The Madding Crowd Essay
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Far From the Madding Crowd was written by Thomas Hardy in 1874. It was his fourth novel and first appeared as a monthly serial in Cornhill magazine. It received critical reviews but mostly positive notes too. Hardy continued to add to his texts extensively and made further changes for the 1901 edition. Hardy stresses in his text the happiness of the time period in which the story was set. He did this in order to gain the audiences interests and to make sure the story line held a permanent place in the monthly magazine.
He achieved this by using the audiences’ imagination to such an extent as they were to imagine a life in the country side, which was regarded peaceful and tranquil. His targeted audience were people living in cities who wanted to hear about the rural paradise that he so successfully describes. Whilst Hardy’s Dorset was only partially reality and partially fictional, it was still the life of the 17th century which he displayed in his novel.
In some way, hardy makes the reader oblivious to the reality of life in the country in that period of time, which was in fact a time of hardship, starvation and squallier conditions.
The Story is based mainly around the timid and unstable love shared between the two main characters Gabrielle Oak and Bathsheba Everdene. It is love at first sight for Gabriel from the very first moment he sets eyes on this dark haired beauty sat stationary on a mound of goods. Although clearly taken aback by her clear display of vanity as she, seemingly for no understandable reason, took a looking glass “to survey herself attentively,” he looks back on the experience fondly, which just proves how enthralled he is by her.
I find this unique quality Bathsheba posses extraordinary; she seems to have Gabriel enticed even before being properly acquainted with him. Bathsheba’s vain, independent and certainly wild personality is very eccentric and unusual for that time period. Also considering her ranking in social status is at first not very high but yet she accomplishes to not only mix with higher status members but also tease and be rather cheeky towards them too. She was quoted ‘wild before she was rich’!
This just confirms how much of a misfit she is for that era. Hardy sets it like a mad game of cat and mouse between them, where Gabriel is persistently jumping through hoops and bending over backwards to satisfy Bathsheba, and sticks by her and stays loyal to her by everything they go through. She dangles herself in front of him at every opportunity, showing herself off as his prize, but however hard Gabriel works he never seems to get any closer to his most desired possession; Bathsheba.
The audience is made to travel alongside Gabrielle and Bathsheba’s journey of love which suffers tremendous ups and downs and misconceptions. Hardy makes clear at the beginning of their relationship who is superior and most dominant. Bathsheba’s first encounter with Gabriel is very brief but momentous. When Gabriel generously steps in to pay the twopence toll that Bathsheba so stubbornly refuses to part with, he receives in return no more than a backward glance. ‘she carelessly glanced over him, and told her man to drive on.
‘ How she passes without showing the slightest bit of gratitude makes it seem like such acts are standard procedure and nothing deviant to Bathsheba. Having set out to satisfy her and possibly earn a fragment of compassion, Gabriel actually achieves the reverse and irritates her if anything. By paying her toll he had taken away the point Bathsheba had been fighting for and given in to the miser. The way she ‘glanced’ over Gabriel not stared or gawped over him gives a sense of flirtatiousness which is very alluring. Also how she looked ‘over’ him illustrates control and power.
A few nights later Gabriel is encapsulated by ‘an unexpected performance’ in which he witnesses secretly in his hut. It is evident that the instant he catches Bathsheba ‘riding hard, in the manner hardly expected of a woman,’ whilst avoiding the low hanging branches and in the very revealing position she rides in, that his self control shatters to the point that he falls for the book’s heroine. Soon after, when Gabriel naively admits to having witnessed this incident, Bathsheba shows to be exceedingly irritated and fractious, but presumably above all embarrassed.
Just to think that Gabriel would be awoken a few nights to come by the succulent lips of Bathsheba, not in the way that he so longingly yearned for, but in the course of saving him from the jaws of death. For that era it would have been a great act to have carried out, as their accustomed ways then where that men tended for everything and women played no major role. Even in this day it would be seen as a grand undertaking, for we seldom hear about female saviours, normally they are all heroes (MEN).
Gabriel achieves to wind up Bathsheba once again as a result of his juvenile behaviour. Just as they finally manage to accept a slight level of intimacy with each other, Gabriel, being his usual untactful self, succeeds into stepping straight into the next puddle of misfortune. Instead of holding her hand when she permits him to, ‘he held it but an instant’ before returning to her. This shows how shy any timid Gabriel is in the presence of Bathsheba. On the other hand reveals how playful and cheeky Bathsheba likes to be.
I think that although the whole time Gabriel has been fighting and waiting for the time that he can share intimate moments with her, now it is actually here and his chance lies in front of him, he doesn’t know how to act and suddenly turns shy and becomes slightly reserved. In the Victorian days, such behaviour would not be expectable, for a woman (especially not of her social class) to be cheeky and play games with a man. As then women were to respect men and do as they were told. Whereas nowadays we are much more open about things like this and would not be atypical behaviour at all but just ordinary flirtatiousness between two people.