FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD – Themes and Messages
Fate as a Theme
Fate and coincidence are frequently used in the plot.
• Bathsheba arrives just in time to save Gabriel suffocating in his lambing hut, and he in turn happens to arrive in Weatherbury in time to save Bathsheba’s crops and becomes her new shepherd. • Bathsheba’s Valentine sent as a joke has a fatal effect on Boldwood, who falls desperately in love with her. It is fate that decided whether or not to send that Valentine. • It is fate that Fanny confuses two churches so Troy does not marry her. • Bathsheba is forced t withdraw her dismissal of Gabriel, when the following day, her sheep become fatally sick and only Gabriel has the skill to cure them. • Due to Joseph’s drunkenness, the funeral of Fanny is postponed, enabling Bathsheba the chance to open the coffin and discover Fanny with her dead baby. • The weather becomes a malignant force, an agent of fate in the later parts of the story. The storm at Harvest supper nearly destroys Bathsheba’s crops. • Rain washes away the flowers that Troy has carefully planted on Fanny’s grave. • By chance, Troy is saved from drowning.
• It is fate that on the very night Bathsheba agrees to marry Boldwood, Troy returns and Boldwood shoots him.
Love as a Theme
Hardy compares Bathsheba’s three suitors. He contrasts both the romantic love of Troy and the obsessive passion of Boldwood with the friendship-like relationship of Bathsheba and Gabriel’s final union.
The penniless Bathsheba rejects Gabriel’s first proposal , as she does not love him. She sensibly advises him to “marry a woman with money, who would stock a larger farm for him”. As a wealthy gentleman, farmer Boldwood offers Bathsheba a rise in social status, but he too is rejected, as she does not love him. Bathsheba states confidentially at the start of the novel that she pg. 8 “is too independent. She needs a husband who can keep her in order, and that she is sure that he (Gabriel) wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Although Bathsheba quickly falls in love with Troy, Hardy presents this infatuation, based on sexual attraction, as superficial and unstable. Troy deserts Fanny and once married to Bathsheba, treats her carelessly, proving the words pg. 64 “Love always ends after marriage.”
By the end of the novel, Bathsheba and Gabriel’s love has gradually grown from a long working partnership, friendship and mutual respect. They are aware of each other’s faults; pg 86 “and this finally developed, after their wedding, into a love that nothing could destroy.”
Farming and Commerce (The rise of Gabriel)
Hardy shows the events of the farming year – lambing, sheep shearing and harvest. The natural settings are both beautiful and described precisely.
Gabriel, as a hero, prospers in his farming and rises in social status. At the start of the novel, he has worked hard and progressed from shepherd to bailiff to leasing his own farm. When he loses his sheep, he becomes a shepherd again, working for Bathsheba. Later he becomes her bailiff and manages Boldwood’s farm with a share of the profits, riding daily over many acres of land. After Boldwood’s imprisonment, he is offered the tenancy of his farm. By the time he marries Bathsheba, he has become her equal.
The Position of Women (Bathsheba’s downfall)
Bathsheba considers herself to be an independent woman who can marry any man she chooses. She likes fighting her own battles in a man’s world. She is the only woman farm owner, who insists on managing the farm on her own. She rejects Gabriel’s first proposal because she hates to be thought of as men’s property. Ironically, she seriously jeopardizes her position when she marries Troy. She loses her energetic spirit and lives in constant fear that should Troy return, the days of her farm would be numbered.