Book Summary: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Are you looking for a book summary of Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy? You have come to the right place.

I jotted down a few key points from Thomas Hardy’s book after reading it.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book summary provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

In this Far From the Madding Crowd book summary, I’m going to cover the following topics:

Who is The Author of Far From the Madding Crowd?

Far from the Madding Crowd, a novel by Thomas Hardy was published serially and anonymously in The Cornhill Magazine in 1874 and published in book form under Hardy’s name the same year. It was his first major success.

Far From the Madding Crowd Book Summary

Gabriel Oak quietly scrutinized his new neighbor from across the hedge. Bathsheba Everdene appeared to be an overly-proud woman, but he found himself attracted by her. Oak’s ability and initiative had taken him from humble origins to become a respected shepherd with a flock of his own.

Now he prepared himself with care to meet Miss Everdene, then made his way to the house of her aunt to propose marriage. Bathsheba, flattered by the farmer’s offer, flamed his hopes for a while, but soon announced that she could not marry, nor love, Gabriel.

Before long, Bathsheba unexplainably left the area. Then fate dealt Gabriel another blow: his dog ran his entire flock of sheep over a cliff, killing them all. “Thank God I am not married,” he mused. “What would she have done in the poverty now coming to me?”

Oak went to town to search for work. Unsuccessful, at the end of the day he crawled into a cart to sleep. That night the cart carried him toward Weatherford, the very town to which Bathsheba had moved. Near the town, Oak spied a burning barn and bolted through the fields to help.

Putting out the fire, he discovered that the mistress he had served was his own beloved Bathsheba, who had inherited her uncle’s Weatherbury Farm. Oak asked her to hire him as the farm’s new shepherd. Hesitantly, Bathsheba agreed.

While searching for local lodgings, Oak encountered a slim, poorly-clad young woman heading through the woods. Sensing her despair, he pressed some money into her hand. This girl, Fanny Robin, had once been a servant at Weatherbury.

On that cold, snowy night, Fanny came near a barracks looking for her secret lover, Troy. They set a wedding date, but on the appointed morning, Fanny mistakenly walked to the wrong chapel. Troy, impatient and embarrassed by her late arrival, derided her and put her off indefinitely.

One day, a Mr Boldwood, a true “gentleman,” approached the farm to seek news of Fanny, for whom he had long felt a fatherly concern. Bathsheba, finding that Boldwood was wealthy, unmarried, and seemingly indifferent to women, set out to make him her challenge.

Bathsheba personally began overseeing the farm in an attempt to impress Boldwood. She skillfully took her place in the trading market; and soon she was admired by all – except Boldwood.

Then one Sunday afternoon Bathsheba prepared a valentine for Boldwood. Impetuously, she used a seal on the envelope which read “Marry Me.” Even Bathsheba could hardly imagine “that the dark and silent shape upon which she had so carelessly thrown a seed was a hotbed of tropic intensity”; and his reaction was indeed intense.

The elder gentleman now became a virtual slave to his newfound feelings. When spring arrived, the conservative Boldwood confronted Bathsheba in the fields and proposed. Though she would not agree to anything, Gabriel and the rest of the workers considered her as good as married.

Later that season, the sheep broke their fence and ate fresh clover. They would die if not quickly treated, but only Gabriel knew how to cure them. Bathsheba sent a note demanding that he come. He replied that he would not until he was addressed more courteously. Desperately, she asked again. When he did come, and the sheep were saved, Bathsheba at last “smiled on him. …”

At shearing time, Gabriel Oak was content to go about his work in the presence of Bathsheba. But Boldwood once again interrupted his happiness, petitioning Bathsheba to be his wife.

Then one evening, while she was out inspecting the farm, Bathsheba came upon Sergeant Troy, full of flattery and offering gifts. This soldier was “moderately truthful toward men, but to women lied like a Cretin.” Bathsheba fell for Troy “in the way that only self-reliant women love when they abandon their self- reliance.”

Gabriel, fearing for Bathsheba, tried to dissuade her, but she would not listen. And Boldwood was almost beside himself with jealousy and anger upon hearing Bathsheba confess her love for Troy.

Soon the two suitors met. Boldwood at first tried to bribe the soldier into leaving Bathsheba for Fanny. But when Troy told him that he had to marry Bathsheba in order to preserve her honor, Boldwood offered him money to do so. With a mocking grin Troy accepted the money, went into Bathsheba’s house, then returned and handed Boldwood a newspaper account telling of the couple’s marriage, weeks before.

Roaring with laughter, he then flung the bag of coins out the door. Troy proudly hosted the fall harvest supper, where all the men but Gabriel became drunk. Oak and Bathsheba spent that night together securing the grain from a sudden storm. In contrast to Oak’s devotion to her, Bathsheba quickly found that Troy was nothing more than an unreliable spendthrift and a gambler. One evening the couple came upon a terribly frail woman unknown to Bathsheba.

It was Fanny. Troy spoke with her privately, gave her the little money he had, and agreed to meet her at a later time. Then he left her there; and Fanny, in terrible pain and exhaustion, trudged several miles to a poorhouse shelter. That night the couple quarreled. Troy spitefully revealed that he cared for another; his love for Bathsheba had faded. Then he stormed out of the house.

The next day Bathsheba learned from some neighbors that the poor woman they had met on the road the night before had died at the poorhouse. And not knowing that she had been Troy’s lover, she compassionately had the encoffined body brought to Weatherbury Farm for burial. Gabriel sensed the truth about Fanny and Troy’s relationship, and, to spare Bathsheba from pain, he rubbed out a portion of the notation on the top of the coffin which read, “Fanny Robin and child.”

But rumors, fear and loneliness got the better of Bathsheba. Suspecting that the coffin held some secret, she lifted its lid and discovered the certain identity of her husband’s lover – and their baby.

At that moment, in walked Troy, still unaware of Fanny’s death. When he gazed down at the wan, lifeless corpse, he was shocked. He sank to his knees and reverently kissed the woman’s cold lips. “Kiss me too, Frank – Kiss me!” cried Bathsheba. But the soldier pushed her away: “I will not kiss you!”

Troy carefully prepared Fanny’s grave. He also made arrangements for a large tombstone to be carved, bearing the inscription “Erected by Francis Troy in Beloved Memory of Fanny Robin.” The tragedy had almost managed to soften his heart; but when he returned to the cemetery the following morning to finish the task, he found a rainstorm had ravaged the gravesite.

“To find that Providence, far from helping him into a new course … actually jeered his first trembling and critical attempt in that kind, was more than nature could bear.” Troy fled from the village in anguish. When he reached the seaboard, he disrobed to take a swim. The strong current nearly overwhelmed him but, fortunately, a boat came to his rescue.

Meanwhile, a passerby found the Sergeant’s clothes on the beach, and it was soon concluded by all that Troy had drowned. Taking advantage of this belief, he sailed to America, away from his troubles.

Bathsheba, though relieved by her husband’s absence, was not convinced that he had perished. Boldwood urged her to agree to marry him seven years hence, when Troy would be legally declared dead.

As Christmas approached, Boldwood prepared a lavish party for the neighborhood. At the gathering, Bathsheba gave in to her host’s advances and formally announced that, if Troy failed to return, she would marry Boldwood. Just then there was a knock at the door and in burst Troy.

When he caught Bathsheba by the arm to take her home, she fainted. Then a deafening noise filled the room: Boldwood had drawn a gun and discharged a bullet into Troy’s chest. He then turned the gun on himself; but a farm-worker shoved it aside just in time. “There is another way for me to die,” Boldwood declared calmly. He kissed Bathsheba’s pale hand and marched out of the building toward the jailhouse, later to be confined for life in an institution.

Time passed. Bathsheba took ill and was nursed back to health by Oak, the caretaker of her farm. Then one day Oak told her of his plans to go away to America. When she voiced her disappointment and her need for his help, he explained that it was precisely because of her vulnerability that he should go. “It broke upon her at length as a great pain that her last old disciple was about to forsake her. …”

Bathsheba hurried to Oak’s quarters. Finally admitting her love, she asked him to become the head master of Weatherbury Farm. And plans were soon made for “the most private, secret plainest wedding that it is possible to have.”

Far From the Madding Crowd Characters

Bathsheba Everdene, a capricious young lady

Gabriel Oak, a dependable shepherd

Mr Boldwood, a staid, wealthy farmer

Sergeant Frank Troy, an unscrupulous soldier

Fanny Robin, Troy’s secret lover

Far From the Madding Crowd Review

Born and raised in rural Dorset, Thomas Hardy observed the disappearing lifestyles of his farmer, shepherd and artisan neighbors. Well-known as a naturalist, a musician and a poet, his novel is, at once, earthy, musical and poetic.

Hardy spent much of his life trying to reconcile his religious background with the discrepancies he felt were evident in nature. In an age of Victorian prudishness, his writing was often disparaged, censored for being too erotic in nature. Far From the Madding Crowd (originally written in serial form for a newspaper) is not as fatalistic as Hardy’s later works.

Here he leans less towards the philosophy that all things eventually crumble into nothingness, offering up a more “happy ending” story. Though its outcome could be considered contrived, the plot is woven with skill, leaving us always anticipating when it will pick up and proceed with another thread. And the authenticity of Hardy’s characters and plot leads us to the novel’s logical conclusion.

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