Masterpiece Monday: Far From The Madding Crowd

27 May

Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.  First published as twelve installements in Cornhill Magazine, 1874

  • ISBN-13: 9780141393384
  • ISBN-10: 0141393386

    Image by cdrummbks via Flickr CC BY 2.0 license

Key information

  • Time period: 19th Century (Victorian era)
  • Setting:  England, set in the fictional southern country of Wessex (the common setting for many of Hardy’s novels)
  • Themes:
    • Danger & destruction inherent in romantic love
    • Importance of man’s connection to the natural world
    • The connection between chance and moral responsibility
  • Structure:
    • 57 chapters
    • Omniscient narrator
    • Hardy uses his narrator in a manner similar to a chorus in an ancient Greek tragedy, by providing a commentary on the actions and intentions of the characters
  • Culture: Victorian era; agricultural England; constrasting gender roles

The plot

Bathsheba Everdene, a headstrong, confident young woman inherits a farm from her uncle.  She is determined to be successful despite the challenge of being the only female farmer in the male-dominated world of Wessex.  Bathsheba becomes the object of desire for three constrasting male suitors: the gentle shepherd, Gabriel Oak, and the sedate but successful Boldwood, an older farmer.  Bathsheba is amused and flattered by their attention, until Sergeant Troy arrives; a devillishly handsome smooth-talking soldier.  As Bathsheba recklessly seeks romance and love, she finds that she faces losing everything as she becomes caught up in the destructive wake of Sergeant Troy’s seductive power.

Why is it a masterpiece?

Set against the backdrop of rural English landscape with an entourage of memorable characers who make up the society of Wessex, Hardy gives readers a fascinating and psychological view on the ideals and realities of love for a woman in the nineteenth century.  Far From The Madding Crowd offers students an insight into a world which was changing.  Hardy raises questions about fate and chance, and emphasises the importance of man’s connection to nature in the face of the Industrial Revolution.  Hardy’s prose is rich with religious old testament allusions that bring the sphere of moral responsibility into focus, adding to the Greek tragedy structure of the novel which intensifies the transformation that Bathsheba undergoes.

Recommended age of student readers

Book Snitch recommends this novel for students aged sixteen to eighteen.  It may be suitable for some students in younger years only if they are strong readers.  Hardy’s lyrical language and allusions make this a text more suitable for an AP class or IB Diploma higher level students.

Resources

  • Victorianweb.org provides a contextual overview of Hardy’s life including links to major themes and settings in his works
  • eNotes has a teaching & resources unit for Far From The Madding Crowd, available to download indivudually for $29.99.  Alternatively, you might want to consider an annual subscription for $4.16 per month.  Resources for all eNotes teaching packs include chapter by chapter questions and summaries, quizzes and extended answer questions.
  • LitLovers has a bookclub page dedicated to Far From The Madding Crowd with some interesting discussion questions
  • The Thomas Hardy Society website offers background information about the author, information about his published works, resources and more

Try a tech tool

Book Snitch recommends Popplet , an educational tool where students can create online mind maps for a range of topics such as characters, themes, symbols or Hardy’s background.

  • The beauty of Popplet is that you can add text, videos and images to your Popplet, making the mind map a tool which uses multiliteracies and allows students to investigate their topic in more breadth
  • With a novel like Far From the Madding Crowd, where the narration works on several levels and is constructed using detailed symbolism, mind maps can help readers to organise their thoughts about the work into manageable chunks
  • You can invite collaborators on Popplet simply by adding their email address
  • You can ask your students invite you to be a collaborator so that you can see their final product
  • Popplet also gives you an embed code if you want to post it onto a blog or website for future reference
  • You can download your Popplet as a PDF document

Subscription details:

    • Minimum Age: 13 to sign up for your own account
    • Cost: free sign up and you get 5 Popplets for free (but you can be invited as a collaborator on an unlimited number)
    • Benefits with or without an account: Schools can buy an account
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