Up until very recently, I always thought the title of this classic novel was Far From the Maddening Crowd. “Maddening,” not “madding.” When Thomas Hardy wrote the novel in 1874, he took the title from a poem by Thomas Gray.
Far From the madding crowd's ignoble strife Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray; Along the cool sequester'd vale of life They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
I read somewhere that in this instance, Mr. Gray (not to be confused with THE Mr. Gray) meant that the crowd was frenzied. I always read it and assumed that the crowd was maddening just because it was a big ol’ bunch of people.
Whatever the crowd was like, in both the book and the movie adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd, the readers and viewers are definitely far away from them. Set over 200 miles away from London, pastoral England is beautifully drawn in the story, as are the spirited cast of characters.
If you are unfamiliar with the story, it’s a classic love triangle, and at times a love quartet! Bathsheba, our female lead, is a vain, proud, and independent woman. Gabriel Oak, a man as strong and solid as his name, recognizes these qualities and loves her in spite of them. On the other hand, Farmer Boldwood, master of the neighboring farm, is so blinded by his need to possess Bathsheba he can’t see what she really is. Sergeant Troy, an impetuous cad of a soldier, is simply distracted by Bathsheba’s wealth and spirit, when the girl he really loves goes missing.
The movie has to cut a lot of fat from the book, of course, but it’s surprisingly well done. One of my only regrets is that I wish the film would have introduced Bathsheba and Gabriel more slowly. Her display of vanity at the beginning sets a slightly different stage for the book than the movie. There are also a few deviations from the book that don’t have a clear explanation.
One of my favorite things from the book is the extraordinary quotes. How someone can perfectly pour ideas like this into words is beyond me.
“It is safer to accept any chance that offers itself and extemporize a procedure to fit it, than to get a good plan matured, and wait for a chance of using it.”
“Wisdom lies in moderating mere impressions.”
“Some women only require an emergency to make them fit for one.”