Far from the Madding Crowd | Study Guide

Thomas Hardy

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Course Hero, "Far from the Madding Crowd Study Guide," August 23, 2017, accessed April 24, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Far-from-the-Madding-Crowd/.

Far from the Madding Crowd | Plot Summary

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Summary

Far from the Madding Crowd opens with an introduction to Gabriel Oak, a farmer in his late 20s who has experience with shepherding. Currently in debt, he tends his own flock to be best able to manage them and turn a profit. A wagon arrives with Bathsheba Everdene and her aunt, Mrs. Hurst. Bathsheba loses her hat, argues about paying a toll, and ultimately, Gabriel pays the two pence toll.

Bathsheba, about 20 years old, is beautiful and strong-willed. When Gabriel next sees her, she rides astride a horse skillfully. They meet, exchange words, and not long afterwards, she rescues him. Gabriel has fallen asleep with the smoke trapped in his cottage; had Bathsheba not noticed and acted, the smoke inhalation would have killed him. She is calm as she does so. In short order, he decides he loves her and will propose. Bathsheba refuses his offer. Not long after she leaves for Weatherbury, his flock dies.

Gabriel travels in pursuit of work, and a hiring fair leads him to the same town where Bathsheba lives. A crop fire draws him in, and for no reason beyond it being the right thing to do, he steps up and leads the efforts to save the crops. Afterwards, he learns that the farmer—a woman—needs a shepherd. The farmer is Bathsheba. He becomes her employee.

At the same time, one of her employees, Fanny Robin, vanishes. Gabriel meets the woman as she is leaving and he gives her money for her needs. As time passes, Fanny meets up with the man who has been courting her, Sergeant Francis Troy, and pursues the marriage he has promised her.

As a prank, Bathsheba sends an anonymous valentine to the farmer of the adjacent farm, William Boldwood, stating "Marry me." Her identity is found out, and Boldwood begins to think of marriage. At this same time, Gabriel receives a letter from Fanny. She reports that she is going to get married and sends back his money. That wedding does not happen.

Bathsheba and Gabriel continue to have a rapport, and he defends her to the locals who are less than impressed by her independence. At this time, Boldwood proposes, and Bathsheba refuses. He presses her to consider. Not long after the first, he proposes again, and they agree that she will think on it while he is away for the next five to six weeks.

While he is away, Bathsheba meets a soldier, Sergeant Troy, who flatters and charms her. He conducts a sword demonstration for her only, cuts a curl of her hair to keep, and kisses her. Soon she is in love, sends a letter to Boldwood, who is temporarily away at Bath, and continues to develop a relationship with Troy. Gabriel advises against this relationship and warns her that Troy is not the admirable man he claims to be.

Boldwood returns, demands that Bathsheba answer his questions, and curses Troy. Bathsheba goes to Bath, intending to end her relationship with Troy out of fear for his safety, but she marries him instead. When they return, Troy buys his way out of the army but has little work ethic regarding the farm. He spends Bathsheba's money on gambling and brandy. Boldwood sinks into depression over the loss of Bathsheba and lets his crops rot.

Meanwhile, Gabriel sees a storm coming that will threaten the crop. He takes it upon himself to save the crops yet again (this being half the year's yield), and Bathsheba comes to help. Troy and the employees are uselessly drunk. This action occurs, notably, eight months after the night when Gabriel saved the crops from fire.

Troy and Bathsheba quarrel when they see a woman (Fanny) along the road, and Bathsheba realizes that he knows her. At this point, Bathsheba doesn't realize the woman on the road is Fanny or that Bathsheba's husband is the soldier Fanny loved. Troy makes arrangements to go to Fanny to give her money several days later, but she is already dead. Bathsheba and Troy quarrel when she sees a lock of golden hair in his possession.

Word comes to Bathsheba that her former servant Fanny is dead while Troy is in Casterbridge to meet Fanny. Bathsheba sends for Fanny's body. Before Troy returns, she discovers that Fanny and her child are both in the coffin. Her husband's former lover and child arrive dead in her own house. Distraught, as is Troy when he returns and discovers the circumstances, Bathsheba argues with him, and they separate. He goes to have a grave marker made, and Bathsheba leaves the house.

Francis Troy does not return. He sleeps at the churchyard, plants flowers that wash away, and has the stone set for Fanny. Afterward, he goes for a swim. The current carries him away, and he ends up being rescued by a ship with passage to America. (Later, the narrator reveals that Troy works as a "Professor of Gymnastics, Sword Exercise, Fencing, and Pugilism" once in America).

Troy is presumed dead. Bathsheba is presumed a widow. Within the year, Boldwood again proposes to her, this time with the belief that she owes him. She points out that her husband might not be dead, and it would be years until she could marry. Boldwood asks her to still be engaged, expressing that he will wait. They agree that she will decide if she can accept his proposal—and a multiple-year engagement—by Christmas.

Gabriel continues to advise Bathsheba and run her farm. He takes on the management of Boldwood's farm, too.

Troy, meanwhile, returns to Weatherbury. He decides to reveal himself to his wife, and he chooses to do so at Boldwood's party where Bathsheba has just agreed to marry Boldwood if her husband is, in fact, dead. When Troy reveals himself, Bathsheba, clearly stunned, lets out a cry as he grabs her. Boldwood draws a gun from above the fireplace and kills Troy. He attempts to kill himself, too, but a servant stops him. He then reports to prison.

Bathsheba has her husband's body taken home, cleans and dresses him, and collapses after the surgeon and parson come. She has her husband buried with Fanny and their child, and she has the stone that he purchased for Fanny amended to include him.

The discovery of clothing and jewelry labeled for "Bathsheba Boldwood" serves as proof that Boldwood is not of sound mind, and he is spared death. Gabriel continues to run both farms. However, he tells Bathsheba that he will be quitting, possibly going to America.

His resignation arrives at Christmas, a year after Troy's death and Boldwood's imprisonment. She confronts Gabriel about his resignation, and he reveals that people spoke ill of him and of her, suggesting that he was waiting around to wed her and take over her farm. In the conversation, she reveals that he ought to ask her, and soon after, they have a private, quiet wedding.

Far from the Madding Crowd Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 Gabriel and Bathsheba meet.

Rising Action

2 Boldwood proposes to Bathsheba.

3 Bathsheba marries Troy.

4 Fanny and her child die.

5 Troy is carried away by the sea and presumed dead.

6 Troy returns and reveals himself to Bathsheba.

Climax

7 Boldwood murders Troy.

Falling Action

8 Bathsheba goes to see Gabriel.

Resolution

9 Bathsheba and Gabriel wed.

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