Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

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Far From the Madding Crowd is considered the first great novel of Thomas Hardy. Margaret Drabble, editor and novelist, cites the novel as "the first of Thomas Hardy's great novels, and the first to sound the tragic note for which his fiction is best remembered" (Hardy xiii).

Hardy was born in 1840 and began life as an architect. He wrote his first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, in 1867. It was not received well. Four years later he wrote three more novels, two anonymously and one bearing his name; they were received slightly better then the first. His popularity and fame did not bloom until the release of his fifth novel, Far From the Madding Crowd. This novel launched him into the public eye and helped him to become the amazing writer and creator of the Wessex novels, as we know him today. The major turning point in Hardy's life was the reception of his novel, Jude the Obscure. Because of the major conflict concerning the book and it's readers, Hardy swore to never write fiction again. Approximately thirty years later, after writing some poetry and short stories, Hardy dies and is buried next to Dickens in Westminster Abbey. His heart is buried in the Wessex countryside in the parish churchyard at Stinsford.

Far From the Madding Crowd is the first of Hardy's notorious Wessex novels. The main characters in the novel are Bathsheba Everdene, Gabriel Oak, Sergeant Troy and Farmer Boldwood. The novel begins with Oak and Everdene being introduced and Oak asking for Everdene's hand in marriage. She, of course, says no. After Oak's sheep are killed in a freak accident, he must venture out and look for new work and winds up on Everdene's farm in Weatherby where he becomes head shepherd. Everdene continues to flirt with Oak and also with the neighboring landowner, Boldwood, whom ends up proposing to her as well. Again, her reply is, no. Finally we are introduced to the young Sergeant Troy, who also asks for Bathsheba's hand in marriage and this time we are shocked to find out the her reply was, yes! Towards the end of the novel we find out that Troy has also seduced and impregnated a young milkmaid who has died in childbirth. Boldwood goes crazy and kills Troy because of his passion for Bathsheba and her refusal of him, and Bathsheba ends up betrothed to Oak.
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