Thomas Hardy

Far From The Madding Crowd

  • 66-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 57 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a former professor with both an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing
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Far From The Madding Crowd Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 66-page guide for “Far From The Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 57 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 26 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Victorian English Social Mores and Rural Life and Modernity and the Relative Passage of Time.

Far from the Madding Crowd is Thomas Hardy’s fourth novel, originally published in 1874 as a serial for Cornhill Magazine. Hardy was a Victorian poet and novelist writing in the Realist tradition. The novel is the first to be set in Hardy’s Wessex, a fictitious region of England modeled after his own Dorset and named after the early Saxon kingdom in the same region. Like much of Hardy’s work, the novel explores rural, Victorian-era English society and counters its traditional, idyllic portrayal with a rougher, more complicated depiction. The novel was well received. It has been adapted many times for radio, stage, and screen, including a 2015 film adaptation starring Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen.

Plot Summary 

The novel begins in the town of Norcombe, where Gabriel Oak is a young farmer. One day, he makes the acquaintance of Bathsheba Everdene, who is staying with her aunt nearby, when she saves him from accidental suffocation. He quickly falls in love and asks her to marry him; however, she rejects his proposal and soon moves away to nearby Weatherbury. Shortly thereafter, Gabriel’s sheepdog in training mistakenly drives his entire flock over a cliff, bankrupting Gabriel.

Some months later, he is travelling to look for work when he finds himself in Weatherbury. Spotting a barn on fire, he leaps to work to save it. The barn coincidentally belongs to Bathsheba, who has inherited her uncle’s farm. The townspeople, unaware of their history, call for Bathsheba to hire the heroic Gabriel as a shepherd, to which she assents. Gabriel finds lodging and becomes a reliable worker for Bathsheba; their relationship remains professional.

One Valentine’s Day, Bathsheba decides to send a valentine in jest to her neighbor, William Boldwood, another wealthy local farmer, because Boldwood never takes notice of her in the markets or in church. Boldwood, a very serious man, believes the valentine to be a true declaration of love and becomes infatuated with Bathsheba. He pursues her until she finally relents and agrees to consider marrying him in five or six weeks if he agrees to leave her alone until then.

In that time, Bathsheba happens to run into Sergeant Troy, a young military man from the area home on leave. Troy is charming and passionate, and when he pursues Bathsheba, despite the warnings of those around her, she falls in love with him. They marry secretly in Bath. Boldwood is distraught and falls into a deep depression, to the point of neglecting his crops, and he loses the majority of his yield to a heavy storm.

Following their marriage, however, Troy becomes more interested in drinking and gambling than settling down, and Bathsheba quickly grows to regret marrying him. Further, Troy still has feelings for an old girlfriend of his. Unbeknownst to Bathsheba, Troy’s old lover was Fanny Robin, a former servant of Bathsheba’s who mysteriously disappeared. When news arrives that Fanny has died in a poorhouse in nearby Casterbridge, Bathsheba takes charge of collecting the body and arranging the burial. In the process, she figures out Troy’s connection to Fanny, which is confirmed when Troy returns and finds Fanny in the coffin. He tells Bathsheba that he had only ever truly loved Fanny, and that Bathsheba means nothing to him.

After arranging for a headstone for Fanny, Troy walks off toward Budmouth. He goes swimming in a nearby cove and is swept out to sea. The town presumes him dead; Boldwood, reinvigorated, renews his pursuit of Bathsheba, finally convincing her to promise at his Christmas party that she will marry him in six years, once an appropriate amount of time has passed since Troy’s disappearance. However, just then, Troy arrives at the party, demanding that Bathsheba leave with him. When Troy becomes rough with Bathsheba, Boldwood shoots him, then turns himself in. He is eventually sentenced to indefinite imprisonment.

All the while, Gabriel has stood by Bathsheba, serving as her constant and most trusted worker and friend. She comes to realize that she loves him; at the end of the novel, a little more than one year after Troy’s death, Gabriel and Bathsheba marry.

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