Look carefully at the role of promises and contracts in this novel. How does Bathsheba negotiate with each of her suitors? What does she agree to do, and what does she refuse to do? Why don't we see first-hand her final capitulation when she agrees to marry Troy?

Think about the use of land and nature in this novel. Who is talented at farming and who is less so? Why? What does a person's harmony with nature seem to signify? Think about Gabriel's response to the storm and how he reacts when he learns of the sheep's feeding upon young clover.

Does Bathsheba Everdene's character change over the course of the novel? What evidence is there that she learns from experience? What evidence is there that she does not change?

Discuss Hardy's use of setting in Far from the Madding Crowd. What happens at Weatherbury, before the reader's eyes? What important events take place elsewhere, only reported second-hand? How are the events that take place outdoors different from those that take place indoors? What happens at night, and what happens during the day? How does an event's setting help us to interpret it?

Several natural catastrophes happen over the course of this novel: the dog's driving the sheep off the cliff, the fire, the sheep's feeding upon young clover, the storm. What role do these events play with respect to the plot? What do they suggest about man's role with respect to nature? With respect to chance events?

Choose one chapter and look carefully at the point of view Hardy employs in that chapter. How does it advance the plot? How does it reveal information about the characters?

Discuss the roles of letters in this novel. How is communication by letter different from a conversation? What are the advantages or disadvantages of letter-writing as opposed to direct communication? Why do people choose to use letters?

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