Far from the Madding Crowd

Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy, Shannon Russell, Rosemarie Morgan [These notes were made in 1983:]. Somehow a much lighter book in tone than Tess, tho' it has its share of tragedy at the end. There's something curious going on with Hardy - insofar as he conceives of an "upper" or nobler class at all, he seems nearly always to have a representative of it reduced to poverty, or at least below him - in disguise, as it were. If that's the case, then it's the very rankest Romantic plot structuring, for this disguised hero (Gabriel Oak) is restored to his "rightful" place and gets the girl. But if he's Romantic about his men, Hardy is very unromantic about his women. Bathsheba Everdene is about as skilful a mixture of real attractiveness and folly as I've ever seen in a male author's work - and I'm not forgetting about Isabel Archer. The plot ends (like Sister Mary Ignatius!) in a flurry of gunfire, but satisfactorily so, ridding us of two unwanted suitors at once and inflicting the graver penalty on the greater sinner (Troy). (The other is Boldoaks). What I noticed most, tho', was neither character nor plot, but that extraordinary ability of Hardy's to turn a scene into a visual, insistent, single image - Troy's sword weaving a cocoon of light around Bathsheba, Bathsheba and Gabriel on the hayrick as lightning flashes around and rain threatens - this, and not anything new in plot, character or philosophy, is what strikes me as being what really makes Hardy great.