Setting and theme in Thomas Hardy’s novel “Far from the Madding Crowd” have a close relationship, and this is exemplified constantly throughout the story. With the most prominent themes in the novel include social hierarchy of the Victorian era, the concept of unrequited love, and fatal catastrophe, setting immerses these themes into the story.
In particular, background provides much of thematic strength, pathetic fallacy being an example. This novel offers us a clear image of how important social position was in England in the nineteenth century and of the opportunities that existed to change class, in either direction. The course of Oak best exemplifies this, as at the beginning of the story, he and Bathsheba are equal in social status. The only thing that prevents Bathsheba from accepting his proposal of marriage is the fact that she doesn’t want to be married yet.
After Oak’s financial downfall, the social gap between the two is too wide for them to marry; she is more socially compatible with her neighbour, Farmer Boldwood: “Mr Boldwood has more standing than me in this matter. ” However the situation in rural nineteenth-century England did offer opportunity to those in the lower positions to move up. Over the course the story, Oak, with hard work manages to bridge this social gap between Bathsheba and himself. This theme carries throughout the entire story and plays a key part in the setting of Weatherbury’s lesser inhabitants and their actions that affect the main characters.
Another important theme is unrequited love, in which the first part of the novel is driven by love for Bathsheba. “After his discovery of the vanished Bathsheba’s destination,” Oak after his financial ruin could go anywhere, decides to follow the woman he loves, leading to his employment at her farm. However, unrequited love in the story also extends to Farmer Boldwood, receiving a valentine after “a girl’s prank” begins to desire Bathsheba. Although Bathsheba attempts to tell Boldwood she will not marry him, unlike Oak, Boldwood looks for the slightest sign in what she says that there may be a chance she may change her mind.
Bathsheba herself suffers an unrequited love for Troy. After their marriage, Bathsheba thinks that he is mistreating her but she loves him too much to break free. When they argue over the fact that he is lying about the trip he plans to take to see Fanny, and Bathsheba regrets how much she used to love him, Troy can only mutter, 'I can't help how things fall out upon my heart, women will be the death of me. ' When he is thought to have drowned, though, Bathsheba still thinks enough of him to go on waiting, to see if he will come back. A final theme is fatalism and catastrophe, this theme most closely linked to setting.
Throughout the novel, we can see that catastrophe can occur at any time, with the potential to change lives. The most obvious example is the destruction of Oak’s flock, coupled with unlikely events: an inexperienced sheep dog, a rotted rail, and a cliff next to his land. In one night, his life has been completely changed from a secured future as a farmer, to an uncertain position as a beggar seeking work. Potential catastrophe also occurs elsewhere in the story; for example “it was only due to Shepherd Oak that her [Bathsheba’s] flock was saved all but one. This theme is represented in the setting by a technique used by Hardy as pathetic fallacy, in which nature mirrors emotions of characters. Finally, the severity of catastrophe is based on the setting where it takes place, the most clear example, the storm after harvest. In this way, in the novel “Far from the Madding Crowd,” the three most important themes are related to setting in varying levels. Social hierarchy, unrequited love and fatal catastrophe, much of their importance comes from the settings in which they take place.