What part does common opinion play in "Far from the Madding Crowd"?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Consider first the title of the novel - Far from the Madding Crowd.  It suggest that the "crowd", i.e. public opinion, has huge influence over the characters in the novel.  The social heirarchy in England plays less a part than chance and catastrophe in this novel, but it is present.  In the beginning, although Oak and Bathsheba are social equals, she refuses marriage to him.  Common opinion, common romance really, causes Bathsheba to desire a husband that shows more "manly characteristics".  This desire for what is socially accepted as "manly" drives her to marry Troy later in the novel, though he clearly is not a solid or steady man.  Troy is driven by the common opinion, particularly in Victorian England, that money  and status are vital concerns in marriage.  By following this belief, Troy abandons his own desires and helps to led both Fanny and himself into tragic deaths.  Oak, clearly in love with Bathsheba, falls on hard times and becomes her inferior in status.  When Bathsheba is available, he leaves the county in order to avoid the public presumption that he is "after" her; he knows he is not her social equal and it would not be acceptable.  However, he does eventually return, having earned back enough money and status to have their marriage be accepted by the public.  The public beliefs concerning gender roles, love, and status dominate the lives of the central characters.

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Far from the Madding Crowd

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