Sunday, November 23, 2008

Far From the Madding Crowd

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

I really always thought this book was called Far From the Maddening Crowd until I started reading it. Kind of weird how your ears can hear what they think should be right instead of the correct title, or maybe everyone just adds another syllable. "Madding" and "maddening" mean about the same thing anyway. 
What we have is a love story between an unbelievably devoted and sincere man and a really strong woman who is swept off her feet by what twenty-first century intellectuals call a "douche." Gabriel Oak is a humble farmer who falls for a woman of humble origins, Bathsheba Everdene. Gabriel proposes to Bathsheba, but she turns him down because she doesn't love him. To make matters worse Oak's overzealous dog chases his entire flock of sheep through a hedge and they all fall off a cliff, the sheep aren't insured so Gabe is out of luck. He starts wandering around looking for work when he comes upon a fire. He puts it out, saves the farm, and lo and behold it's Bathsheba's, she's come into some inheritance. Oaks proves to be a great worker and is totally devoted to Bathsheba, but she finds it hard to be around him all the time and they squabble. She ends up falling for Sergeant Troy, a player of the first degree who is momentarily captured by Bathsheba's beauty. They get married much to the consternation of Bath's other suitor, William Boldwood. Needless to say the marriage doesn't go very well and it all ends in MURDER. Well the marriage ends in murder, the love proposed at the beginning is eventually fulfilled. 
Bathsheba is the most interesting character in Madding. She is fiercely independent and is only brought into subservience by the wily charms of Francis Troy. She soon realized her mistake, however, and tries to regain control of her life. Hardy flips the typical, "steady" man "passionate" woman binary on its head with Bathsheba and Boldwood. The aged farmer acts like a teenager in love throughout the book. He is manically moody and lovelorn, and finally vengeful. Bathsheba is logical and strong. Even when she makes a bad choice she doesn't waver and faces the consequences. 

Rating 7/10: An entertaining read with some unique characters. Oak isn't the flashiest protagonist, but Hardy makes up for it with some nice plot twists and the flamboyant Troy.  

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