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Kell

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

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IT IS ASSUMED YOU HAVE READ THIS BOOK BEFORE READING THIS THREAD, THEREFORE SPOILER TAGS MAY NOT HAVE BEEN USED IN ORDER TO FASCILITATE EASIER AND MORE OPEN DISCUSSION





Anyone who would like to get hold of a copy of this book and join in the circle - there are quite a few copies available at Green Metropolis

 

Also available free in audio format from Librivox,

or as a free e-book from Project Gutenberg.

 

Also available at Amazon - via the banner at the top right hand corner please! :D

 





Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy:


Far From the Madding Crowd is the most pastoral of Hardy's Wessex novels. It tells of the young farmer Gabriel Oak and his pursuit of the elusive Bathsheba Everdene, whose wayward nature leads to both tragedy and true love.

 

The background to this compelling story is the majesty of the Wessex countryside in all its moods, making it one of the most English of the great English novels.

 

Some basic questions to consider:

1- Who was your favourite character and why?

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

3- Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

4- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

5- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?



Some more advanced questions to consider / points to discuss (from Sparknotes):

 

- Discuss Hardy's use of point of view. Why does he have a third-person narrator? What is the effect of giving us insight into the minds of different characters by turns, presenting the same scene from different viewpoints? When is the narrator omniscient, and when is he connected to a particular character? Think about scenes in which one character observes another without being seen. How is this experience similar to that of being a reader?

 

- Discuss the roles of the farm laborers in the novel.

 

- Traditional "marriage plot" novels, such as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, show a female choosing between several suitors and finally deciding on "Mr. Right" at the very end of the novel. Like theatrical comedies, these novels end with at least one marriage. How is this novel similar to marriage plot novels? How is it different? How does Sergeant Troy's relationship with Fanny affect this novel's portrayal of marriage?

 

- Look carefully at the role of promises and contracts in this novel. How does Bathsheba negotiate with each of her suitors? What does she agree to do, and what does she refuse to do? Why don't we see first-hand her final capitulation when she agrees to marry Troy?

 

- Think about the use of land and nature in this novel. Who is talented at farming and who is less so? Why? What does a person's harmony with nature seem to signify? Think about Gabriel's response to the storm and how he reacts when he learns of the sheep's feeding upon young clover.

 

- Does Bathsheba Everdene's character change over the course of the novel? What evidence is there that she learns from experience? What evidence is there that she does not change?

 

- Discuss Hardy's use of setting in Far from the Madding Crowd. What happens at Weatherbury, before the reader's eyes? What important events take place elsewhere, only reported second-hand? How are the events that take place outdoors different from those that take place indoors? What happens at night, and what happens during the day? How does an event's setting help us to interpret it?

 

- Several natural catastrophes happen over the course of this novel: the dog's driving the sheep off the cliff, the fire, the sheep's feeding upon young clover, the storm. What role do these events play with respect to the plot? What do they suggest about man's role with respect to nature? With respect to chance events?

 

- Choose one chapter and look carefully at the point of view Hardy employs in that chapter. How does it advance the plot? How does it reveal information about the characters?

 

- Discuss the roles of letters in this novel. How is communication by letter different from a conversation? What are the advantages or disadvantages of letter-writing as opposed to direct communication? Why do people choose to use letters?

 

(You do not have to answer all, or indeed, any, of these questions, they are meant only as points for you to perhaps mull over as you read, and provoke more discussion. Please feel free to ask and answer any questions that come up as you read.)

Edited by Kell

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Although I enjoyed this pleasant ramble through the countryside, I couldn't help feeling it dragged very slowly for much of the time, and I found that it was almost entirely predictable. I didn't find any of the characters particularly memorable; even the rakish Sergeant Troy and the wilful Bathsheba Everdene seemed very weak in places and it was only the steady Gabriel Oak that seemed to have any real weight to him.

 

The language, however, was beautiful and there's no denying that Hardy's writing flows easily, making this a pleasing way to while away the hours, even if it's not earth-shatteringly exciting or suspenseful. There's enough to keep the reader engaged and it's worth finishing, even if only to see if things turned out exactly as you thought they would when you started reading.

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:D Not always one to say too much I must comment on Far From The Madding Crowd, one of my all time favourite stories! Oh how I love this book and have done for many years now. To me Hardy's pastoral prose is exquisitely charming and delightful: when he writes of things like the farmhands "wimbling the haybales". I am tense as I read and forsee the dramatic tragedies which are about to unfold: the sheepdog scene, Fanny and Troy's church rendezvous, the coffin, the Christmas Party . . . like the secondary characters in the book you can see what's coming but cannot warn or intervene. That is clever.

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How I agree Kernow-reader! I think that this is exactly why Hardy has such enduring power as the reader is taken back as to how life used to be like - far from today's fast paced must have it now society. Life back then was hard and far from easy. Although one can see how the plot will develop Hardy is so clever in the way he critisizes society , in a similar way to Dickens did, how society treated the poor and anyone who did not conform to society's standards.

 

Hardy has caused massive controversy - take Jude the Obscure - this was publicly burnt by a Bishop as it was deemed as going too far. And how I cried with that book - pure passion and heartbreak. Never think that Hardy's novels are just 'a walk in the country' and predictable especially his later novels because they are not!

Edited by Angel

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Phew...I have difficulty getting into this books because it starts with so many words with footnotes I never can resist looking up. But I started reading it in the tube so may be that was not the right surrounding. I'll re-read it from the beginning (only managed a few pages so far) in the afternoon with a good cup of coffee and let you know how I get on.

 

How do you deal with words that have explanantions at the end of the book? Do you look them up at all? Immediately or at a later point?

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Guest radjack
How do you deal with words that have explanantions at the end of the book? Do you look them up at all? Immediately or at a later point?

 

I usually read the book and then read the explanations of the words that I don't understand;)

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Guest ii

Okay, I'm off to catch a flight, but I thought I'd start a bit of a discussion hopefully before that... Only you've all gotten to a pretty good start without me. *isn't sure if she should be happy or feel unimportant*

 

Seriously...

 

One of the things that I found difficult, and what has already been mentioned here, is the very elaborate, and detailed language Hardy uses in his text. Even for those in the very early stages of the book have, no doubt, come across the description of Farmer Oak in the field, gazing up to the stars, with hardy giving us a thorough description of which constellation is where and so on. (I'm pointing this out because this scene caused me to toss the book away for few days, I hated it.)

 

Personally, I found it quite a drag. Did someone else? Or did you find is peaceful and descriptive? Poetic? Do you think the style of writing is important? Could the story been told in another style? Why do you think this style is used?

 

So, as the prospect of discussing an entire book at once can seem daunting, let's start with a little piece of it. The Style. What did you think? Questions, opinions?

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I agree, ii. I've barely made it through 4 or 5 chapters of this book because it's so slow going. Hardy doesn't read as "light" as Dickens or Austen, neither of whom would normally be considered light reading. Hardy's writing reminds me of Henry James, who I've been forced to read for school...very dense. I'm not sure if I'm going to make it through the entire book, but I'm going to try!

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I found it very flowery and verbose, but, as I was listening to an audio book version, I think I found it less irksome and difficult than if I'd been reading it straight from the page. I was fortinate in that the readers obviously had a love and understanding of the text (it was a free Librivox recording) which allways makes things more palatable. If I'd been reading the book myself, I don't think I would have finished it, to be honest, but listening to it, I found it quite enjoyable and there's a nice flow to the words when you hear them outloud. I wonder if Hardy meant for it to be read out loud rather than internally?

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You can download the ausio book version from them for free using the link in the first post. :roll: I used to fill up my ipod with classics and listen to them on the go when I was out and about, hence I came to Far from the Madding Crowd...

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I usually read the book and then read the explanations of the words that I don't understand;)

That sounds like a good idea but it's really hard for me to keep on reading because I always fear that I miss some kind of important explanation that gives the text another point of view.

What I have done now is kind of a compromise. I have read a chapter, looked up the explanations and only then went on with the next chapter.

 

One of the things that I found difficult, and what has already been mentioned here, is the very elaborate, and detailed language Hardy uses in his text. Even for those in the very early stages of the book have, no doubt, come across the description of Farmer Oak in the field, gazing up to the stars, with hardy giving us a thorough description of which constellation is where and so on. (I'm pointing this out because this scene caused me to toss the book away for few days, I hated it.)

 

Personally, I found it quite a drag. Did someone else?

Yes, that's one of the parts I had difficulties with. I'm no expert on stars and so I don't see any pictures when Hardy is describing the sky though I guess for people who know the stars better this might have been a nice passage.

Were readers of Hardy's time more familiar with the stars or is Hardy an exception knowing the stars so well?

 

 

If I'd been reading the book myself, I don't think I would have finished it, to be honest, but listening to it, I found it quite enjoyable and there's a nice flow to the words when you hear them outloud. I wonder if Hardy meant for it to be read out loud rather than internally?

That's an interesting thought! People used to spend quite a lot of time reading aloud to eachother so I'd say Hardy could have intended to write something for that purpose.

 

 

I have now restarted and finally came to a point of the book at which I started to enjoy reading it:

 

"In short I was going to ask her if she'd like to be married. " "And were you indeed." "Yes. Because if she would I should be very glad to marry her." [...] Not that her young men ever come here - but Lord, in the nature of women she must have a dozen!" "That's unfortunate," said Farmer Oak contemplating a crack in the stone floor with sorrow. "I#m only an everyday sort of man, and my only chance was in being the first comer...

 

Isn't that brilliantly written? As far as I am concerned, the book could have started here. I didn't really get much out of the beginning.

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It seems that not many people are taking part in this reading circle or that they stopped reading, as I did.

Although I was hoping that the book was becoming more interesting, it did not. I didn't really like all these lengthy descriptions of nature, stars and people and I didn't get much out of the dialogues. All in all, whenever I had stopped reading, I didn't really want to pick the book up again. I wasn't interested at all in reading what is happening next and had to force myself to read some more pages. So this is why I decided not to pick the book up again.

 

What's about you? Are you still reading the book? Will you read it until the end?

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That's a shame, Phoenix. I'll admit, when I first started listening to this one, I found it a little dull, but I got into it as it went on and found myself getting more and more investedin the emotional lives of the characters (although I couldn't understand why Bathsheba had so many admirers as she seemed a bit of a cow much of the time!). If anyone is having any trouble reading this one, I heartily recommend listening to an audio book of it - it made it much easier for me to get into and it's well worth reaching the end.

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Guest ii

As many have trouble with this book, including myself, I though it might be a good idea to start digging into it piece by piece. Or more specifically, chapter by chapter. Or thereabouts. This way also those who haven't finished the book yet can speak up, and maybe this will help someone tackle to book a bit better.

 

So, one thing I'd like to bring up about Chapter 1 is the way characters are introduced. Hardy spends quite some time and effort on giving the reader a good description of Farmer Oak, but gives very little to Bathsheba. In deed, all we know about her at this point is that she likes looking at her reflection and that she has strong opinions she stands up to (the incident about the twopence).

 

Now, why do you think the two characters are so unequally described? Do you think it's important? Why Hardy wanted Bathsheba to look at her own reflection, especially as the first encounter the reader has with her? Do you think this first impression of vanity is relevant in the story? Is it correct?

 

What do you think?

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I think Hardy intentionally gives Oak more depth, setting him up to be the real heart of the novel, whereas Bathsheba is straight away given to us as being rather superficial - a beauty of not much substance. This way we side with Oak from the outset - we WANT him to win out no matter what happens - we're invested in what becomes of him.

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Clearly the central character at that point is Gabriel Oak... Batsheba only is someone exterior impacting on his life. hardy is telling us to follow Farmer Oak.

 

It's also a way of getting us to discover us at the same rithm as he does: like him we are puzzled about her attitude and like him we will want to know more...

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Guest ii

Fair point, Kell. Would you say that the differences between Farmer Oak and Bathsheba are further highlighted by the way they're described? Deep solid Farmer Oak is thoroughly discussed, whereas superficial Bathsheba is given a cursory review? Is it a good or a bad thing? Did it have any effect like that on anyone else?

 

For me personally, I was little bored with Farmer Oak from the onset, simply because the amount of time invested in describing him. It was like Hardy went on and on about this guy and I got bored of Hardy talking, more than Farmer Oak, but as I couldn't take it on Hardy, I disliked poor innocent Oak instead.

 

Clearly the central character at that point is Gabriel Oak... Batsheba only is someone exterior impacting on his life.

 

That's an interesting though.

 

It's also a way of getting us to discover us at the same rithm as he does: like him we are puzzled about her attitude and like him we will want to know more...

 

But seems that Farmer Oak made a judgement call, he declared her to be vane.

 

The thing that made it even more important, in a way, is that 'vanity', in being Bathsheba's "fault" and according to Farmer Oak, the greatest of them all, is the very last word of the chapter. It's given tremendous weight by Hardy. Think about it. It's very different if it's

"'vanity', said Gabriel." Or

"Gabriel, ..., and said, 'vanity'."

 

And I started wondering, why is Bathsheba's vanity so very important?

Edited by ii
merged, as noone posted in between

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But seems that Farmer Oak made a judgement call, he declared her to be vane.

 

The thing that made it even more important, in a way, is that 'vanity', in being Bathsheba's "fault" and according to Farmer Oak, the greatest of them all, is the very last word of the chapter. It's given tremendous weight by Hardy. Think about it. It's very different if it's

"'vanity', said Gabriel." Or

"Gabriel, ..., and said, 'vanity'."

 

And I started wondering, why is Bathsheba's vanity so very important?

 

True, I noticed that as well. At first I thought it would become a theme: him discovering little by little that she wasnt so vain and/ or her changing. But he seemed to get over it so quickly! In the following chapters Batsheba's 'vanity' doesnt seem to be much of an issue which contrasts with that first categorical declaration.

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I think that although Oak comes across as being solid, he also seems a little boring and is therefore a turnoff to someone like Bathsheba whose vanity will not permit her to "stoop" to being with someone like him. It's setting her up for disappointment due to her own fault. It also shows, already, that Oak is a patient man wgereas I think Bathsheba is always shown to be more impetuous. A case of total opposites - Bathsheba feels she needs someone handsome, exciting and important to be worthy of her sheerly because she is beautiful - she's counting on her looks to take her on to better things.

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This is my review of the book:

 

I found this book slow at the beginning, and in all honesty I did consider giving up on it. However, I am glad I didn't. I enjoyed it once I felt it got going! This is the first Hardy book I've read and my goodness, he definitely has a way with words! His descriptions were capturing, although sometimes maybe a little long winded!

As for the story and characters, well I wasn't a fan of Bathsheba. I admired her independence, but she seemed thoughtless and manipulative. At the end I did find myself feeling a bit sorry for her with the whole Troy shabang, and the Baldwood ordeal, but for the most part I felt a lot of what happened to her was the reprecussion of her own actions.

Oak however, he I did like. He was strong and silent, and he was there when he was needed. He seemed selfless and just a gentle, ideal man. It was interesting how Hardy introduced him first, even though the story followed Bathsheba. I think this shows the significance of his character and actually made me like him instantly. First impressions were definintely key in this book.

The story, well predictible for the most part, but that didn't spoil the story. Every question I had throughout the book was answered and I was satisfied at the end. I think it was quite radical, with Bathsheba taking on the roles she did, most unusual for the time. That aspect gave the book a little more depth.

Overall, a good read.

7/10

 

I guess in regards to Oak and Bathsheba, she seems to be someone who is looking for excitment and looking to live life on the edge. She is a radical woman of her time, running a farm and picking marriage instead of being forced into it, so Oak would not have been suitable for her, he was too reliable and sensible

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What's about you? Are you still reading the book? Will you read it until the end?

 

I started this a few days ago and am finding it slow going at the moment. I really like Hardy's style of writing but the story itself is dragging. So much so that I had to pick up another book in the hopes of getting me reading again! (I never do that usually.)

 

The chapter I struggled with was when Oak met with the locals in the pub but now I'm past that so I'm hoping it will pick up.

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I've started the book, and am enjoying it, real life however is snapping at my heels a little more than usual. I will however make more of an effort to read and finish Madding.

 

Oak is a most stolid character, probably typical of the farmer of the time, maybe most times as far as I know, but I have to observe he is not the brightest bulb on the tree. The very thing that led to his bankruptcy could have been avoided by a simple check on why an untrained and obviously flighty dog was up to when it should have been back home.

It seems to me any real farmer would have checked on any animal of his that it's location was unknown.

 

But then there wouldn't have been a story.

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I've only just started the book and then found it was the subject of a forum discussion here, so now I'll really get on to reading it more determinedly. Right now I'm in the malt house and not as ready as some to throw the book against the wall. I like the prose for seeing the meticulous care that Hardy takes to describe the scenes in detail.

 

Hardy seems to want to create realism by carefully describing correctly all the details that go to make up a realistic setting, rather than just alluding to the overall setting and allowing the reader's imagination to fill it in. When Oak got to the malt house for example it was dark, so he couldn't see how to get in. He groped and then found the leather pull. But not only did he pull on it, he pulled down and the strip of leather pulled up on the latch on the inside. Then he could open the door and enter. He didn't just walk in, as he might have in a more modern recounting of the scene. When Oak looked up in the sky, he didn't just see stars. He saw constellations and, to prove it, he named them -- and no doubt in their correct orientations. I find all of that interesting in itself, but also for showing us a particular conception of how to achieve realistic literary style. As a further thought, the authentic olden dialogue is priceless, and serves the same purpose.

 

As for the single word "vanity" at the end of the chapter, that immediately suggested to me that the story might originally have been published in individual magazine installments, and that was where the first installment ended. Again an interesting thought from looking at the text, in addition to looking at the story. Does someone know?

 

Anyway, p52 and moving forward, enjoying as I go.

Edited by Paul

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Indeed you're right about the serialisation of Far from the Madding Crowd, Paul. I just looked it up. Specifically, it was published in Cornhill, a literary magazine, between January and December 1874.

 

I'm about two-thirds of the way through the book now, and I'm starting to like Bathsheba a little more. Like Kell, I've had trouble understanding how she can have so many suitors when she doesn't appear to be a very pleasant person. Do you think Hardy overplayed the vain, aloof aspect of her character? Could he have softened her a little at an earlier stage so the reader would be able to better understand why her suitors were so drawn to her?

 

Like Phoenix mentioned earlier, I was having trouble picking up the book again after putting it down, but I'm suddenly enjoying it more and looking forward to getting on with it. So much so that I've put my Wodehouse to the side (which I was using as a light escape when I was finding this one too heavy-going).

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