What kinds of narrative techniques are used in Far From the Madding Crowd?

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Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd is a typical Victorian novel, meaning it uses a variety of narrative points of view. It includes an omniscient narrator and switches between the perspective of many of the main characters, including Gabriel, Bathsheba, and Troy. It also employs the narrative technique of dramatic ...

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Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd is a typical Victorian novel, meaning it uses a variety of narrative points of view. It includes an omniscient narrator and switches between the perspective of many of the main characters, including Gabriel, Bathsheba, and Troy. It also employs the narrative technique of dramatic irony.

The omniscient narrator, who knows and can comment on everything going on in a novel, would become suspect in the modernist era of the twentieth century, but Hardy uses this narrative voice unabashedly to let readers know what is happening and what it means. For example, early on in the novel, he tells us authoritatively about Gabriel Oak:

His Christian name was Gabriel, and on working days he was a young man of sound judgment, easy motions, proper dress, and general good character. On Sundays he was a man of misty views, rather given to postponing, and hampered by his best clothes and umbrella: upon the whole, one who felt himself to occupy morally that vast middle space of Laodicean neutrality which lay between the Communion people of the parish and the drunken section

As we can also see from the quote above, the narrator assumes an educated audience when he uses the term Laodicean, which means lukewarm. More importantly, this narrator is a voice of authority. His voice is humorous, but we have no reason to question what he tells us about Gabriel.

The omniscient narrative also gets us into the consciousnesses of different characters and lets us know what they are thinking. For example, we are privy to Bathsheba's thoughts in the following:

The special verse in the Book of Ruth was sought out by Bathsheba, and the sublime words met her eye. They slightly thrilled and abashed her. It was Wisdom in the abstract facing Folly in the concrete. Folly in the concrete blushed, persisted in her intention, and placed the key on the book.

We can note that again the narrator conveying her emotions is somewhat humorous and sardonic. Bathsheba is seen as Folly personified, as she blushes at the words she reads.

As Dickens does, Hardy has the omniscient narrator set the scene and then moves the action into dialogue. This occurs, for example, after Bathsheba is personified as Folly:

"Now keep steady, and be silent," said Bathsheba.

The verse was repeated; the book turned round; Bathsheba blushed guiltily.

Finally, Hardy uses dramatic irony, which is when the reader knows something characters in a work don't. We know that Troy has survived his apparent drowning, a fact unknown to pertinent players in the novel, such as Bathsheba.

Hardy's narrative techniques offer the reader a great deal of authoritative information and thus a great deal of power as readers.

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