Far From The Madding Crowd – complications, chapters 13-26

2 February 2010

Learning objectives: to learn how Hardy develops complications in Far From The Madding Crowd

Hardy takes some time to ‘open’ the novel – justify your answers

Why is this?

Because he was a writing in serial form and therefore needed to put cliffhangers in his opening which meant it was longer than most modern openings. True/False/Partially true

Because he had numerous characters and settings to describe. True/False/Partially true

Because he wanted his readers to work very hard at enjoying his novel. True/False/Partially true.

Because he enjoyed writing description and dialogue. True/False/Partially true.


Hardy structures the opening of the novel very carefully.

Write our FIVE major events which happen in the opening which establish the main settings, the main characters, the main themes

The opening further thoughts

The opening establishes

Gabriel Oak,

Bathsheba Everdene

William Boldwood

Serjeant Francis Troy

As major characters.


Possible answers

Gabriel Oak – represents the ‘shepherd’, the Christ-like figure, voice of reason, stability, undying, true love (A FIGURE FOUND IN MUCH POETRY, RELIGIOUS

Bathsheba Everdene – represents the modern woman, the boss, the virginal queen (A RELATIVELY UNUSUAL CHARACTER IN VICTORIAN FICTION ie a woman who is also boss)

William Boldwood – represents the respectable landowner, the besotted lover (A TRADITIONAL VICTORIAN HERO)

Serjeant Francis Troy – represents the man who ‘ruins’ women, the bounder, the cad, the flirt, the dangerous lover (A TRADITIONAL FIGURE IN BALLADS/STORIES)


There are a number of complications in the story which happen over a number of chapters. The main ones are these:

Boldwood becomes obsessed with Bathsheba after she sends him the Valentine. He proposes marriage. She rejects him.

Gabriel is sacked after he complaining that Bathsheba has not behaved like a “comely” woman with Boldwood. He is reinstated.

Troy becomes entangled with Bathsheba. Sword play scene. Secret marriage.

Bathsheba’s knowledge of love. CH 13

Of love as a spectacle Bathsheba had a fair knowledge; but of love subjectively she knew nothing.

What does this quote reveal about Bathsheba’s knowledge of love? How is Hardy presenting her here?


Bathsheba has had no personal experience of what it is to love. This is why she can so thoughtlessly allow the Valentine to be sent.

Key quotes. Boldwood’s growing obsession. CH 14

Here the bachelor’s gaze was continuously fastening itself, till the large red seal became as a blot of blood on the retina of his eye; as he ate and drank he still read in fancy the words thereon, although they were too remote for his sight —MARRY ME

What does this quote tell us about Boldwood’s state of mind?


This strong visual image with its intense colour is imprinted on the consciousness of Boldwood and prefigures his obsessive love.

Gabriel’s defense of Bathsheba. Chapter 15

Gabriel, though one of the quietest and most gentle men on earth, rose to the occasion with martial promptness and vigour. ‘That’s my fist.’ Here he placed his fist, rather smaller in size than a common loaf, in the mathematical centre of the maltster’s little table…

What does this quote reveal about Gabriel’s attitude towards anyone who criticises Bathsheba?


Gabriel is slow to anger but when the men gossip about Bathsheba and Mark Clark jokes about kissing her, the sparks start to fly.

Chapter 18. Hardy’s view of Bathsheba

Bathsheba was no schemer for marriage, nor was she deliberately a trifler with the affections of men, and a censor’s experience of seeing an actual flirt after observing her would have been a feeling of surprise that Bathsheba could be so different from such a one, and yet so like what a flirt is supposed to be.

What does this quote reveal about Hardy’s attitude towards Bathsheba?


Early critics and reviewers of the book did condemn Bathsheba. Henry James called her ‘a young lady of the inconsequential, wilful, mettlesome type’ while others accused her of playing fast and loose with men’s affections. This is to misread Hardy’ presentation of her. The key word here is ‘deliberately’. Bathsheba is not heartless and regrets what she has, thoughtlessly, done.

Idealisation. What is it?

The great aids to idealisation in love were present here:occasional observation of her from a distance, and the absence of social intercourse with her — visual familiarity, oral strangeness. The smaller human elements were kept out of sight; the pettinesses that enter so largely into all earthly living and doing were disguised by the accident of lover and loved-one not being on visiting terms; and there was hardly awakened a thought in Boldwood that sorry household realities appertained to her, or that she, like all others, had moments of commonplace when to be least plainly seen was to be most prettily remembered.

What does Hardy reveal about Boldwood here? Why do men idealise women from afar?


Boldwood is the exact opposite of Gabriel in this respect. Gabriel began by projecting on to Bathsheba his own desire but his vision of her is a clear one. He sees her on a day-to-day basis with her faults as well as her attractions.

Bathsheba’s rejection of Boldwood

‘You are too dignified for me to suit you, sir.’

Using this quote as a starting point, what do you think are the reasons why she rejects Boldwood?


These are true words, though spoken by Bathsheba in confusion and embarrassment. But she isn’t telling Boldwood the true story about the Valentine.

Her argument with Gabriel

‘I cannot allow any man to — to criticize my private conduct!’ she exclaimed. ‘Nor will I for a minute. So you’ll please leave the farm at the end of the week!’

What does this quote reveal about Bathsheba? Why does she speak like this?


Hardy presents Bathsheba as a complex character here. Gabriel criticises her behaviour as a woman: she feels this threatens her identity as his ‘boss’ and sacks him. Do you think she’s right to sack him?

Bathsheba pleads for Gabriel to come back

Do not desert me, Gabriel!

What does this quote reveal about Bathsheba’s relationship with Oak – and with men in general?

The pastoral

It was the first day of June, and the sheep-shearing season culminated, the landscape, even to the leanest pasture, being all health and colour. Every green was young, every pore was open, and every stalk was swollen with racing currents of juice. God was palpably present in the country and the devil had gone with the world to town.

How does Hardy present the countryside here?


The moral superiority of the countryside is essential to the romantic vision of the pastoral.

Hardy’s sexism

Women are never tired of bewailing man’s fickleness in love, but they only seem to snub his constancy.

What does this quote reveal about Hardy’s attitude towards women?


This is a sexist generalisation from Hardy, very common during his time.

Chapter 24.

It was a fatal omission of Boldwood’s that he had never once told her she was beautiful.

What does this reveal about Bathsheba’s character?


By contrast, Troy constantly tells her that she is beautiful. Bathsheba knows that Troy is flattering her but she wants to hear it, nevertheless.

Chapter 26

I loved you then, at once — as I do now.

Do you think Troy is telling the truth here?


Troy’s flippant declaration is very different from the earnest outpourings from Gabriel and Boldwood. Troy is obviously lying.

Chapter 28

At eight o’clock this midsummer evening, whilst the bristling ball of gold in the west still swept the tips of the ferns with its long luxuriant rays, a soft brushing-by of garments might have been heard among them, and Bathsheba appeared in their midst, their soft, feathery arms caressing her up to her shoulders.

What atmosphere does Hardy create here?


The gentle caressing of the ferns is just one of the sensual details in this key chapter in which Troy will continue in his seduction of Bathsheba. Other sexual symbols to note are the sword, the mossy hollow, the outlining of Bathsheba’s figure.

Chapter 28

She felt powerless to withstand or deny him. He was altogether too much for her….

What do we learn about Bathsheba here?


Bathsheba’s strength and independence count for nothing once she starts to fall in love.

Chapter 31

Bathsheba, in spite of her mettle, began to feel unmistakable signs that she was the weaker vessel. She strove miserably against this femininity which would insist upon supplying unbidden emotions in stronger and stronger current.

What is Hardy saying about Bathsheba and women here?


This could be interpreted as sexual stereotyping in that it suggests women are weaker than men are and more prey to emotion, but once again it must be viewed in context. Bathsheba has fallen in love with Troy but she is also faced with the obsessive love of Boldwood, instigated by her sending of the Valentine. It is little wonder that she feels agitated, confused and unable to withstand Boldwood.

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