Places: Far from the Madding Crowd

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1874

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: 1869-1873

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedWessex

Wessex. Far from the Madding CrowdImaginary English county in which this and other novels by Hardy are set. Wessex corresponds with the real county of Dorset in southwest England. More specifically, the story centers round the village of Weatherbury, events extending to the nearby town of Casterbridge, seven miles away.

Weatherbury

Weatherbury. Typical English farming village in Wessex (modeled on Dorset’s Puddletown or Lower Longpuddle). The town’s parish church, in the graveyard of which Fanny and Troy are buried, dates from the fourteenth century. It has a tower in which are fixed the village clock and a number of grotesque gargoyle waterspouts. In front of it, a primitive form of baseball is played by the villagers. Buck’s Head Inn is the main village inn, but the “chorus of yokels” prefer to gather at Warren’s Malt-house, where malt is made for brewing, and which becomes a sort of social club. The village has several small stores. It lies in a valley that stretches eastward toward Shottover.

Weatherbury Upper Farm

Weatherbury Upper Farm. Farm that Bathsheba Everdene inherits from her uncle. It is, as is typical of the area, a mixed farm, raising sheep, cattle, wheat, and barley. Its farmhouse was once the manor of a small estate, so it is spacious, with a stone front, columnar chimneys, and spiral staircases of oak. It has a number of out-buildings, many quite old, such as the Shearing Barn, and farm cottages. However, the house and farm are now leased from an aristocratic landowner who lives at some distance.

Hardy’s description highlights the social change from gentrified farming to middle-class leaseholder with close ties to the laboring community by mentioning the about-turn of the house from its front gravel drive, to its rear with the functional buildings there. The local farm economy is prosperous when all the members of the community pull their own weight. However, outsiders such as Troy threaten the balance, and it is only the man-of-all-seasons, Gabriel Oak, who can re-establish the equilibrium.

Little Weatherbury

Little Weatherbury. Community in which Weatherbury Lower Farm, which neighbors Bathsheba’s farm, is leased by Bathsheba’s suitor William Boldwood. The two farms together cover two thousand acres, a substantial area by the standards of the day. The farms are so similar that Gabriel can manage both by himself. Bathsheba’s and Gabriel’s marriage at the end of the novel formally cements the farms’ union. Boldwood himself is a gentleman farmer, with a good stable of horses, and his farm’s furnishings seem somewhat richer than Bathsheba’s. However, at the end, his stable is left empty, a further sign of social change.

Casterbridge

Casterbridge. Wessex town seven miles west of Weatherbury that is modeled on Dorchester. Casterbridge is the primary county town and features centrally in Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886). The agricultural nature of the town’s commerce is stressed in both that novel and Far from the Madding Crowd, with Hardy describing typical market activities, such as Oak’s hiring and Bathsheba’s selling her wheat in the Cornmarket. However, Far from the Madding Crowd also mentions other features: the barracks in which Troy’s regiment is quartered briefly, the county jail, and South Street Almshouse, the Union House in which the homeless are sheltered.

The road between Casterbridge and Weatherbury is frequently described in the novel. Two hills border the road: Mellstock, about one mile outside Casterbridge, and Yallbury, about halfway between the two towns. On the east side of the latter lies Yallbury Wood and the village pub, where Poorgrass gets drunk while transporting Fanny Robin’s coffin.

Budmouth

Budmouth. Fashionable town and port, modeled on Weymouth, where horse races at which Troy gambles are held regularly. Along the coast a few miles to the east lies Lulwind (Lulworth) Cove, where Troy’s clothes are found after he is swept by the current toward Budmouth harbor.

*Bath

*Bath. Another fashionable town a day’s journey north of Casterbridge, where Troy and Bathsheba marry. The artificiality and lack of connection to the rural geography symbolize the uprooting of Troy and the destructive intrusiveness of his adventurism.

Norcombe

Norcombe. Town that is the site of Gabriel’s first meeting with Bathsheba and the first dashing of his hopes, some twenty miles north of Weatherbury.

BibliographyBuckler, William. The Victorian Imagination: Essays in Aesthetic Exploration. New York: New York University Press, 1980. Explores the politics and society of Victorian England as it affects the formal elements (plot, character construction, imagery) and the political and social aspects (gender, class, rural/urban relations) of Hardy’s work; specifically addresses Far from the Madding Crowd.Bullen, J. B. The Expressive Eye: Fiction and Perception in the Work of Thomas Hardy. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1987. Distinguishes Hardy from other writers of the period by examining his painterly eye and visual accuracy; discussion of Hardy’s descriptions of landscapes.Milligate, Michael. Thomas Hardy: His Career as a Novelist. London: Bodley Head, 1971. A full-length study of Hardy’s life and his concerns, attitudes, values and problems as they affected his writing and its reception. Offers a fair perspective on Hardy’s personal and artistic development.Shires, Linda M. “Narrative, Gender, and Power in Far from the Madding Crowd.” Novel 24, no. 2 (Winter, 1991): 162-178. Examines the character of Bathsheba Everdene and her feminine power over Oak, Boldwood, and Troy. A feminist analysis that points out Hardy’s portrayal of Bathsheba is unusual, in contrast to other heroines such as Eustacia Vye and Tess Durbeyfield.Swann, Charles. “Far from the Madding Crowd: How Good a Shepherd Is Gabriel Oak?” Notes and Queries 39, no. 2 (June, 1992): 189-201. Analyzes Gabriel Oak as a character and as a prototype of a Wessex shepherd; addresses Hardy’s interpretation of the rural world.
Categories: Places