"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 64
WE ARE DONE! =D That is, I am done. Everyone else was finished weeks ago . . . if not years ago. =P
Thanks to Bat, LTG, Sheila, and even Amy on Twitter for reading Far from the Madding Crowd with me! I just wish I had been as good at hosting as you've been at commenting. At last, we come to the best part . . .
He accompanied her up the hill, explaining to her the details of his forthcoming tenure of the other farm. They spoke very little of their mutual feeling; pretty phrases and warm expressions being probably unnecessary between such tried friends. Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other's character, and not the best till further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality. This good-fellowship--camaraderie--usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death—that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam.
But not so fast! Before we can fully enjoy the fruits of this happy ending, let's trace the last steps of the path Thomas Hardy takes to get us there. Although many modern romantic comedies play upon a similar formula by making lovers loathe each other at first meeting, they get the proportions all wrong.
Chapters 51 to 57
So do you buy it? Bathsheba's big change, I mean. At the beginning of the Christmas party, she is so totally overwhelmed by Mr. Boldwood that she can't even tell him she doesn't want to wear his creepy ring and then so stunned at the reappearance of Sergeant Troy that that she is virtually struck blind . . . but the second the first man shoots the second, she is completely transformed.
Deeds of endurance, which seem ordinary in philosophy, are rare in conduct, and Bathsheba was astonishing all around her now, for her philosophy was her conduct, and she seldom thought practicable what she did not practice. She was of the stuff of which great men's mothers are made. She was indispensible to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises.
Is that really all it takes? I was prepared to call Thomas Hardy to task again, despite being unfit to spit shine his shoes, for relying on nothing but magic here, when two possibilities occurred to me.
First, that it may be that Bathsheba was always like this, and simply never had the right frame to show her off. But I considered and nixed this theory in about two seconds.
Second, that she was both never like this and incapable of developing into it, which means that something else had to tip the scale to get her to this point. Only one thing could have done that, and sure enough, it was the thing that did it here. I am referring to human sacrifice. Of course this makes more sense.
The gargoyle was right to laugh at Troy's sentimental offering of flowers--and at any man who thinks flowers can make up for sin. But I think even it would have been impressed by Mr. Boldwood's crazy first offering of Troy . . . and sane final offering of himself.
And let's remember, in fairness to Bathsheba, that she thought that she would have to be the sacrificial offering, in marriage, to atone not just for her early act of revenge against him, but also for every time she has ever acted on her vanity--which includes her rash first marriage. But Hardy has a more romantic view of matrimony. At least he doesn't think it is meant to be the wages of sin. =P
I really love that despite Gabriel and Bathsheba's best efforts to be married in "the most private, secret, plainest wedding that it is possible to have," the workers still insist on celebrating it properly. Call it the folk memory of the fitness of things. It is just right when they show up with a band and a cannon--and when they get the last word.
"Yes; I suppose that's the size o't," said Joseph Poorgrass with a cheerful sigh as they moved away; "and I wish him joy o' her; though I were once or twice upon saying to-day with holy Hosea, in my scripture manner, which is my second nature. 'Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.' But since 'tis as 'tis why, it might have been worse, and I feel my thanks accordingly."
Yeah, we all want Hosea 4 read at our weddings. Thanks Joseph. =P
What are your thoughts on Chapters 51 to 57?
1) Did someone have to die?
2) Do you feel satisfied by the ending?
3) Have you tried making Hardy's recipe for romantic love? If so, how did it turn out?
Image Source: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy