4 Reading a chapter from Far From the Madding Crowd
A short chapter has been chosen to use as an example of ways in which Hardy makes us believe in and care about his fictional characters and what happens to them. Chapter XIII comes about a third of the way through the novel. Of course, if you were reading FarFrom the Madding Crowd from the beginning (and hopefully you have, or will want to) you would already be familiar with Bathsheba and her servant Liddy, the characters who feature in this chapter. But if not, even in these few pages Hardy’s use of narrative description and the characters’ dialogue gives us a strong sense of who these women are, what they are like, and a desire to discover what will happen next.
At this point in the story, Bathsheba Everdene, an educated young woman but previously penniless and dependent on an aunt for her home, has inherited the lease of an uncle’s farm. She has left her aunt and moved twenty miles away to Weatherbury to manage it. The local community takes great interest in her independent ways and managerial skills.
Box 2 Chapter XIII
Chapter XIII is called ‘Sortes sanctorum: the valentine’. The Latin words translate as ‘the oracles of the holy scripture’ and refer to using the Bible as a kind of fortune-telling device or as a way to solve problems; opening it and alighting on a verse at random would, it was believed, provide an answer. Names for new-born babies were sometimes chosen in the same way, and as you will see, in this chapter Bathsheba and Liddy engage in a variation of that practice.
Read the chapter (link below) now so that you are familiar with the examples in the discussion that follows. You may like to make notes of any words or references that you might find unfamiliar or difficult to understand. If they are not explained do look them up in a dictionary.