Far From the Madding Crowd
Far From the Madding Crowd is one of those stories I was inspired to read after I saw the film edition (2015). And the book was even better than the film because I was able to indulge in Hardy's eloquent usage of the English language. It is so wonderful; I am shamefully gushing.
The setting is Victorian England, in the fictional town of Wessex. The main character is extraordinarily independent, self-sufficient, and intelligent, Bathsheba Everdene. Of course, she is also attractive (and vain). She inherited her uncle's farm and is extremely well off and formidable. But if that were not enough, she also has three totally different suitors.
|The suitors: Farmer Oak, Sargent Troy, Mr. Boldwood|
Suitor #1: Farmer Oak is a good man. He is self-controlled, well grounded, realistic, and strong as...oak. He was only a poor farmer, until he lost his farm; now he is a poor shepherd working on Miss Everdene's farm. She could never marry him, even if there were a chance. But he kept his heart to himself, knowing that he would never force the issue with Miss Everdene, especially if she did not love him.
Suitor #2: Mr. Boldwood is wealthy and dignified, but annoyingly persistent. Miss Everdene does not love him, and he does not care. He is obsessed with having her as his wife. He pushed her so often that she was pressured into considering his proposal. He is so...bold!
And finally, suitor #3: Sargent Troy is an arrogant young casanova. He is a liar, but people make exceptions for his bad behavior; even Miss Everdene overlooked his insincerity. She completely lost all of her good sense and succumbed to her emotions.
|Miss Everdene, losing her mind|
At first, it did not appear that Miss Everdene was slightly interested in marriage, at all. She certainly did not need anyone, and she loved herself enough to sustain her need for love forever. It was not unusual when she rejected both Farmer Oak and Mr. Boldwood; but when Sargent Troy entered her town and pursued her, she surprisingly married him. Ugh! He was a horrible husband; while poor Farmer Oak and Mr. Boldwood stood by and witnessed this jerk misuse the women they loved.
Shortly after we learned that Sargent Troy was supposed to marry a young woman who was pregnant with his child. He abandoned his obligation, before marrying Miss Everdene, and the woman and her child died. Distraught, he fled for a year, faking his death. When a year passed, he returned to take Miss Everdene back and what he thought was rightly his.
But in Troy's absence, Mr. Boldwood convinced Miss Everdene into marrying him again. The night he decided to announce their engagement, Troy showed up and ruined Boldwood's chances. Being a man who hated rejection, he murdered Troy and turned himself in to authorities. This was too much for Miss Everdene; she would never be the same again.
Miss Everdene finally realized that Mr. Oak was the only true friend she had. He managed her farm and saved her from devastation, on numerous occasions. And now he had inherited Mr. Boldwood's farm, since Boldwood would be incarcerated for the remainder of his life. However, Mr. Oak decided to move to America - I imagine, because he could no longer stand to have his love so tormented.
|Miss Everdene and Mr. Oak|
When Miss Everdene received the news, she urgently went to Mr. Oak and begged him not to desert her, like everyone else had. Mr. Oak then knew it was safe to reveal his true heart to Miss Everdene once more:
If I only knew one thing - whether you would allow me to love you and win you and marry you after all - if I only knew that!
She consented, and they were quietly married. (She should have married Farmer Oak from the beginning. She may not have loved him as he loved her, but he was a good man. As my grandmother told me once: "Make sure he loves you more than you love him.")
|Miss Everdene and Farmer Oak|
I loved this story. It has a bittersweet ending, as did The Return of the Native. If I read another Thomas Hardy novel, what should I consider? Any suggestions?