Thursday, 27 September 2012

Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

Date of Reading: 25/09/2012
Author: Thomas Hardy
Publisher: Peacock Books
Place: New Delhi
Year: 2010

          At last I found something enjoyable in Hardy. Oh! That he is a great author is indisputable, yet no one wants to be reminded of the wretchedness of human life or fate's play in all the books. He can be humorous, if he wants it seems.
          I won't put Bathsheba in the same pedestal with Tess; Hardy's prejudice against women is evident in her character creation also. Though brave, her mood shifts too much and so the lack of firmness of  character, much important to a woman, leads her to all these troubles. At times we suspect that the fate of Isabel Archer ('Portrait of a Lady') awaits her too, but it is lucky that Hardy was determined to make a happy ending. He tries to make some amends in the end saying that "she was of the stuff that great men's mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises". But here also she is just a great man's mother, not a great woman.
          No wonder the villain is named Troy. Like the Paris of Troy, he only knows how to woo women and create trouble. The war he and his Helen makes here almost destroys the life of poor Boldwood. Its pity that his fate is not much improved at the end too. Hardy is not without pessimism after all.
         All in all, I will recommend this to anyone who is interested in a different reading of Hardy. The music and beauty of rustic life, their idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies makes this the most humorous of Hardy's novels.
          The story revolves around young and amorous but capricious Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors. At the beginning of the story she is but a poor maid and Gabriel Oak, then a farmer, proposes to her. Alas! she holds herself a little more worthy and rejects our hero. Later Oak is financially ruined when his sheepdog drives his folk over a cliff and on seeking the job of a shepherd, he finds it under the now wealthy Bathsheba.
          When she unwisely sends an anonymous valentine to her neighbour farmer Boldwood, he takes it seriously as to fall in love with her, though until then he was immune to the charms of the fair sex. Ashamed of her conduct, Bathsheba almost agrees to marry him, but then the dashing Sergeant Troy enters the scene. He was in love with Bathsheba's maid Fanny Robin but they fail to marry when she enters the wrong church for the ceremony. With a sudden impulse our heroine marries Troy.
          After several months Troy meets the pregnant, tired Fanny on wayside. She dies later on giving birth to a dead child. Bathsheba comes to know of her husband's former relation and she properly buries Fanny. Troy erects an elegant tomb for his beloved and wanders away. A rumour spreads that he is drowned.
         Boldwood uses the opportunity to renew his suits, but when he organises a Christmas party in honour of her, the supposed-to-be-dead husband reappears. He forces Bathsheba to return and she screams; Boldwood on losing his mind at this, shoots Troy dead. He is convicted to gallows but later Queen's mercy changes it to confinement. Bathsheba buries her husband with Fanny on the same place.
Thomas Hardy
         All through her troubles the hand that supported her was Oak's. When he resigns his job and tries to go away to work in his own farm, she realises that her friendship to him has turned to love. Novel ends with their quiet marriage.

Something to think about:

"He had passed the time during which the influence of youth indiscriminately mingles them in the character of impulse, and he had not yet arrived at the stage wherein they become united again, in the character of prejudice, by the influence of a wife and family. In short, he was twenty-eight, and a bachelor".

"It may have been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail".

"We learn that it is not the rays which bodies absorb, but those which they reject, that give them the colours they are known by; and in the same way people are specialized by their dislikes and antagonisms,whilst their goodwill is looked upon as no attribute at all."

"Women are never tired of bewailing man's fickleness in love, but they only seem to snub his constancy".        

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