Far From the Madding Crowd begins with an almost lighthearted tone, especially in the first chapter (which is a delight) but becomes more pensive over the course of the story as Hardy explores the choices and passions of his characters.
Bathsheba Everdene was beautiful, independent and headstrong, and inclined to be impulsive and thoughtless. She had three suitors: a plain-speaking, hardworking but luckless farmer; a wealthy, mature bachelor; and a dashing, reckless soldier. Bathsheba’s vanity and immaturity led her into making some careless decisions that resulted in consequences she never imagined nor intended.
‘…I shouldn’t mind being a bride at a wedding if I could be one without having a husband. But since a woman can’t show off in that way by herself I shan’t marry – at least yet.’
‘She felt her impulses to be pleasanter guides than her discretion.
‘Some women only require an emergency to make them fit for one.
He had lost all he possessed of worldly property: he had sunk from his modest elevation down to a lower ditch than that from which he had started; but he had now a dignified calm he had never before known and that indifference to fate which, though it often makes a villain of a man is the basis of his sublimity when it does not. And this the basement had been exaltation and the loss gain.
She resolved never again to look or by sign to interrupt the steady flow of this man’s life. But a resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible.
Never did a fragile tailless sentence convey a more perfect meaning. The careless sergeant smiled within himself, and probably the devil smiled too from a loophole in Tophet, for the moment was the turning-point of a career…the seed which was to lift the foundation had taken root in the chink…
‘Ay, sure,’ said his son, a young man about sixty-five, with a semi-bald head and one tooth in the left centre of his upper jaw, which made much of itself by standing prominent, like a milestone in a bank.
The maltster’s lack of teeth appeared not to sensibly diminish his powers as a mill: he had been without them for so many years that toothlessness was felt to be a defect than hard gums an acquisition.
We learn that it is not the rays which bodies absorb, but those which they reject that give them the colours they are known by, and in the same way people are specialised by their dislikes and antagonisms whilst their goodwill is looked upon as no attribute at all.
Hardy’s Wessex settings and his poetic style of writing are draw cards for me even though I’ve found some of his books rather bleak and sometimes fatalistic. Far From the Madding Crowd was a very enjoyable read and revealed another side to Hardy that I hadn’t noticed in his other books.
Far From the Madding Crowd is my selection for a 19th Century Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016.
Ambleside Online has scheduled this book as a free read in Year 10.