Sunday, 4 October 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd watch-along: part 1

Welcome everyone to the Far from the Madding Crowd watch-along! Hope you were able to find a copy of this period drama and you enjoyed watching the first part. I sure did!

First a practical comment: because there are not really episodes in this adaptation, I sort of randomly cut the movie in three parts to watch and discuss. For part 1, I watched until 1:10 (until the scene where Batheseba leaves on horseback after her conversation with Farmer Boldwood)

On to the adaptation and we travel to Wessex in the mid-19th century where we meet Gabriel Oak (Nathaniel Parker), a shepherd who has just been able to buy his own small sheep-farm. He comes across the beautiful Bathseba (Paloma Baeza) who works on her aunt's farm and is immediately smitten. Though Bathseba flirts with him a little, she is absolutely not planning to be wooed by Gabriel and proudly refuses his proposal of marriage (And he even brought her a lamb to rear, how could you refuse that!)

Bathseba hates to be thought men's property

Just a little aside about the setting which I think is amazing and unique! Which other classic author sets their novels in a farming community? I do appreciate Hardy for bringing the lives of these people to attention. If you also like this setting, I'd recommend watching Victorian Farm in which three historians recreated live on a farm in the Victorian era. 

Bathseba has a stroke of luck when her uncle dies and she inherits his farm (again quite unique in a classic novel, a woman inheriting), while a disaster befalls Gabriel and he looses his farm. Soon they meet again however, when Gabriel unwittingly saves Bathseba's farm from a fire and is hired as a shepherd.

Insert Taylor Swift lyrics ('I knew you were trouble' or something like that)

One of Bathseba's new servants, Fanny, has a relationship with a soldier. Jane Austen already taught us what to think of these redcoats and Fanny's suitor sergeant Troy is indeed all charm, but no substance (incedentally, Frank Troy is played by Jonathan Firth, who also had a role in Middlemarch from last year's watch-along!). Troy promises Fanny they will marry, but when the wedding day arrives they are both at different churches due to some miscommunication. 

It's a man's world

Bathseba meanwhile, shows to have quite a talent for running a farm. She's fair and kind to her employees and is not planning to be taken advantage of because she's a woman. I think this was one of the first things I really liked Bathseba for and I think she's a classic heroine who can speak to modern women because of this.

Boldwood is confused

Bathseba is also just a young woman though and on a boring Sunday afternoon she and her servant decide to sent a Valentine's card to Mr Boldwood (Nigel Terry), the gentleman farmer next door as a joke. Mr Boldwood, upon receiving the card, decides he is in love with Bathseba and asks her to marry him. Bathseba is shocked and refuses, but upon Boldwood's insistence, promises to think about it a little longer.

Nothing like cute baby animals for a bit of bonding

Quote of the week:

Bathseba: 'I'm too independent, I need someone to tame me. You'd never be able to do that'
Gabriel: 'Who said I couldn't?'

Discussion question(s):

- What's your first impression of the story and the main characters? (Please add if you've seen and/or read the story before)
- Do you think the names of Gabriel Oak and Bathseba Everdene were given to the characters with a special meaning/reason?


  1. I'm still waiting for my copy to come in at the library -- I'll catch up with you when it does! Holding off on reading your post until then :-)

    1. Ah, bummer, I was looking forward to discussing this with you!

    2. It should arrive some time this week -- this is totally my fault because I forgot to requested it last week, and didn't remember until Sunday. Usually it takes 3 or 4 days for a hold to come in at the library for me, if it's not checked out, so I should have it later this week. And then I'll come discuss!

  2. I've never read or seen this before :-) And, having finished the first hour and ten minutes... I haven't the foggiest idea how this is all going to go. I suspect that Gabriel will continue being wonderful, and Bathsheba will continue being willful. And then eventually his wonderfulness will overcome her willfulness, and they'll get married and be happy. However, I could also see this going much darker, and having Gabriel grow so disheartened with waiting around for Bathsheba to see reason that he ends up throwing his life away in some heroic way, and she sees the error of her ways too late.

    So far my impression is that there are a lot of foolish people doing foolish things and I want to wag my finger at them and scold some sense into them. Especially Bathsheba and Fanny. And I feel really sad for Gabriel, especially over the loss of his sheep. I also am sorry for Boldwood for the mean trick Bathsheba played on him and how cavalier she's been about it.

    Anyway, the names are too richly symbolic to be accidental. Gabriel is the angel who brought messages of salvation and joy and explanation to Mary and Joseph. An Oak is a very strong and dependable tree. Bathsheba is the woman who unknowingly tempted her neighbor King David to lust after her and commit adultery with her and murder for her. And all the sheep seem to tie in to that story too, since Nathan the prophet told a parable about someone stealing a neighbor's sheep to show David how wrong he's been. Everdene is a little trickier -- a little Googling reveals that a "dene" or "dean" is an older English word for "valley," so she's ever a valley -- a fertile and protective place, one people would fight to control. It might also have some sexual connotations, with the valley as a yonic symbol, which would make Oak a phallic symbol too, but that might be reading a wee bit too far into the names. Or maybe not? I don't know anything about Hardy.

    1. Yay, long comment!

      You don't really like Bathseba, am I correct ;-) Somehow, even with all her willfulness and silly decisions, I've always liked her. She is brave and dares to go against expectations. But I still love Gabriel better/best! He is indeed wonderful, as you say.

      I have always thought the same about the names in FftMC, but you take it one step further. I never thought about the parable of Nathan or about the meaning of Everdene. I do wonder however if Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games named her main character Everdene after Bathseba?
      Anyway, I also found this page while googling for name symbolism, which very nicely states what you also said (I guess there are spoilers in this page, so be aware)

    2. Hee hee, yes, long comment.

      I think that I would like to like Bathsheba, but she is not earning my trust very well yet, if that makes sense. I don't dislike her (yet), so by the end, I might like her just fine, depending on her character's journey.

      When I searched for "Everdene" to see if it had any meanings on its own, the first couple things that came up were about how Suzanne Collins named Katniss after her, so yup, sounds like she did.

      Since it contains spoilers, I'm going to not follow that link until I've finished the movie.