"Far From the Madding Crowd" Book Discussion and Bacon Ham and Cheddar Biscuit Recipe
Bathsheba Everdeen is a stubborn but hardworking young woman who inherits her grandfather’s farm just as her once-dear friend falls into personal tragedy. Independently making a living in a man’s world leads her to arrogance and doubtful of ever finding marriage, she thinks love to be a joke and plays a foolish trick on a neighbor, unwittingly awakening love and obsession in a bachelor’s heart. Then folly begets folly when a soldier with a tragic past and a flattering tongue comes to town, pushing Bathsheba’s buttons and making her forget all other marriage proposals for the excitement of his flattering, alluring suggestions. She forgets all about the kind-eyed shepherd and friend Gabriel Oak, who has helped her through repeated tragedies; patient, but honest, and ever at her side, until she sends him away.
is suspenseful, dramatic, tragic, and yet satisfying. The characters’ mistakes will make you cringe, their teasing will make you laugh, and their stories are consuming until the very end, with unfathomable finishes. This book is perfect for anyone who wants to be pulled into a dramatic pastoral that shows how human character is the same, despite time periods or circumstances, even despite having fortunes or none. Far From the Madding Crowd
Perfect for fans of
- Romantic dramas
- Farm life/pastorals
- Struggling to get/maintain a fortune
- Women succeeding in a man’s world
- Endearing, kind characters
- Dramatic, foolish characters
- Personal growth in characters
Gabriel said that Bathsheba’s greatest fault was vanity. Do you agree or disagree? What were her other faults? What were his?
Was Gabriel a content man before Bathsheba, as a successful farmer with his own herd of sheep? Was Boldwood also content before Bathsheba? Troy also blamed her for some of his choices/misfortune in a pivotal argument. What in her stirred so much unrest in these men?
For Gabriel, this sentiment “And at home by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be—and whenever I look up, there will be you” was perfectly desirable regarding Bathsheba, but why couldn't she accept that idea in the beginning? What did she mean that she wanted somebody to “tame” her?
How did Bathsheba save Gabriel’s life one night? Do you think this only increased his fondness for her?
How did Gabriel lose his sheep, and what did that mean for him and his fortune?
Bathsheba said that “we know very well that women scarcely ever jilt men; tis the men who jilt us.” How was this foreboding?
What did Bathsheba do to Boldwood to change his mind about her? How was it done “idly and unreflectingly”?
Why did Bathsheba fire Mr. Oak over “criticizing her conduct”? What brought him back?
Why was it a “fatal omission of Boldwood’s that he had never once told [Bathsheba] that she was beautiful”? Who said it over and over to her, and why did that help him secure her (for direct quotes, look at the last section of the article)? Why was she also torn between “distress at hearing him and a penchant to hear more”?
What were some of the flaws in Troy’s nature? Did he have a tendency to blame his issues on others (hint: “If you pretty women hadn’t made me an idolater”)?
What token of remembrance did Troy take from Bathsheba (and keep of Fanny as well)?
Why do you think Bathseba “felt like one who has sinned a great sin” when Troy kissed her? Why did she allow him to do that, when Boldwood, who “would have given worlds to touch her hand”, was not allowed even that? Why would she marry him anyway (remember that at the time, marriage was sometimes considered redeeming, depending on the circumstances)?
What does it mean that “Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant women love when they abandon their self-reliance...when a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength...”? Why else do you think she loved him or found herself attracted to him more strongly than the others?
Why did Liddy believe Troy to have “no conscience at all”? Do you think he did? Was Liddy’s advice wise in that Bathsheba shouldn’t trust him, or to “behave as if he might be bad,” simply for her own safety?
Was Bathsheba being honest with Boldwood when she said “You overrate my capacity for love. I don’t possess half the warmth of nature you believe me to have. An unprotected childhood in a cold world has beaten gentleness out of me”?
How did Bathseba “inflame” Troy and take over for a time, his love for Fanny? When did his love for fanny overcome his love for his wife? Why was Troy so discontented in love?
What were Joseph and Coggan doing instead of Joseph taking Fanny to where she belonged, that made Gabriel so ashamed of them? What secret thing did Gabriel do when he arrived, and why? How did this affect the way that Troy found out the sad news about Fanny?
Based on his actions and the following statement, would you say Troy had a tendency to blame others for his problems? “Ah! Don’t taunt me madam. This woman is more to me, dead as she is, than ever you were, or are, or can be. If Satan had not tempted me with that face of yours, and those cursed coquetries, I should have married her.”
What did Troy do with all the money he asked Bathsheba for? Why do you think he did so?
Gabriel was paid a fixed wage by Bathsheba, but what was his arrangement with Boldwood? How did Gabriel’s fortune fluctuate vastly throughout the book?
What did Troy wind up doing for a living after the swimming accident? Why did he take so long to return, and even hide his identity when he did?
Why did Boldwood increase Oak’s share in his own farm? Do you think Boldwood respected Oak for suffering silently and patiently in a similar way to what he did?
Gabriel Oak often took with him to the field for luncheon bread and ham, or ate a breakfast of bacon and bread, as did other characters such as the maltster, or the other field farmers. Bread and cheese was served to everyone for luncheon during the shearing of the sheep, when “Gabriel’s soul was filled with a luxury of content by having her over him,” admiring his skillful work.
At different meals and times, everyone from Gabriel Oak to the other workers to even Troy had various meals involving bacon and bread, or ham and bread, or cheese and bread. To combine all of those into something simple to carry and keep with him a farmer could take on the go, I created an easy recipe for Bacon Ham Cheddar Biscuits.
Bacon Ham and Cheddar Biscuits
- 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, cold
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
- 10-12 slices cooked bacon, crumbled (12 if smaller pieces, or if you love bacon)
- 1/4-1/2 cup diced ham
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Measure out flour and baking powder and pour into a large bowl. Cut butter into 8 pieces, and using a pastry cutter, a potato masher, or a fork, cut butter into flour until it is in small pieces, about the size of a pea. Then add the cheese and milk and stir together with a large spoon until a thick dough is formed. Add the bacon and ham and stir just until it looks mixed evenly throughout the dough.
- On a clean counter, pour about 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour in a small pile and dump the dough onto it. Using a wooden rolling pin, roll dough out to about a quarter inch thick. Using a cup, cut the dough into circles. Place onto baking sheets, and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops begin to turn golden and the sides look fluffy and not raw. Allow to cool 2-4 minutes before serving. Makes 8-10 biscuits.
Bacon Ham and Cheddar Biscuits
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Other books and stories by Thomas Hardy include Tess of the D’Urbervilles, the Mayor of Casterbridge, Jude the Obscure, The Return of the Native, Under the Greenwood Tree, The Woodlanders, Two on a Tower, and more.
Books mentioned within this one include Gabriel’s collection: The Young Man’s Best Companion, The Farrier’s Sure Guide, The Veterinary Surgeon, Paradise Lost, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and Robinson Crusoe.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is about a woman who misjudges too early, and finds a wealthy man to not be the ogre she thinks. Their lives intersect with a cotton mill and the rise of the industrial revolution.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte also features stubborn, strong characters who are at odds with each other sometimes, who suffer great tragedies, but who all find a satisfying end.
Middlemarch by George Eliot also looks at life in a town and its inhabitants, particularly focusing on nature, marriage, religion, and other themes seen in Far From the Madding Crowd.
Lark Rise to Candleford is about the contrast of two towns, one small and poor, one developing and its inhabitants being wealthier, and a young girl growing up and trying to find her place in each.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens has the same level of intense psychological drama and characters who have profound effects on others, beginning in a small country town of Kent and moving in and through London.
“He was at the brightest period of masculine growth, for his intellect and his emotions were clearly separated: he had passed the time during which the influence of youth indiscriminately mingles them in the character of impulse, and he had not yet arrived at the stage wherein they become united again, in the character of prejudice.”
“It [my name] is the only one I shall ever have, and I must make the most of it.”
“..nobody has got me yet as a sweetheart...I hate to be thought of men’s property in that way, though possibly I shall be had some day.”
“And at home by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be—and whenever I look up, there will be you.”
“I shall do one thing in this life—one thing certain—that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die.”
“There is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail.”
Some women only require an emergency to make them fit for one.”
[in reply to a man stuttering his appreciation for his wages]: “you can finish thanking me in a day or two.”
“He admired her so much that he used to light the candle three times a night to look at her.”
“So very idly and unreflectingly was this deed done. Of love as a spectacle Bathsheba had a fair knowledge; but of love subjectively she knew nothing.”
“...a resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced to make avoidance possible.”
“My life is not my own since I have beheld you clearly.”
“My life is a burden without you. I want you—I want you to let me say I love you again and again!”
“He had no wish to converse with her: that his bright lady and himself formed one group, exclusively their own, and containing no others in the world, was enough.”
“Thank you for the sight of such a beautiful face!”
“I am thankful for beauty, even when ‘tis thrown to me like a bone to a dog. These moments will be over too soon!”
“There are occasions when girls like Bathsheba will put up with a great deal of unconventional behavior. When they want to be praised, which is often; when they want to be mastered, which is sometimes; and when they want no nonsense, which is seldom.”
“It may be argued with great plausibility that reminiscence is less an endowment than a disease…”
“I would rather have curses from you than kisses from any other woman.”
“Probably some one man on an average falls in love with each ordinary woman. She can marry him: he is content, and leads a useful life. Such woman as you a hundred men always covet—your eyes will bewitch scores on scores into an unavailing fancy for you—you can only marry one of that many.”
© 2020 Amanda Leitch