Significance of the title of Far From the Madding Crowd by Hardy

Far From the Madding Crowd is a phrase that occurs in Thomas Gray‘s Elegy written in the Country Churchyard. This Elegy pays a tribute to humble and homely ancestors of village-people, who lie buried in the country church-yard. The phrase occurs in the following stanza:

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife;
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along with the cool, sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

The title suggests that the novel deals with the life of country people. The latter lead a calm and quiet existence far removed from the din, hustle and bustle, and the feverish activities of town life. They are either farmers, laborers, or shepherds. Most of them are illiterate or half-educated. They keep the noiseless tenor of their life because they are neither as ambitious nor as corrupt or dishonest as city-bred people. They lead a happy, contented, and quiet life.

Most of the characters are homely and simple-minded. Some are pure rustics, like Joseph Poorgrass, Laban Tall, Cain Ball, and Henery Fray. They are illiterate, superstitious, and clownish. They remind us of Shakespeare’s rustics and jesters. Among major characters Oak is an idealized rustic; Boldwood and Bathsheba are farmers. The only exception is Sergeant Troy who is a sufficiently educated man and whose polished ways present a sharp contrast to the rustic behavior of other characters.

The novel refers to scenes and activities associated with rural or pastoral life. Thus, we have references to lambing, sheep-washing, Sheep-shearing, sheep-fairs, and shearing-feasts. The novel is throughout pervaded by a pastoral atmosphere. Indeed, it would not be wrong to describe it as a Pastoral Romance.

The title might also have a deeper meaning. It may suggest that human nature is the same everywhere. Thus, though the characters live in the countryside, far from the madding crowds of big towns and cities, they are torn by the same passions, which work havoc with city-bred people. This is to say, the same emotions sway their minds that inspire people elsewhere. Thus, these characteristics are not proof against love, jealousy, or vanity. Oak and Boldwood have both to suffer because Bathsheba does not respond to their love. Bathsheba marries Troy because she feels jealous of the other beautiful woman whom Sergeant Troy intends to marry. Boldwood shoots Troy dead because he (Boldwood) does not approve Troy’s employing force in compelling Bathsheba to accompany him. Fanny Robin meets with a tragic end because she is deserted by her lover.

Thus we can say that Far From the Madding Crowd is an apt and appropriate title. It suggests, at first sight, that the novel will deal with country people and rural life. The novel thus has been rightly named because it refers to the joys and sorrows of the humble and homely countrymen.

Also read: Appropriateness of the title of “Araby” by James Joyce