I recently was blown away by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, in all its Imax glory. A few days later I found myself chatting with some colleagues, one of whom was re-reading Far From the Madding Crowd, the Thomas Hardy classic novel featured the inspiration for Katniss’ surname Everdeen. Bathsheba Everdene is Hardy’s female protagonist. Katniss gets her first name from an edible plant, while Bathsheba gets hers from the Old Testament. Her namesake was the wife of David and mother of Solomon.
Both Bathsheba and Katniss are brave, bright and resilient women living in a man’s world. But they don’t get everything right and must learn, often the hard way, in order to survive their respective narratives. Suzanne Collins says in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “The two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts.”
Thomas Hardy writes of Bathsheba that “when a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never any strength to throw away.” If you’ve read Thomas Hardy’s tome, you’ll remember that Bathsheba does indeed work toward throwing away her strength, and more than once. The reader often decides right away that Gabriel Oak, Hardy’s male protagonist, is a wonderful man, but Bathsheba cannot see it. Both Gabriel and Bathsheba have some growing up to do. The growth for her occurs in managing a farm and suitors, while trying to maintain a good reputation in rural 19th century England.
Katniss’ struggles are bit more immediate and of course, often life-or-death. But she does struggle to know her heart and to maintain her strength. One refreshing thing about both Far from the Madding Crowd and The Hunger Games trilogy is that they provide enough substance in the plot to be sure that the love story is not the only story. This is typically why Hardy’s title is considered a feminist novel, which is remarkable for a late 18th century novel especially one written by a man.
If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games but haven’t yet read Far From the Madding Crowd, check it out today! That way you can say the book was better when a new movie version, starring Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts, comes out next year. This will be the 3rd movie, a testament to the classic status of the book. The 1967 version stars Julie Christie and in 1998 Masterpiece Theater also took a crack at it.