Far from the Madding Crowd
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Far from the Madding Crowd is perhaps the most pastoral of Hardy's Wessex novels. It tells the story of the young farmer Gabriel Oak and his love for and pursuit of the elusive Bathsheba Everdene, whose wayward nature leads her to both tragedy and true love. It tells of the dashing Sergeant Troy whose rakish philosophy of life was '...the past was yesterday; never, the day after'.
And lastly, of the introverted and reclusive gentleman farmer, Mr Boldwood, whose love fills him with '...a fearful sense of exposure', when he first sets eyes on Bathsheba. Hardy explores the proper basis for a happy marriage. Bathsheba's physical attraction to the broadsword-wielding Troy leads to a disastrous marriage that might have ended in financial ruin. A marriage to the strait-laced Boldwood, to whom she is bound only by feelings of guilt and obligation, would have meant emotional suffocation.
Gabriel Oak is her colleague, friend, and advocate. He offers her true comradeship. The background of this tale is the Wessex countryside in all its moods.