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The Connell Guide to Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd

The Connell Guide to Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd (Paperback)

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For better or worse, Far from the Madding Crowd was the novel Victorian readers wanted him to write over and over again. One early reviewer was delighted by the pastoral elements: "when the sheep are shorn in the ancient town of Weatherbury, the scene is one that Shakespeare or that Chaucer might have watched." But what Hardy had promised as a quiet story took off in unexpected directions. Bathsheba is not merely tempted to make the wrong choice, but does so, and is only saved from the lifelong consequences of her mistake when a third suitor, Farmer Boldwood, murders the husband who torments her. Rather than a "pastoral tone and idyllic simplicity," noted a critic in the Westminster Review, what marked Far from the Madding Crowd was its "violent sensationalism" marital desertion, illegitimacy, death in childbirth, murder, attempted suicide and insanity. Yet this is not a dark novel. Nearly 30 years after its publication, Hardy wrote that it seemed to him "like the work of a youngish hand, though perhaps there is something in it which I could not have put there had I been older." That "something" has been variously identified as charm, amplitude, richness of incident and humour, or, more broadly, the assurance that despite the sense that deep social and economic changes are imminent, the closing marriage will maintain the community and its traditional order a little longer. If even here, in the last work he was to write from his childhood home in Bockhampton, Hardy could not wholly ignore the darker aspects of rural life, Far from the Madding Crowd remains the warmest and most celebratory of farewells.

Essays & WritingLiterary CriticismLiterary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writersEssays & WritingLiterary CriticismLiterary studies: generalLiterary studies: c 1800 to c 1900 Publisher: Connell Guides Publication Date: 02/09/2014 ISBN-13: 9781907776151  Details: Type: Paperback Format: Books
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Phillip Mallett is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of St Andrews. He is the author of Rudyard Kipling: a Literary Life, and has edited a number of collections of essays, including Satire, Kipling Considered, Advances in Thomas Hardy Studies, and most recently Thomas Hardy in Context for Cambridge University Press. He has also prepared critical editions of both The Return of the Native and The Mayor of Casterbridge, and is the Editor of the Thomas Hardy Journal.

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