wife, Boldwood shoots him, is arrested and sentenced to prison. The story ends with Bathsheba’s marriage to the ever-faithful Gabriel Oak.

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