Comment on the Ending of Far From the Madding Crowd
Critics have found the ending of Thomas Hardy’s far from the Madding Crowd unconvincing and contrived because it turns counter to the tragic bias of the novel Like other novels of Hardy, it shows the struggle between the man on the one hand and on the other an omnipotent and indifferent Fate that often ends in death and disaster for man Like all tragic tales, it leaves us face to face with the mystery of human evil and suffering As Hardy sees it, the personal fate of the individual is largely at the mercy of impersonal forces over which he has little control.
A close look into the series of events in Far from the Madding Crowd affirms the above impression. The novel, as it unfolds, concerns the fate of two women and the three men it does not begin with mirth and laughter or with a spell of sunshine On the contrary right from its onset we are introduced to accidents and calamities. Indeed, we encounter many trials and tribulations through which different characters have to pass We come across devastation caused by fire and sudden death of Oak’s two hundred sheep’s Such incidents or convulsions disturbed the easy and smooth flow of life. They definitely lend a tragic overtone to the story and the atmosphere takes on a gloomy and menacing look.
But in essence Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd & a novel about the affairs of love Rejected by the capricious Bathsheba Everdene and financially ruined by his sheepdog driving his flock over a cliff Gabriel Oak is forced off his land instrumental in quelling a fire at Bathsheba’s farm, he is hired by her and soon rises from shepherd to bailiff. Unwisely, Bathsheba sends her neighbor, Farmer Boldwood a valentine which he takes so seriously as to fall in love with her.
Gabriel Oak observes Bathsheba’s infatuation for Troy. Since Troy is the wrong man, Oak tries to warn her against the development of intimacy between her and Troy. Ultimately Troy and Bathsheba secretly get married at Bath But it is not a happy union and Troy, remorseful at Fanny’s death in childbirth, leaves his wife and is mistakenly thought to be drowned. However, believing him dead, Bathsheba accepts the frenetic attention of Farmer Boldwood. Troy appears at the engagement party to claim his wife. This enrages Boldwood, who shoots Troy dead and is tried and condemned to detention for life imprisonment. Soon afterward Oak, who has been overseeing the farms of Bathsheba and Boldwood, proposes for the second time while Bathsheba by paying a visit to Oak’s place cajoles him to get married.
So the train of events swiftly marches towards a conclusion. Bathsheba has learned from her misfortune the necessary lesson. Oak has been tested thoroughly and emerged successful in every trial. On the other hand, Bathsheba realizes that Oak is essential for running her farm, and hence this time her choice for Oak is not dictated by impulse. It is the result of her sound reasoning and businesslike mind. Hardy contrives this reunion of Bathsheba and Oak after showing them as victims to a lot of misfortunes and afflictions, not to bring about a drastic end to his novel but to indicate his faith in the exigencies of life. As Louis Cazamian observes, “whether his creed is fatalism or determinism, he is haunted by the vision of necessity.
But to say that the ending of the novel is unconvincing and contrived is to miss the design of the novelist. Hardy has taken much care to convince us of the appropriateness of the happy ending. First, Hardy has removed one-by-one characters who might have thwarted the happy effect. Fanny was slightly sketched and died much earlier. Troy, a villain whose intentions were to further his own material ends at the expense of others’ happiness, was killed by Boldwood. Boldwood himself was equally selfish and destructive. Secondly, Bathsheba is tamed, if not radically altered, to create happiness for herself and others. We must not also forget the pastoral background and the rhythm of passing seasons in assessing the outcome of the novel Thirdly, Hardy creates an atmosphere of harmony; through the comradeship between Oak and Bathsheba, by the foggy weather which seems to run day and evening together and by the actual music of celebration from the farm workers’ band.
In the final chapter of the novel, Bathsheba and Oak find beauty in loneliness and have sunset peace. Most of the readers will welcome the happy ending because they would like to see Oak rewarded for his loyalty and devotion to Bathsheba. According to H.C. Duffin, “We see the loveliest side of Hardy’s outlook on life, his faith in that camaraderie, the product of the experience endowed side by side, which alone can make love strong as death.”.