Study Guide

Far From the Madding Crowd

By Thomas Hardy

Far From the Madding Crowd Introduction

You remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In the story a beautiful young woman has to choose between three men: one is too boring and creepy, one is too sexy and sleazy and one is juuuuuuuuust right.

Oh, wait. Sorry. That's Far from the Madding Crowd we're talking about. In this novel by Thomas Hardy, we have not a love triangle but a love rectangle, where three different men vie for the love of super-pretty Bathsheba. This all goes down in the English countryside, which is supposed to be all birdies chirping and little lambs frolicking, but because of this insane foursome, devolves into insanity, dead babies, faked deaths and jealous lovers shooting people in the chest.

The title of Far from the Madding Crowd suggests that life is way easier once you leave the hustle and bustle of the big city behind and go to find peace in the countryside. Ha! Not with these characters. They're playing head games and drinking cider and dealing with so much internal drama that it's a wonder that their crops get planted or harvested at all.

When Thomas Hardy first published Far from the Madding Crowd in 1874, he hadn't yet become the really big deal he'd go on to be. It was Madding, though, that gave him his first widespread success. And it's not hard to see why. This novel is more chock-full of juicy drama than a pretty English farm is full of adorable lambs.

Thomas Hardy would eventually become famous for writing super gloomy stories like Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude The Obscure. And you definitely get some of that gloom n' doom in Far from the Madding Crowd. But you also get a little bit of happiness in the end, a little hilarity in the middle, and a glimpse of rural England that makes it seem less William Wordsworth -style idyllic and more Deliverance-style creeptastic.

Maybe that's why this novel launched Thomas Hardy into the literary big league and inspired four film adaptations: the first in freaking 1915 and the latest due for release in 2015. That's right—this is a novel that's been being adapted to film for one hundred years. Maybe it's because Far from the Madding Crowd is a drama-filled English countryside sex nightmare, or maybe it's just because it contains a bunch of cute moments with baby sheep. You be the judge.

What is Far From the Madding Crowd About and Why Should I Care?

Chances are that you've seen some hilarious, campy, out-dated PSAs. They're great: they're so over the top and full of insane hair-pulling drama that you can't stop and gawk with amazement. Even when some of the stuff they're trying to say is totally worthwhile (don't do drugs, kids) they're still just… bonkers.

Imagine seeing one of these camptastic PSAs about falling for the wrong person because they're hawt. Actual problem, right? Being blinded by sexiness and failing to realize that Sexy Person is a total jerk is never good. But imagine if you were handed a PSA that told you that if you fell for the wrong person you would start a series of events that included ruined crops, people going insane, people running off to join the circus, dead babies, dead baby's mamas, mass drunkenness, and cold-blooded murder at Christmas parties.

That PSA is none other than Far from the Madding Crowd. When Bathsheba falls for Sergeant Troy because he's foxy and good with a (super-phallic) sword, all hell breaks loose. And. It. Is. Awesome.

We're not saying that Far from the Madding Crowd is only good because of its dialed-to-eleven drama and mayhem. It's also a classic, and a really excellently written book full of nuanced characters. But just like people remember Treasure Island as "Pirates!!!" rather than "Fascinating in-depth descriptions of rigging," the initial takeaway of Far from the Madding Crowd is "Campy, Insane-O Pastoral!"

But instead of laughing at Far from the Madding Crowd the way you do at, say, Reefer Madness you actually get sucked in. The characters make you love 'em even as your mouth hangs open with amazement at what they do. The description of the weather events that magically match the emotional tone of major plot points are still, surprisingly, really eloquent and beautiful. The world is excellently built.

So, if you want to sit down with a beefy Victorian novel, but you're also in the mood for something kinda campy and definitely nuts, look no further than Far from the Madding Crowd.

Far From the Madding Crowd Resources

Websites

The Thomas Hardy Association
Think you're a big Hardy fan? Well, check out this association of people who really, really like the guy's work.

Thomas Hardy Society
Those folks over at the Thomas Hardy Association think they're the biggest Hardy fans, but the people at the Thomas Hardy Society disagree. You should see how ugly it gets when the two have their annual homecoming football game.

Thomas Hardy Website
The title is about as self-explanatory as it gets.

Movie or TV Productions

Far from the Madding Crowd (1967 Film)
According to the folks on IMDB, this version is pretty solid. Plus it has some really famous actors in it.

Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)
It's totally got Carrie Mulligan in it. Can't wait to see it? Good.

Articles and Interviews

The Novels of Thomas Hardy: An Introduction
What better way to get some context for understanding this dude's whole deal?

The Many-Sided Thomas Hardy
Check out this great article for a look into the many different sides of Thomas Hardy's personality.

Overview of Thomas Hardy
Here, you'll find all the background you need to be an informed reader of Hardy. And who doesn't want to be that? People who hate nature, that's who.

Video

Far from the Madding Crowd (1998 Adaptation)
The whole thing is up online. So if you've got the time, check it out.

1967 Trailer
Here's a trailer for the first movie version of Hardy's book. It's not what we pictured Oak, Boldwood, and Troy to look like. But oh well.

Audio

Far from the Madding Crowd Audiobook
Because sometimes your eyes get tired of reading…

Far from the Madding Crowd Audiobook #2
You might not have liked the voice in the first one; or maybe you just want to throw on an audiobook that'll just go and go.

Images

Hardy Middle-Aged
Just look at that glorious moustache.

Hardy Older
The 'stache just gets better with age.

Hardy with a Bike
We're just gonna go ahead and say it. The bike looks too big for him.