Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
Far from the Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy
The following is a summary of critical viewpoints on Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. See also Thomas Hardy Literary Criticism, Thomas Hardy Short Story Criticism, and Jude the Obscure Criticism.
Long considered one of England's foremost nineteenth-century novelists, Hardy established his reputation with the publication of Far from the Madding Crowd in 1874. It was the first of his so-called “Wessex novels,” set in a fictitious English county closely resembling Hardy's native Dorsetshire. The novel, whose title was borrowed from Thomas Gray's famous “Elegy in a Country Churchyard,” initially appeared in magazine serial form and was the first Hardy work to be widely reviewed. Variations of its rustic characters and settings were to be repeated in several future novels. The novel's protagonist, Bathsheba Everdene, would also presage other strong Hardy heroines.
Plot and Major Characters
Bathsheba Everdene, who has inherited a large farm from her uncle, becomes the center of attention for three men. After a chance meeting with a gentle sheep farmer, Gabriel Oak, Gabriel proposes marriage to Bathsheba, but is refused, as she does not consider him a proper suitor. Gabriel loses most of his herd and becomes a faithful shepherd for Bathsheba. She then meets a neighboring well-to-do farmer, Mr. Boldwood, who impresses Bathsheba. She later capriciously sends him a valentine, which excites Boldwood, and he later proposes marriage. Bathsheba puts him off, but it is assumed that she will succumb. In a subplot, a marriage between Bathsheba's servant, Fanny Robin, and the dashing Sergeant Troy is stopped because of a misunderstanding. Troy turns his attentions to Bathsheba and impresses her with his dazzling sword practice. Troy gains her hand in marriage, leaving Boldwood heartbroken. Meanwhile, the hapless Fanny dies in the workhouse, and her body is brought back to Bathsheba's farm. Bathsheba discovers the corpse of a baby, Troy's child, beside that of Fanny. Troy then disappears, and when his clothes are discovered on a beach, it is presumed that he has drowned. Boldwood reappears on the scene, and Bathsheba agrees to marry him out of a sense of remorse. Troy, however, unexpectedly returns and is killed by the distraught Boldwood, who is later tried and found insane. Bathsheba is at last ready to see the true worth of Gabriel, who has faithfully waited like the Oak of his last name, and the two are married.
A facile interpretation of Far from the Madding Crowd would be that true love triumphs over adversity. Since Hardy's ending, however, has often been criticized as contrived, other dominant themes in the novel should be explored. The “Wessex” setting is almost a theme in itself, with the changeless rhythms of nature and agrarian life set against the vicissitudes which confront the characters. It is noteworthy that the most positively portrayed characters are those closest to the earth, such as Gabriel and the peasants who work the soil. The timelessness of the setting is contrasted with the struggles that the characters face against time and chance. Had Bathsheba not sent the valentine, had Fanny not missed her wedding, for example, the story would have taken an entirely different path. Another important theme is that virtue will ultimately be rewarded. Bathsheba's final acceptance of Gabriel is a form of redemption for her earlier willful behavior. The development of Bathsheba's character reinforces the ideas that vanity is futile and that rebellion will ultimately be put down for the good of the community. While Bathsheba ultimately is portrayed as a reformed character, the reader may find that her old feisty self was truly more interesting.
Far from the Madding Crowd was the first Hardy novel to receive considerable critical attention. It was widely reviewed in England and also marked an important stage in the growth of Hardy's international reputation; the Paris journal Revue des deux mondes, for example, made it the occasion for a long survey-article on Hardy's work to date. After the appearance (anonymously) of the first installment, the Spectator observed that “If Far from the Madding Crowd is not written by George Eliot, then there is a new light among novelists.” Critics during a number of decades have noted that the early serialization of the novel presupposed certain conventions, which could account for the melodramatic nature of many of the scenes. Study of Hardy's manuscript has shown that he had to make extensive alterations in the portions of the novel referring to Fanny Robin and her illegitimate child. Hardy was widely read and respected at the turn of the twentieth century, but a perception that his work was mostly for a popular audience discouraged serious criticism for several decades. In 1940, a seminal issue of the Southern Review devoted solely to Hardy precipitated a rebirth in Hardy criticism. Early modern critics tended to praise Far from the Madding Crowd's evocation of rural life or its universality of theme. By the 1960s and 1970s, Freudian and feminist criticism predominated. In the 1980s and 1990s, critics used a wide variety of critical approaches to Far from the Madding Crowd. While some reviewers continued to adopt a New Critical stance, most were influenced by deconstructive or New Historical techniques. A few of the themes critics exploited were the forms of love in the novel, its subtexts, Hardy's narrative techniques, the relationship of Far from the Madding Crowd to Hardy's own life experiences, and the novel's treatment of gender and power. Reviews of film and television adaptations of the novel formed a wholly separate genre of criticism.
Desperate Remedies; A Novel (novel) 1871
Under the Greenwood Tree: A Rural Painting of the Dutch School (novel) 1872
A Pair of Blue Eyes: A Novel (novel) 1873
Far from the Madding Crowd (novel) 1874
The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters (novel) 1876
The Return of the Native (novel) 1878
The Trumpet-Major: A Tale (novel) 1880
A Laodicean: A Novel (novel) 1881
Two on a Tower: A Romance (novel) 1882
The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character (novel) 1886
The Woodlanders (novel) 1887
Wessex Tales: Strange, Lively, and Commonplace (novel) 1888
A Group of Noble Dames (novel) 1891
Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented (novel) 1892
Life's Little Ironies: A Set of Tales with Some Colloquial Sketches Entitled “A Few Crusted Characters” (novel) 1894
Jude the Obscure (novel) 1895
The Well-Beloved: A Sketch of a Temperament (novel) 1897
Wessex Poems and Other Verses, with Thirty Illustrations by the Author (novel) 1899
Poems of the Past and the Present...
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SOURCE: “Mr. Hardy's Novels.” British Quarterly Review 73 (April 1881): 174-83.
[In the following excerpt from an early review of Hardy's novels, the critic compares Hardy to some of his contemporaries and points out the salient features of his fiction. However, the reviewer states that Far from the Madding Crowd is not one of Hardy's best works.]
When George Eliot died it was not unnatural that men should at once ask themselves if she who had been confessedly the greatest living English novelist had left any successor in the true province of literature. The question, floating in so many minds, was answered promptly and decidedly by one journal, not without influence on opinion, which claimed the falling mantle for Mr. Thomas Hardy. It was a surprise to many who read the words that such a claim should have been made; the English public, greedy for amusement, careless about good, finished, and subtle literary work, is very slow to understand that of stories which have charmed a leisure hour some are destined to pass into complete forgetfulness, having merely served to waste a part of the season, while others become a part of the literature of the country, to be read and re-read, and to place their characters as living beings among the viewless companions of our thoughts.
The power of creating personages which live, and become even more real than many historic phantasms is...
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SOURCE: Phelps, William Lyon. “The Novels of Thomas Hardy.” North American Review 190 (1909): 502-14.
[In the following excerpt, Phelps notes Hardy's attention to religious architecture, his understanding of pastoral locations and characters in Far from the Madding Crowd and other works, and his juxtaposition of pessimism and humor.]
The father of Thomas Hardy wished his son to enter the church, and this object was the remote goal of his early education. At just what period in the boy's mental development Christianity took on the form of a meaningless fable we shall perhaps never know; but after a time he ceased to have even the faith of a grain of mustard seed. This absence of religious belief has proved no obstacle to many another candidate for the Christian ministry, as every habitual churchgoer knows; or as any son of Belial may discover for himself by merely reading the prospectus of summer schools of theology. There has, however, always been a certain cold, mathematical precision in Mr. Hardy's way of thought that would have made him as uncomfortable in the pulpit as he would have been in an editor's chair, writing for salary persuasive articles containing the exact opposite of his individual convictions. But, although the beauty of holiness failed to impress his mind, the beauty of the sanctuary was sufficiently obvious to his sense of art. He became an ecclesiastical architect, and for...
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SOURCE: Muller, Herbert J. “The Novels of Thomas Hardy Today.” Southern Review 6, no. 1 (summer 1940): 214-24.
[In the following essay, Muller argues that, despite their faults, Hardy's novels survive because of the dignity of their characters and the universality of their appeal.]
In this knowing age, centennials are apt to be rather trying for the spirits of the departed. Critics come not to praise or to bury the artist but to “revalue” him; and in this performance they often treat his work primarily as a cultural symptom, a by-product of an age, an issue of deep unconscious forces—as an incidental illustration of something larger or more serious than the individualized imaginative creation that meant everything to him. The historical perspective is necessary, of course, for his sake as well as ours; it would be unfair even to Shakespeare to read his plays as if they were written by a timeless spirit, not by a popular playwright of Elizabethan England. But this approach may also be unfair to the artist. Critics are usually looking for particular historical tendencies, and their value judgments are loaded accordingly. “To see a ‘century’ in a cathedral or the revolt of the masses in a play,” remarks George Boas, “is believed to be a more valuable experience than to see something else in them.” Hence literary reputations rise and fall with social or political theory—as William...
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SOURCE: Carpenter, Richard. “Fiction: The Major Chord.” In Thomas Hardy, pp. 80-152. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1964.
[In the following excerpt, Carpenter presents an overview of Far from the Madding Crowd.]
I FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
The most representative and balanced of the Wessex novels is the fourth one Hardy wrote, following A Pair of Blue Eyes. Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) combines the typical features of the other major novels without developing any one of them to an extreme: the vividly realized setting of field and farm without the overpowering grim majesty of Egdon Heath, a capricious heroine who does not demonstrate the neurosis of Eustacia Vye or of Sue Bridehead, and the influence of Chance and Time without the dominance they have in Tess of the D'Urbervilles or The Mayor of Casterbridge. Far From the Madding Crowd is not, however, a mere museum of Hardy qualities, but a significant novel in its own right—a kind of golden mean among the major works. Its balance may account for its great popular success in its own time, a success not without disadvantages for Hardy; for, in combination with Under the Greenwood Tree, Far From the Madding Crowd created an audience inclined toward the bucolic and one which was unable to fathom or appreciate his later, grimmer work.
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SOURCE: Meisel, Perry. “The Early Novels.” In Thomas Hardy: The Return of the Repressed, pp. 31-67. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1972.
[In the following excerpt, Meisel offers a psychological study of three early works, emphasizing the tensions within Hardy which affected their composition.]
Hardy's life as an architect's pupil in Dorchester when he was twenty was “a triple existence unusual for a young man—what he used to call, in looking back, a life twisted of three strands—the professional life, the scholar's life, and the rustic life, combined in the twenty-four hours of one day, as it was with him through these years” (Life, p. 32). He describes his peculiar situation at the time as the result of the “accident” that he worked in a country town which was just beginning to feel the effects of modern life (“railways and telegraphs and daily London papers”); “yet not living there, but walking in every day from a world of shepherds and ploughmen in a hamlet three miles off, where modern improvements were still regarded as wonders, he saw rustic and borough doings in a juxtaposition peculiarly close” (Life, pp. 31-32).
Hardy's life at this time was an almost literal version of the multiple sensibilities displayed in his early fiction. While the architecture student set about the tasks of church restoration and the like during the working...
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SOURCE: Williams, Merryn. “Far from the Madding Crowd.” In Thomas Hardy and Rural England, pp. 130-35. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.
[In the following essay, Williams states that the worth of characters in Far from the Madding Crowd is measured by their level of concern for their farm livelihood and the members of their community.]
Far from the Madding Crowd is a much more substantial novel than its predecessors, and several themes which were only glanced at in Under the Greenwood Tree are now fully sustained. There is still a good deal of indifferent writing, and a tendency towards shallow philosophising, yet this is definitely the first of Hardy's major works.
Of all his novels, it is the most optimistic and positive. The tensions, far greater than those in Under the Greenwood Tree, are still contained and harmoniously resolved in the end. It was the novel which the Victorian critics wanted him to write over and over again, and referred back to nostalgically when they were deploring the ‘pessimism’ of Jude [Jude the Obscure] and Tess [Tess of the d’Urbervilles]. But it is not a rustic idyll—although most people thought it was—or a simple romance about three men and a girl. The characters are defined in terms of their work more clearly than in any of the earlier novels: Gabriel and Bathsheba are...
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SOURCE: Sullivan, Tom R. “The Temporal Leitmotif in Far from the Madding Crowd.” Colby Library Quarterly 10 (1974): 296-303.
[In the following essay, Sullivan explores Hardy's notion of “evolutionary meliorism” as it is exhibited in various manifestations of the concept of time in Far from the Madding Crowd.]
Efforts to define Thomas Hardy's philosophical position go on, and on, and on. It has been argued by scholars, and repeated endlessly in seminar and term papers, that he viewed the world as a pessimist, a determinist, or a fatalist. Hardy himself did not want to be considered a philosopher,1 but he did, on a less abstract level then suggested by the isms noted above, generalize about kinds of action which he thought best for men, and his generalizations do not imply the philosophic positions usually attributed to him. He chose to describe his own ‘idiosyncratic mode of regard’ in the following terms: “let me repeat, if way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst: that is to say, by the exploration of reality, and its frank recognition stage by stage along the survey, with an eye to the best consummation possible: briefly, evolutionary meliorism.”2 The process of ‘evolutionary meliorism,’ he said in the same essay, could be achieved by proceeding so that,
pain to all upon it [the world],...
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SOURCE: Kramer, Dale. “Far from the Madding Crowd: The Non-Tragic Predessor.” In Thomas Hardy: The Forms of Tragedy, pp. 24-47. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1975.
[In the following chapter from his study of Hardy and classic tragic forms, Kramer asserts that Far from the Madding Crowd is not a tragedy but does exhibit some of the tragic dichotomies, which would appear in later novels.]
The critical reputation of Far from the Madding Crowd has remained the most stable among Hardy's novels, and for good reason. Few issues tantalize and puzzle its readers. The first installment in Cornhill Magazine showed that it would be a powerful novel. Published anonymously as a serial, it at first provoked speculation that George Eliot was the author,1 but Hardy's grammatical and syntactic infelicities were soon compared unfavorably with her skill.2 All in all, the immediate critical response was warm, despite qualifications, and the novel has continued to hold a high place among the Wessex novels. It became the standard against which the rest were evaluated, and remained so throughout Hardy's career. That the others were usually thought inferior is more an index to critical predisposition than to the final superiority of Far from the Madding Crowd; but that it could be consistently used for a model indicates that its solid merits were recognized....
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SOURCE: Welsh, James M. “Hardy and the Pastoral, Schlesinger and Shepherds: Far from the Madding Crowd.” Literature Film Quarterly 9, no. 2 (1981): 79-84.
[In the following review of John Schlesinger's 1967 film version of Far from the Madding Crowd, Welsh points out the limitations of a compressed form of the novel.]
The director adapting a novel for a mass audience works from one of two possible assumptions: 1) that the viewer probably will not know the original work and therefore needs to be guided carefully through the narrative, or 2) that the viewer probably has read the original work and that key motifs and mutually understood distinctions and nuances of character can therefore be telegraphed to the audience without a great deal of preparation and cinematic development. Perhaps the adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd scripted by Frederic Raphael and directed by John Schlesinger in 1967 succeeds when evaluated by the second assumption, but only to a point, for the novel, which is not, I suspect, widely read these days, is greatly compressed and much diluted.
Far from the Madding Crowd may also achieve a degree of popular success under the first assumption because Julie Christie appears to be visually and temperamentally perfect for the role of Bathsheba Everdene, even though much of the contradictory ambiguity of Hardy's...
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SOURCE: Wittenberg, Judith Bryant. “Angles of Vision and Questions of Gender in Far from the Madding Crowd.” Centennial Review 30, no. 1 (winter 1986): 25-40.
[In the following essay, Wittenberg explores motifs of vision and sight in Far from the Madding Crowd as they relate to male-female relations.]
One of the more controversial issues in recent Hardy criticism concerns his attitudes toward and fictional treatments of women. For example, in a 1975 article, Katharine Rogers says that, although “Thomas Hardy repeatedly shaped his characters and plots to show his sympathy with women and his awareness of the disadvantages society laid upon them, … if we look beyond Hardy's conscious intentions to such things as repeated themes, incidental comments, and subtle differences in the presentation of analogous male and female characters, we find evidence that he could not altogether overcome the sexual stereotypes of his culture.”1 Despite the fact that critics are unlikely to reach any consensus on this topic in the near future, it remains a fruitful one. Readerly awareness of Hardy's ambivalence on this particular subject provides a useful avenue to understanding the sort of larger dialectic that gives his best fiction much of its tension and power. This essay will examine one aspect of Hardy's method—his preoccupation with sight-centered matters and their relationship to...
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SOURCE: Adey, Lionel. “Styles of Love in Far from the Madding Crowd.” Thomas Hardy Annual 5 (1987): 47-62.
[In the following essay, based on a sociological study, Adey analyzes the kinds of love exhibited in Far from the Madding Crowd, especially as they relate to the character development of Bathsheba.]
At first sight, there appears little need for further study of lovers in Far From the Madding Crowd, and even less of their environment. To cite but a few critics, David Cecil has considered the courtship of Bathsheba, Virginia Hyman her moral development through her varied experience in love, George Wing her suitors, Douglas Brown her relation to the natural environment, Merryn Williams that of Gabriel Oak in contrast to Sergeant Troy's alienation from nature, and, most recently, Peter Casagrande Bathsheba's reformation through her communion with both Gabriel and the environment. To my knowledge, none has considered the modes or styles in which those and other characters express love and how far these may result from or determine their attitude to the land and its dependents, nor the tragic import in the Wessex novels of incompatibility in this sense between human beings, as distinct from that between the human psyche and the cosmos.1
The following study was inspired not, as may be supposed, by C. S. Lewis's Four Loves, but by an article by a...
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SOURCE: Mistichelli, William. “Androgyny, Survival, and Fulfillment in Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd.” Modern Language Studies 18, no. 3 (summer 1988): 53-64.
[In the following essay, Mistichelli discusses themes of androgyny in Far from the Madding Crowd,, concluding that, in Gabriel Oak, Bathsheba finds a mate who will help her to fulfill her true humanity.]
In Far From The Madding Crowd uncertainty or ambiguity about sexual identities and roles becomes a recurring motif, especially in connection with the heroine, Bathsheba Everdene. Time and again in the novel, one encounters situations where outright confusion or some reversal of expectations about Bathsheba's sex produces significant revelations about her character and introduces important turns in her life. When she first comes to meet her workers as owner of the Weatherbury farm, she is referred to as Sir by Joseph Poorgrass (Far From The Madding Crowd 113; ch. 10). Another of her workers elsewhere separates her from the rest of her sex by noting with a mixture of surprise and respect that she doesn't tell women's lies (Madding Crowd 393; ch. 53). She is assumed to be a male thief or possibly a gypsy (“a woman was out of the question”) when at night she takes a horse from her stables to meet Frank Troy at Bath (Madding Crowd 239; ch. 32). On her first encounter with Troy, as they...
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SOURCE: Polhemus, Robert M. “Pastoral Erotics: Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd (1874).” In Erotic Faith: Being in Love from Jane Austen to D. H. Lawrence, pp. 223-50. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.
[In the following chapter from his full-length study of eroticism in the works of several novelists, Polhemus examines representations of love and pastoralism in Far from the Madding Crowd, using Claude Lorrain's painting Judgment of Paris as a point of comparison.]
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
There's a somebody I'm longing to see I hope that he Turns out to be Someone to watch over me. I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood; I know I could Always be good To one who'll watch over me.
The Cyprian Queen, my children, is not only the Cyprian; there are many other names she bears. She is Death; she is imperishable force; she is raving madness; she is untempered longing; she is lamentation. Nothing that works or is quiet, nothing that drives to violence, but as she wills. Her impress sinks into the mould of all things whose life is in their breath. Who must not yield to this goddess? She enters into every fish that swims; she is in every four-footed breed upon the land; among the birds everywhere...
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SOURCE: Shires, Linda M. “Narrative, Gender, and Power in Far from the Madding Crowd.” In Novel: A Forum on Fiction, 24, no. 2 (winter 1991): 162–77.
[In the following essay, Shires deconstructs the signifiers of gender and power in the novel, claiming that previous feminist critics have not sufficiently examined the contradictions and complexities in Hardy's portrayal of a nineteenth-century woman's place.]
“Are you a woman?”
“The woman—for it was a woman—approached.”1
In Chapter 44 of Far from the Madding Crowd, Bathsheba Everdene, Mrs. Troy, runs away and hides in a fern brake. In a sudden act of revolt, born of humiliation at the hands of her husband, who has just confided his unsurpassed love for the dead Fanny Robin, Bathsheba seeks escape from a domain of male victimization. Running without direction in the darkness, she happens by chance on a thicket that seems familiar and drops down into a deep slumber. This seemingly protected spot, so like the tree-hung enclosure where Tess d'Urberville loses her virginity, appears far more congenial than it is in actuality. Bathsheba, stripped of a role and a right she thought was hers, wishes to slip back into a void of pre-gendered nothingness. The possibility of death, which she...
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SOURCE: Yelland, Cris. “Hardy's Allusions and the Problem of ‘Pedantry’.” Australia Journal of Linguistics 4, no. 1 (1995): 17-30.
[In the following essay, Yelland builds on the work of previous critics in a discussion of whether Hardy's use of allusion is “pedantic,” and how Hardy's sense of cultural pluralism relates to Victorian concepts of high culture.]
1 HARDY'S ‘PEDANTRY’ AS A LITERARY CRITICAL QUESTION
A good deal of Hardy criticism, from Victorian reviews on, is severe on Hardy's faults of style. Elliott (1984: 13-19) opens with a brief but damning collection of critical hostility stretching from the first review of Desperate Remedies in 1871 on and into the 1970s. Page (1980: 151-2) opens similarly, as does Chapman (1992: 34-5). Most of the criticism of Hardy's faults of style centres on the problem of ‘pedantry’. This term includes heavy-handed generalisations, pretentious Latinism in lexis, and strained allusions to scientific facts and to objects of high culture, especially paintings.
One problem with the question of pedantry is that the grounds for accusing Hardy of it have changed. For instance, to a modern reader, narratorial displays of knowledge may be offputting, but display of knowledge was a common, and highly-valued, feature of Victorian writing. George Eliot's displays of knowledge were valued enough to be...
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SOURCE: Daleski, H. M. “Far from the Madding Crowd: The Only Love.” In Thomas Hardy and Paradoxes of Love, pp. 56-82. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1997.
[In the following essay, Daleski analyzes the forms of love in Far from the Madding Crowd, placing it in the context of later novels.]
Far from the Madding Crowd, says Howard Babb, is “not in the same class with Hardy's later achievements”; and Irving Howe echoes him in stating it is a novel that “by no stretch of affection could be called major.”1 It seems to me, however, that if Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure clearly stand alone as Hardy's two great novels, Far from the Madding Crowd is nonetheless a major achievement and as good as anything else he wrote. Admittedly, it has one poorly contrived and ineffective sequence—the Greenhill Fair episode, which brings Troy back into the narrative after his disappearance—but its mature mastery, following some of the persistent crudities of A Pair of Blue Eyes, is remarkable. The gain in assurance is immediately evident in the tone and the style, which now effortlessly accommodate the vivid and the humorous, as in the following early description of the ways in which Gabriel Oak prepares his person for the proposal of marriage he intends to make to Bathsheba Everdene: “[He]...
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SOURCE: Daniel, Clay. “Hardy, Milton, and ‘The Storm—the Two Together’.” English Language Notes 37, no. 2 (December 1999): 32-41.
[In the following essay, Daniel discusses allusions to Milton's Paradise Lost in one chapter of Far from the Madding Crowd.]
One of Hardy's most memorable chapters is “The Storm—The Two Together” in Far From the Madding Crowd. An overlooked source for this scene is Milton's epic simile of the weighing scales in Paradise Lost. Hardy often alludes to authors such as Milton “to raise his novels from the level of pastoral romance to the realm of the masterpieces he so admired.”1 In “The Storm—The Two Together,” Hardy alludes to Milton also surreptitiously to undercut the generic expectations of a reading public with whom even Leslie Stephen was “careful.”2 This public was “given, according to the mood of the nation at this time, to nostalgic dreams of a rural England that was lost.”3Far From the Madding Crowd, by all accounts, was received as a splendid response to this nostalgia. More recent readers, however, have noted that the novel provides a “grotesque pastoral” in which the “reader … could hardly fail to note how often the events of the novel work against the concept of a peaceful pastoral that the title leads him to expect.”4 In “The Storm—The Two...
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SOURCE: Boumelha, Penny. “The Patriarchy of Class: Under the Greenwood Tree, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Woodlanders.” In The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Hardy, edited by Dale Kramer, pp. 130-44. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
[In the following essay, Boumelha emphasizes the complex interplay of representations of class and gender in Far from the Madding Crowd and two other Hardy novels.]
Central to all of the novels under discussion here is a story of love, courtship, and marriage. More particularly, for the central female character in each case, this central fable takes the form of an erotic or marital “double choice,” to use Franco Moretti's phrase;1 the woman is first attracted to the “right” partner, then distracted by one or more “wrong” partners before confirming—whether emotionally or formally—the “rightness” of the original choice. Also central to all three, though, is a perhaps less familiar story of class mobility and social allegiance, focused through the narrative structures of fluctuating economic fortunes, ownership of property, the accumulation of financial or social capital, trading, and inheritance. These two central points of concern are, of course, deeply interconnected, thematically and in narrative terms. The triangulated relationships of potential lovers represent marital choice as the primary mode...
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SOURCE: Selby, Keith. “Hardy, History and Hokum.” In The Classic Novel: From Page to Screen, edited by Robert Giddings and Erica Sheen, pp. 93-113. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Selby examines screen adaptations of Far from the Madding Crowd by John Schlesinger and Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Roman Polanski, finding that the directors take liberties with Hardy's version of history and his interpretation of character.]
It was David Lodge, in an early article on The Return of the Native (1878), who first called Hardy a ‘cinematic’ novelist—by which he meant not that Hardy was influenced by film (even Hardy's last novel, Jude the Obscure (1896), was published well before film had properly evolved as a narrative medium), but rather that he emulated it. Lodge writes:
Hardy uses verbal description as a film director uses the lens of his camera—to select, highlight, distort, and enhance, creating a visualised world that is both recognisably ‘real’ and yet more vivid, intense and dramatically charged than our ordinary perception of the real world.1
The view that Hardy's art is commonly ‘visual’ has now become generally accepted.
However, to concentrate on that art at the level of narrative would be to tell only part of the...
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Draper, Ronald P., and Martin S. Ray. “Far from the Madding Crowd.” In An Annotated Critical Bibliography of Thomas Hardy, pp. 62-7. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1989.
A selected, annotated list of criticism on Far from the Madding Crowd.
Gerber, Helmut E., and W. Eugene Davis. Thomas Hardy: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings About Him, edited by Helmut E. Gerber and W. Eugene Davis. DeKalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois University Press, 1974, 841 p.
Extensive annotated list of secondary works on the period 1871-1969.
Sherrick, Julie. “Far from the Madding Crowd.” In Thomas Hardy's Major Novels: An Annotated Bibliography, pp. 39-63. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1998.
Comprehensive annotated list of works written about Far from the Madding Crowd, with a section on the circumstances of its composition.
Weber, Carl Jefferson. The First Hundred Years of Thomas Hardy, 1840-1940: A Centenary Bibliography of Hardiana, compiled by Carl J. Weber. Waterville, Maine: Colby College Library, 1942, 276 p.
Early bibliography, with extensive references to 1940.
Gittings, Robert. Young Thomas Hardy and Thomas Hardy's Later Years, New York:...
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