Far From the Madding Crowd
by Thomas Hardy (1840 - 1928)
Type of Work:
Characterization and psychological novel
"Wessex," England; 1869 to 1873
Bathsheba Everdene, a capricious young lady
Gabriel Oak, a dependable shepherd
Mr. Boldwood, a staid, wealthy farmer
Sergeant Frank Troy, an unscrupulous soldier
Fannie Robin, Troy's secret lover
Gabriel Oak quietly scrutinized his new neighbor from across the hedge. Bathsheba Everdene appeared to be an overly-proud woman, but he found himself attracted by her. Oak's ability and initiative had taken him from humble origins to become a respected shepherd with sheep of his own. Now he prepared himself with care to meet Miss Everdene, then made his way to the house of her aunt to propose marriage. Bathsheba, flattered by the farmer's offer, flamed his hopes for a while, but soon announced that she could not marry, nor love, Gabriel.
Before long, Bathsheba unexplainably left the area. Then fate dealt Gabriel another blow: his dog ran his flock of sheep over a cliff, killing them all. "Thank God I am not married," he mused. "What would she have done in the poverty now coming to me?"
Oak went to town to search for work. Unsuccessful, at the end of the day he crawled into a cart to sleep. That night the cart carried him toward Weatherford, the very town to which Bathsheba had moved. Near the town, Oak spied a burning barn and bolted through the fields to help. Putting out the fire, he discovered that the mistress he had served was his own beloved Bathsheba, who had inherited her uncle's Weatherbury Farm. Oak asked her to hire him as the farm's new shepherd. Hesitantly, Bathsheba agreed.
While searching for local lodgings, Oak encountered a slim, poorly-clad girl heading through the woods. Sensing her despair, he pressed some money into her hand. This girl, Fanny Robin, had once been a servant on the Weatherbury Farm.
On that cold, snowy night, Fanny came near a barracks looking for her secret lover, 'Froy. They set a wedding date, but on the appointed morning, Fanny mistakenly walked to the wrong chapel. Troy, impatient and embarrassed by her late arrival, derided her and put her off indefinitely.
One day, a Mr. Boldwood, a true "gentleman," approached the farm to seek news of Fanny, for whom he had long felt a fatherly concern. Bathsheba, finding that Boldwood was wealthy, unmarried, and seemingly indifferent to women, set out to make him her challenge.
Bathsheba personally began overseeing the farm in an attempt to impress Boldwood. She skillfully took her place in the trading market; and soon she was admired by all - except Boldwood.
Then one Sunday afternoon Bathsheba prepared a valentine for Boldwood. Impetuously, she used a seal on the envelope which read "Marry Me." Even Bathsheba could hardly imagine "that the dark and silent shape upon which she had so carelessly thrown a seed was a hotbed of tropic intensity"; and his reaction was indeed intense. Thc, elder gentleman now became a virtual slave to his new-found feelings. When spring arrived, the conservative Boldwood confronted Bathsheba in the fields and proposed marriage. Though she would not agree to anything, Gabriel and the rest of the workers considered her as good as married…...
To know what happens next, please read the novel.
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