Thus, this outcome is, for Hardy, an inherent consequence of obsessive love. All of these qualities displayed by Boldwood in his loving can be explained by a single factor, his inexperience on the matter. His selfish, immature way of loving resembles that of a teenager infatuated with his “first love”, but whose fatal consequences owe to the adult power of action behind them. This is supported by the fact that Boldwood has never shown interest in those women that have tried to marry him and thus, after all, Boldwood’s first love is Bathsheba.
It is for this reason that he shows the accompanying exaltations and inflammatory emotions such a deed brings about. Joining on at this point, a glaring contrast is observed when considering Sergeant Troy’s attributes, and, taking in account the progression of the plot, we find in him the counter posed extreme of love. Whereas Boldwood is totally inexperienced in what women is concerned, Troy is known among the country folk for being a womaniser: “(Maryann) … He is a wild scamp now, and you are right to hate him”, “(Bathsheba) Liddy, come here.
Solemnly swear to me that he’s not a fast man; that it is all lies they say about him! “. Furthermore, while Boldwood’s love for Bathsheba is an immature infatuation, rather childish and innocent in nature, Troy’s feeling towards her is those corresponding to a lustful love. Still, this form of love is also punished, yet in this case more severely, by death. The main reason why Troy’s treatment is much more severe, as he is after all portrayed as the villain in the novel, is the increased degree of harm, lies and wretchedness his associated version of love results in.
As opposed to Boldwood, whose obsession did much more to hurt himself more than others, the main victims of Troy’s lust are the women, rather than himself. It follows that the harm he inflicts is multiplied and hence, measuring this against the moral and spiritual qualities Hardy holds up high by means of Oak’s idealised character, results in a greater rejection towards him by part of the reader. Again, Hardy depicts unnatural circumstances caused by a deviated version of love in order to stress their moral incorrectness.
Even though Troy’s character is inherently out of tune with the pastoral setting (“I feel like new wine in an old bottle here. “) his behaviour caused by, either directly of indirectly, to the physical attraction he feels for Bathsheba goes repeatedly against nature: giving brandy to the rustics (which in the novel act as an extension of nature itself) when they were accustomed only to ale, leaving the stacks of the harvest uncovered, and ultimately leaving Fanny’s son without a father and finally causing their death all because of his reluctance to marry her.
Having seen this same feature repeated for both cases we may state that nature acts as an indicator of the correctness of the love felt by the characters, as if it were the reflection of the approval or disapproval of some superior being, in the context of the novel. We have thus noticed that the both extremes of unbalanced love show a clear quality which works against nature, and it is through Oak’s harmony with it that Hardy stresses the positive qualities of his actions and emotions, especially the faithful and selfless love he has for Bathsheba.
Not only we are presented since the very beginning of the novel with scenes that depict Gabriel working pleasantly for and with nature, but we find that his most intimate moments with Bathsheba also share this same characteristic. An example of this is the sheep shearing, where the act of “unclothing” the lambs transmits a certain sensuality within Oak’s and Bathsheba’s conversation.
The storm is also a very good indicator of this device, as it is not only a scene where Gabriel and Bathsheba work together in the face of danger, but which is also a consequence of Troy’s lack of affinity with nature, again an sign of the foul spirit of his love. The fact that Oak’s is the ideal version of love is hinted throughout the novel by his position as a hero (contrasting with Troy’s role as villain and to a lesser extent with Boldwood’s) rounds off his function in the novel as the idealization of a role model.
Hardy exalts the balance and constancy of his emotions by the simple fact that it is him who wins Bathsheba at the end. However, it remains as doubtful at the end of the novel if the moderated and discrete conjugal happiness they both achieve is in fact true happiness or only the conclusion of an emotional maturation process into tranquil stability. Hardy’s narrative throughout the novel seems to support the second interpretation.
Firstly, Bathsheba seems to have undergone an process of emotional development, from the wild girl who needed “to be tamed” to a woman who never laughed out load any longer. She seems to have settled into a level parallel to that of Gabriel’s feelings, which, even though they are real, lack the inflammatory intensity of his, other two contenders. It is for this reason, once that their feelings have converged together and are compatible, that they can be married.
Bathsheba is thus the only character which shows internal transformation as it is specified in the last chapter: “As though a rose should shut and be a bud again”. Another factor which supports this point of view is Hardy’s recurring devices to portray marriage as the end of passionate love, through comments, character speech (“(Troy) All romances end at marriage. “) and the interactions between the member’s of the Tall marriage: Susan and Laban.
This relationship, even though held by minor characters, is a subtle example of Hardy’s view on marital relationships, as they are, curiously, the more evocated married couple. Although there seems to be no peculiar romantic love between them, they seem to have no objections on one another and have a rather stable relationship which blatantly contrasts with the restlessly problematic love triangle we encounter among the principal characters.
Gabriel also shares to some extent this view of marriage, evident in his initial proposal to Bathsheba, which more than authentic love promised stability and lack of problems, as if were nothing more than a welfare contract. We may therefore assume that the “Gabrielification” of Bathsheba’s perspective of love constitutes the final resolution of the dilemma, resolving that marriage ends romance in change for a settled life and exposing that these two positions are necessarily opposed and incompatible.
To some extent this may be regarded as a sort of tragic conclusion to the novel and the theme of love itself, as there seems to be no consistent way to achieve true love and happiness and acts as a prelude to Hardy’s later, much more evidently less optimistic novels. Summing up, we can say that the aspects of love depicted in “Far from the Madding Crowd” are to a great extent rather commonplace and can be identified with real-life situations, which not only adds feasibility to the plot but also lets a wide audience to be identified with the emotions portrayed.
It is however the treatment and subsequent implications of this development which show peculiar insight and inventiveness in Hardy’s conceptual presentation though the narrative. The opposing extremes of love embodied by Boldwood and Troy together with the mid-point, the optimal stance held by Oak, constitute the rigid frame through which Bathsheba makes her troubled journey towards emotional stability, first recognizing the limits to finally settle in their equilibrium position.
It is the nature of this position which conveys the novel’s ultimate meaning with respect to this theme and finally communicates the author’s if not pessimistic, realistic point of view which considers the limitations of human emotion to judge upon the most immediate and omnipresent human sentiment, love, whether be it in its necessity or fulfilment.