Published in 1874 as a serial story in the Cornhill Magazine, Far From The Madding Crowd was Hardy's fourth novel in as many years and the first of what critics consider to be his major works.
The plot revolves around the female lead character, Bathsheba Everdene, her independent ways and how this impacts upon her choice of husband. The prospective candidates include examples of different economic backgrounds, with a farm labourer, Gabriel Oak, a prosperous farm owner, William Boldwood and a young dashing soldier, Frank Troy. The resolution, when it comes, is just as much a result of fate as it is of Bathsheba's choice.
Far From The Madding Crowd – the name derives from a Thomas Gray elegy – has been seen as disposition on the conditions for a good marriage, but it can also be seen as an allegory for the rural life against the imposing social and economic waves coming from outside; money and social climbing set against tradition and heritage. All of which serves to make Gabriel Oak one of Hardy's most important characters.
About the Author
Thomas Hardy, OM (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth. Charles Dickens was another important influence. Like Dickens, he was highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society.
While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898. Initially, therefore, he gained fame as the author of novels, including Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). However, beginning in the 1950s Hardy has been recognised as a major poet; he had a significant influence on the Movement poets of the 1950s and 1960s, including Philip Larkin.
Most of his fictional works – initially published as serials in magazines – were set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex. They explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances. Hardy's Wessex is based on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom and eventually came to include the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire and much ofBerkshire, in southwest and south central England.
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