Far From The Madding Crowd Summary

Thomas Hardy

Far From The Madding Crowd

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Far From The Madding Crowd Summary

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Far From the Madding Crowd is a novel by British author Thomas Hardy, first published in Cornhill Magazine as an anonymous serial and later published in 1874. Set in the fictional county of Wessex in rural southwest England, it focuses on farmer Bathsheba Everdene, her life and relationships, particularly her romantic complications with three men: neighbor William Boldwood, shepherd Gabriel Oak, and soldier Sergeant Troy. Exploring themes of love, honor, and betrayal, it has become one of Hardy’s most popular and enduring novels. Although critical reception was strong from the start, Hardy revised the book heavily in 1895 and 1901. It was named the forty-eighth best-loved novel of all time in Britain, according to the BBC survey “The Big Read.” It has been adapted multiple times in different mediums, including radio drama, comic serial, four live action films between 1915 and 2015, and stage productions, including play, dance, opera, and musical. A best seller from its release, it remains widely read and sold today.

As Far From the Madding Crowd begins, Bathsheba is a young woman arriving to live with her aunt, Mrs. Hurst. She soon meets Gabriel Oak, a young shepherd who has diligently saved to buy a sheep farm. Bathsheba and Gabriel fall for each other, and the two connect when she saves his life from a mishap. However, when he proposes to her humbly, she refuses. She wants to keep her independence. Gabriel is hurt, the two argue, and she moves to Weatherbury, a nearby village. When they meet next, Gabriel has lost almost everything after an inexperienced sheepdog leads his sheep off a cliff. He seeks a job at a hiring fair in Casterbridge, and finding none, heads to Shottsford near Weatherbury. He comes across a fire on a farm and leads the locals in putting it out. He finds out that the owner is Bathsheba, who recently inherited her uncle’s estate. Although their reunion is awkward, she offers him a job.

Bathsheba, meanwhile, has found herself a new admirer. William Boldwood is an older but wealthy farmer. Bathsheba, surprised that he did not notice her, playfully sends him a valentine with a joking marriage proposal. He does not realize it is a joke, and pursues her to propose marriage. Although she does not love him, she considers accepting due to his wealth. She puts off giving him an answer. Gabriel criticizes her for playing with Boldwood’s emotions, and she angrily fires him. However, when her sheep start dying from bloat disease, she finds out that Gabriel is the only one who knows how to cure them. She begs him for help, eventually putting aside her pride. He agrees, and wins back his job and their friendship. Soon afterwards, the handsome Sergeant Francis Troy returns to Weatherbury and encounters Bathsheba. Although she dislikes his arrogance at first, he impresses her by displaying his swordsmanship. Gabriel tries to dissuade her interest in Troy, and Boldwood clearly sees Troy as a threat. Bathsheba fears for Troy’s safety if he encounters Boldwood. She runs off with Troy to Bath. When they return, Boldwood attempts to bribe Troy to leave her, but Troy announces that they are already married. Boldwood leaves, vowing revenge.

However, the marriage turns out to be far from perfect. Troy is a reckless gambler with no interest in farming. She soon suspects he does not love her at all, instead being focused on Bathsheba’s former servant Fanny Robin. Troy and Fanny were once engaged, but she accidentally went to the wrong church on their wedding day. Humiliated at being left at the altar, he broke the engagement, not knowing she was pregnant. Months later, Troy and Bathsheba encounter Fanny as she makes her way towards the Casterbridge workhouse. Troy sends his wife ahead before she realizes who Fanny is, and gives the pregnant Fanny all the money he has. However, Fanny dies in childbirth a few hours later, and the child with her. The coffin is sent back to Weatherbury for burial. When Bathsheba allows the coffin in her house for the night, Gabriel tries to protect her feelings by hiding the truth about the child, but she learns it from her new servant Liddy. Troy comes home to find that his former fiancée and child are dead. He engraves a tombstone for them, so grieved he cannot be around Bathsheba. He walks to the sea, letting the current carry him away. He would be drowned if not for a rowboat passing by that rescues him.

A year later, with Troy presumed dead, Boldwood begins pursuing Bathsheba again. Feeling guilty over how she treated him, she agrees to marry him in six years after Troy is declared dead. Troy, however, is not dead and hears about Boldwood’s plan. He returns to Weatherbury on Christmas Eve. Arriving at Boldwood’s house where a party is being held, he ambushes Bathsheba,ordering her to come with him. Boldwood hears her scream and shoots Troy dead. Shocked by what he has done, he attempts to turn the gun on himself but fails. He is condemned to hang, but is granted clemency by the Home Secretary and sent to prison. Bathsheba, devastated by these events, buries Troy in the same grave as Fanny and their child.

Through these tragedies, Bathsheba realizes that she has relied on Gabriel more than anyone. When he tells her he is moving on from his job, she realizes how important he is to her and asks him why he is leaving. He says that people have been gossiping that he plans to marry her, and he does not want to hurt her good name. She tells him that it would be too soon, of course, but does not reject the idea. This makes him realize that she feels the same way he does. He proposes marriage once again, and the two wed quietly and privately, having found happiness at last.

Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet, whose works are considered part of the Victorian realist tradition. He was known for his critical eye on Victorian tradition and his look at the lives of ordinary people in rural England during this period. He wrote eighteen major works of fiction during his life, and is most famous for his later novels,Tess of the dUrbervilles and Jude the Obscure. He also wrote dozens of short stories and poetry collections, as well as a three-part verse drama about the war with Napoleon. He is still widely read and analyzed today.