The Story

 

“Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor,

Farmer, pirate or spy.

Men can choose the path they’ll take.

Couldn’t I?

Shouldn’t I?”

 

Adapted from Thomas Hardy’s novel, Far from the Madding Crowd charts the journey of Bathsheba Everdene, a young woman struggling to make her own way in a world that rigidly dictates women’s roles and behavior.

Orphaned as a girl, Bathsheba lives with her aunt on a remote farm. Although she longs for a better life, she is too independent to accept a marriage proposal from Gabriel Oak, a neighboring farmer. In the space of a few days, their lives undergo radical changes: Bathsheba inherits the farm of her father’s brother and Gabriel loses his.

Bathsheba dismisses her dishonest bailiff and resolves to manage the farm herself. She must cope with a suspicious fire and the skepticism of her laborers and fellow landowners about a woman’s ability to handle her own affairs. She is assisted by Gabriel, who swallows his pride to accept a position as shepherd on her farm.

While the farm prospers, Bathsheba is less successful with her personal life. In a moment of mischief, she sends an anonymous valentine to her neighbor, William Boldwood. Although she regrets her behavior, Bathsheba can’t bring herself to accept Boldwood’s subsequent offer of marriage. Her actions lead to a bitter quarrel with Gabriel who leaves the farm.

Another man enters Bathsheba’s life – Sgt. Frank Troy – who was engaged to one of her servants, Fanny Robin. After first courting then abandoning Fanny, Troy now relents and comes to Weatherbury in search of her. He meets Bathsheba and after a whirlwind courtship, they elope, crushing the hopes of both Gabriel and Boldwood.

The honeymoon is brief. Troy proves no more responsible as a married man than he was as a bachelor, running up gambling debts and squandering Bathsheba’s money. Only Gabriel’s intervention saves her harvest from being ruined in a storm. Grateful for his help, she asks Gabriel to return to the farm and he agrees.

Troy encounters Fanny, penniless and pregnant with his child. He promises to help her, but Fanny dies before he can bring her the promised money. In a moment of rage and grief, Bathsheba discovers the truth about Troy and Fanny. Troy deserts Bathsheba and is presumed dead when his clothes are discovered on a beach.

In the months that follow, Bathsheba attempts to put her life back together. Gabriel’s guidance and friendship prove invaluable. Boldwood presses Bathsheba to become his wife. A beleaguered Bathsheba finally assents. At Boldwood’s celebratory Christmas party, Troy returns and threatens Bathsheba. Boldwood kills him and is imprisoned.

The following spring, Gabriel tells Bathsheba that he has decided to seek his fortune in America. Faced with his departure, a more mature Bathsheba recognizes that Gabriel is the man she needs and loves. Finally, they are united.