Far from the Madding Crowd: I Finished It! No, Seriously!

Since I had about eight uninterrupted hours of riding in a car to my vacation spot, I was FINALLY able to concentrate on this book (and yes, the Strattera helped). I was bound and determined that I would not read any of my other vacation books (of which there were eight, I'm not lying) until I finished this one. So I did.

(And I have since read four of the others, so there).

It has taken about two and a half months to finish, but during that time I have read approximately twenty-seven other books as well as four plays (for school) and about six hundred and seventy thousand student essays. So I have given myself a break on Madding, because I am nice like that.

Here are the main characters:

Gabriel Oak, a shepherd. Well, he starts out being a shepherd, working only for himself, but then his untrained sheep-herding dog herds all his sheep over a cliff, so he has to work for other people after that.

Bathsheba Everdene, a woman. Hee, she is obviously more than just a woman; she is the love interest for three of the main characters, but I like her anyway. Except when she is stupid about men, and that is not at all because she has made any hypothetical choices that are hypothetically similar to ... let's say ... hypothetically ... mine.

Fanny Robin, a maid. She runs away to be with her husband, but it turns out he's not her husband after all, just her Baby Daddy, and you know that is a HUGE NO-NO in Victorian England.

Farmer Boldwood, a farmer. I don't even remember if I ever got his first name. But he lives down the road from Bathsheba and is one of the people involved in the love quadrangle. Also, he may be a little crazy.

Sergeant Francis Troy, a butthole. He is also a soldier, but mostly he is a jerk, not at all dissimilar to any hypothetical jerks that I may or may not have hypothetically been attracted to in my hypothetical past.

I'm going to tell you everything that happens in this book, so this is in effect my spoiler warning, but I'm telling you, you're probably not going to read the book anyway, so my summary is going to be enough that you can go to dinner parties and be like, "Yes, and I see several similarities between your situation and that which was faced by Bathsheba Everdene in Far from the Madding Crowd. Oh, you've never read it? [superiority giggle]"

And that's pretty much the whole reason I read it anyway.

It all begins with Gabriel Oak, who is just doing his own thing, raising sheep and whatnot, when he sees Bathsheba Everdene, who is visiting her aunt in this little town. She is described as being very beautiful, so of course he falls in love with her and tries to give her a sheep to express his love, and she does not want either his sheep or his love.

Bathsheba then goes to another town to visit her uncle and Gabriel's sheep all die, so he goes to what is essentially a flea market/job fair to try to hire on as a shepherd at another estate. Somehow he hears there might be an opening in Bathsheba's uncle's town, so he starts to walk there.

Along the way, he comes across Fanny Robin, who is in the process of running away. Gabriel doesn't know her--he might not even get her name, I don't remember--but he helps her out by (I think) giving her some money or keeping her identity a secret or something. [This is the part I read a long time ago, so that's why it's not so clear to me].

At the same time, there is a fire on the Everdene estate, and Bathsheba's uncle has died and she is his heir. This same night, she finds out that her bailiff has been stealing from her and has run away.

Somehow or other, she hires Gabriel to be her shepherd, and she will act as her own bailiff. Now this was very unusual at the time, as Bathsheba would haggle her own prices at the market and do other "unwomanly" stuff, but it seemed to make her happy. Gabriel is still in love with her, by the way, and she knows it, but they manage to have a friendship anyway. Mostly because he keeps his mouth shut when she does stupid things. She still does this little flirty thing, which sort of keeps him dangling though, and I didn't like that so much.

Farmer Boldwood lives up the road, and he is described as being in his mid-forties. He pretty much keeps to himself and is a bachelor, the kind that no one ever expects to marry, except he isn't gay, just a loner. Well, as an impulsive joke (that's not really funny), Bathsheba sends him an anonymous valentine that is stamped with the words "Marry me." He sort of wakes up from his--what's that word, when you're not paying attention? I should know that; sort of like a daydream, except not--and notices Bathsheba for the first time. What does he do? Oh, he falls in love with her.

As a farmer, Boldwood is more socially acceptable for Bathsheba than Gabriel. She feels badly about leading him on with her fake valentine, and so she allows him to court her, but she is very up front about not being in love with him. Eventually, he asks her to marry him, and she doesn't want to hurt his feelings, and she realizes that in a way she brought this on herself, so she asks for time to think about it. He goes away, to the big city or something, for a while to give her time to think.

In the meantime, Fanny Robin has found her Baby Daddy, and it is Sergeant Troy. There is a scene where she is outside his quarters talking to him about marriage, and when she goes away, a female voice inside his room starts laughing. This is pretty much where I knew I hated Troy.

Fanny and Troy make plans to marry, but Fanny gets the name of the church wrong. So on their wedding day, he goes to one church and she goes to another, and he gets mad because he's been waiting all day and feels that she has made a fool of him. She finally, hours later, makes it to the right church, but by that time, he's so mad that he walks out on her.

Troy heads home, to the village where Bathsheba now lives, and they meet and she falls in love with him. He pretty much falls in love with whomever is convenient, so he courts her and impresses her with his fancy military swordwork and she is all enchanted and blah blah blah.

Of course Gabriel knows that Troy is the guy Fanny was going to marry, in addition to just knowing that Troy is a butthole, and he tries to tell Bathsheba but she is not hearing it. Bathsheba tells Boldwood she can't marry him after all, and he threatens to kill Troy. Troy, by this time, has gone on to Bath, so Bathsheba goes to Bath too, to warn him not to return to the town as his life is in danger. While in Bath, Bathsheba and Troy get married. Grr.

The marriage is unhappy. Bathsheba has to get used to being married, when she had previously been a pretty independent woman. Troy has to get used to getting married, when he had previously been a womanizing drunkard. I think that Bathsheba almost immediately realizes she has made a mistake, but she is in looooooooove.

Gabriel keeps his mouth shut and keeps working, Boldwood goes into a deep depression, Troy gets all of Bathsheba's workers drunk so they can't help when a big storm whips up and almost ruins her entire crop (saved, of course, by Gabriel, but Bathsheba herself pitches in; it's almost like the old days).

Then Fanny Robin shows up in town again. She is straggling along the road, I think fairly close to delivering a baby (I didn't get this until later, because Hardy doesn't exactly make an announcement). Troy and Bathsheba are out driving when Troy recognizes Fanny and arranges to meet her a couple of days later at a designated place. Bathsheba realizes that Fanny is one of Troy's ex-girlfriends--he still keeps a lock of her hair in his watch--and has a sort of crisis. Troy asks for money, which Bathsheba thinks he is going to use for gambling on horses, which he has done in the past. She gives it to him but she is very disappointed in him.

Meanwhile, poor Fanny Robin is so weak that she can't even walk, she finds a dog that pulls her along, and she gets into town and dies.

When Troy finds out, he is all eaten up, and he tells Bathsheba that Fanny is a better woman than she, and Bathsheba of course does not take this well; she locks herself up in the attic.

Troy uses Bathsheba's money to buy a huge gravestone for Fanny and I believe it says something like, "Beloved of Frances Troy," which will be in the churchyard for everyone to see. He gets this idea that he failed Fanny but he can get his act together and he's going to start by planting flowers on her grave. This happens in a chapter entitled (I'm paraphrasing) "What the Gargoyle Did," and I was all excited because I thought the gargoyle was going to fall off the church and land on Troy's head, which is no less than what he deserved, but all it did was channel rain water onto the grave and wash out all the flowers.

That seems pretty small, especially in light of my hope that Troy would be smooshed to death, but he takes it pretty hard, like fate is laughing at his attempts to make it right or something. So he runs away and goes into the ocean and loses his clothes and is picked up by a boat. But everybody thinks he's dead, except Bathsheba. She finds out about Fanny's death and her child (who also died) and she is the one who arranges their burial.

With Troy "dead," Boldwood picks up where he left off. Bathsheba is still not convinced of Troy's death, but agrees to marry Boldwood in seven years if Troy has not turned up yet. Troy actually has turned up, but in disguise: he has joined a traveling fair and is an actor. He actually sees Bathsheba at the fair and determines that he will go back to her.

Boldwood throws a huge party at his house, to celebrate a holiday (I can't remember if it is Christmas or New Years) and also to celebrate that Bathsheba is going to marry him in (by this time) five and 3/4 years. But then Troy has to show up and ruin everything. Boldwood is sort of crazy by now, and he shoots Troy at the party, then goes to the local jailor and turns himself in.

Gabriel is still with Bathsheba, working for her, but decides to move on. When he tells Bathsheba, she is all distressed about it. Why? Oh you know she loves him and has all along. Anyway, Gabriel decides he will just move over to Boldwood's farm, since there's no one to take care of it, and he had been working for Boldwood for some time, splitting time between Bathsheba's farm and Boldwood's.

Boldwood is tried, and is not executed because he is insane, or something. Bathsheba realizes she loves Gabriel and tells him. They get married. The end.

I realize this post is long, but I left out a LOT. There are several scenes with the workers of the farm; they are in the pub and they are actually pretty funny. I think I have said before that Hardy is very wordy, so I really had to concentrate in order to get any meaning out of some of the sentences. I sort of skipped over the extensive descriptions, so probably I missed some metaphors or something, but you know what? I don't care! I am bad at metaphors anyway.

On the whole, I have to say this is a good book. It started getting really good in the middle though, so if you decide to read it, you should not be discouraged by the first eighteen or so chapters.

I can see why this is a classic, too, because you still see these same things going on over a hundred years after Hardy wrote the book. That, to me, is what makes something a classic. That and Amazon.com.

No comments:


Made by Lena