Far from the Madding Crowd – what’s in a name

The protagonist of Thomas Hardy’s classic, Far from the Madding Crowd, is the beautiful and sharp Bathsheba Everdene.

She is named after Bathsheba from the Bible – the wife of first Uriah and then of King David, and mother of Solomon the wise. The story of David and Bathsheba is one of sin and repentance. One night King David saw Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop and “coveted her”. He got her pregnant and schemed to have her husband, one of his soldiers, brought back home, thinking that with a bit of luck in timing, her husband would assume he is the father. The plan failed, and David ordered Uriah to the front lines of battle, ensuring his death. After the mourning period, David and Bathsheba married. God struck down their first child to show his displeasure with their actions, which pained both David and Bathsheba greatly. David thoroughly repented and was eventually forgiven. We assume the same for Bathsheba, but less is written on her account.

Hardy references this relationship again through Sergeant Troy, Everdene’s first and very fickle husband. When Troy is still courting her, Bathsheba reprimands him for speaking to her inappropriately. He responds by saying:

… you take away the one little ewe-lamb of pleasure that I have in this dull life of mine.

The one little ewe-lamb refers to the when the prophet Nathan tells David a story of a rich man with a flock and a poor man with but one lamb, whom he raised with love and great care. When a traveler came through the city, the rich man offered him a meal made not of the sheep in his own flock but of the poor man’s lamb instead. David is outraged and misses the parallels between the story and his actions. Nathan clarifies that David, a king with many wives, is the rich man stealing from poor Uriah. It is also in this passage that David learns his first child has died. Troy is, of course, trying to guilt Bathsheba for his own reasons.

The story of David and Bathsheba is also the subject of Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered Hallelujah.

The surname, Everdene, is taken from a Dorset village named Evershot. Dorset is one of the locations that inspired much of the geography in Hardy’s novels. (See: Thomas Hardy’s Wessex.) Those who read or watched The Hunger Games may recognize the last name since Katniss Everdeen owes her last name to Hardy’s character. Suzanne Collins has said of the two women,

The two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts.

Related: Literature’s feistiest feminists: How Thomas Hardy paved the way for The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen

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3 thoughts on “Far from the Madding Crowd – what’s in a name

  1. A fascinating insight, from the first paragraph I was humming Hallelujah even before you mentioned it. I really need to read more Hardy, having only read Under the Greenwood Tree which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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