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Far From The Madding Crowd

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3199 words Published: 15th May 2017

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How does Thomas Hardy gain sympathy for his female characters in ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’?

Sympathy allows us to walk in someone else’s shoes. It gives us the ability to recognise another person’s perspective on a situation and offer emotional support. Thomas Hardy witnessed the conspicuous class distinctions of the late nineteenth century. He felt strongly about the social divide between men and women, deliberately setting his novel before ‘The Married Women’s Property Act’ was published. Although these laws are not beneficial in terms we understand today, it represented a significant development of women’s right. ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’ is set in the early 19th century where women evidently had an inferior status compared to men, and were frequently limited on what they were permitted to do. Hardy aimed to challenge and redefine the role of women, through his unconventional illustration of his female protagonist, which challenged the Victorian ideology of the perfect lady. Throughout the novel Hardy illustrates a stark contrast between two females struggling through life in Patriarchal society. Bathsheba is portrayed as an independent, feisty, unconventional Victorian woman frowned on by society, in comparison to Fanny Robin’s character who conforms to the stereotypical ideology of Victorian women desperately seeking attention from the man she loves and living out the role of the victim.

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In the first chapter, Bathsheba’s character is immediately introduced as vain. This characteristic is portrayed through Hardy’s use of language ‘she blushed at herself’ and clearly through Gabriel’s Oak observation ‘but she has her faults vanity’. She behaves in a very eccentric manner by unwrapping her looking glass and admiring herself ‘attentively’. She practises smiling to see how attractive she is to men. Here her selfish quality covers up her subconscious insecurities of feeling ashamed, weak and vulnerable, although she does not want to raise awareness of her anxiety, because she may feel that it makes her look fragile or inadequate as ‘a woman farmer’. She was constantly aware of how she was presented through other people opinions. Bathsheba’s vanity is the prominent, most excruciatingly obvious weakness, placing her in emotional dangerous situations. It was a direct result of her vanity, and her impetuous nature, that influenced Bathsheba to send Boldwood an anonymous valentine’s card. Feeling piqued by Boldwood’s lack of interest resulting in Boldwood directing his attention to her. Bathsheba is placed in an unstable marriage with Troy, after Troy indulges her vanity by consistently praising her beauty and ‘youthful looks’ Bathsheba instantly believes she is love with him, ‘her heart erratically flitting hither and thither from perplexed excitement’. Agreeing to meet Troy in secret at night, Troy kisses her ‘set her stinging as if lame to the very hollow of her feet’. Bathsheba jealously is aroused when Troy announces that he is considering marring another woman, preventing this possible affront to her vanity, Bathsheba marries Troy.

Bathsheba faced the adversity of living in a male dominant society attitudes towards women in the 19th century. She illustrates a very independent woman who opposed the preconceived idea of a woman’s role in the 19th century by inheriting her uncle’s farm, and running the farm effectively. She is unconventional for being a farmer and a feminist in her own right, ‘To manage everything with my own head and hands.’ We know that this quote is truthful due to the fact that upon catching her bailiff stealing she instantly dismisses him, and by doing the job herself has shown her supreme independence, confidence and what some conclude as, arrogance. This reveals yet another of her weaknesses-impulsiveness.

The farm workers believe that having Bathsheba as their balif will ‘bring them all to the bad’, Bathsheba is very much out of place amongst a dominant male farming society. Her gender brings doubt and lack of faith amongst the farm workers; ‘The other man would then shake his head’. The language Hardy uses to describe the attitude of the Farm worker towards Bathsheba allows the reader to gain compassion toward the protagonist because of her moral intentions. For the farm workers, any change is wrong, but over time as Bathsheba begins to adapt their opinion on Bathsheba as a woman farmer changed ‘she lightens up the old place .

Troy married Bathsheba not because of his love for her but for her wealth. By ‘The Married Women’s Property Act’ in the 19th century, as a result of marriage a the husband was allowed to take his wife’s earnings, ‘Bathsheba could you let me have twenty pounds’. This shows how Troy uses the law to take advantage of Bathsheba, by taking her money. By doing this Bathsheba feels out of her depth, she cannot cope with the thought that Troy is using her finance for his own goings on, but she still allows him to have complete control over her because she ‘loves him’. As the novel progresses, the audience undergo the emotional turmoil, which leads Bathsheba’s character as a self-reliant unconventional woman into a dependent, weaken fairly stereotypical woman. ‘And what shall I do without you?’ The use of Hardy’s language illustrates how weakened and dependent she has become. Throughout the novel, Bathsheba confides in Gabriel expecting and needing Gabriel to advise and support her on her decision until she meets Troy and confides in him too ‘You will, Frank, kiss me too!’ Hardy’s language portrays how desperate Bathsheba has become, in chapter 43 ‘Fanny’s revenge’ Bathsheba shows generosity towards Fanny and her baby when she lay flowers from the vase around her head, ‘knew of no other way of showing kindness’ but jealously is also displayed towards Fanny and the baby when she ‘sprang’ towards him shouting with all the passion ‘Don’t kiss them kiss me too!

By analysing the meaning of her name the reader is able to learn more about her character. Her first name ‘Bathsheba’ has a biblical reference. Bathsheba represents all that is forbidden and is ironically often characterised as the malevolent temptress, which holds great similarity to Bathsheba (David’s Wife) who was the wife of Uriah who committed adultery with David, she later married him after he had ordered the killing of her husband. We can relate this story to the character of Bathsheba Everdene for she was willing to marry someone for security and not for love, demonstrated through her relationship with Boldwood. Not surprisingly though, being so independent she does not rate marriage very highly, ‘I should not mind being a bride at a wedding if I could be without having a husband.’ This shows us that she is not very keen on the love and marriage.

However, her surname is in direct contrast to her first. Her surname ‘Everdene’ can also be associated into how she visualised herself ‘a fair product of nature’ and as the meaning of her surname suggests; timeless qualities of nature. This may also have been relevant as to where she felt most contented, and where she did not have to impress anyone. I think her surname shares a link to the inner Bathsheba, which is hidden underneath her outstanding eccentric characteristics. She is consistently hardworking and independent; this could be why she was so successful in managing her uncle’s farm. It gave her a chance to relax and clear her mind from all the chaos that surrounded her constantly.

Throughout the course of ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’, Bathsheba experiences multiple changes in her character, drastically changing her behaviour and overturning her personality for the best during her increasingly turbulent life. While Bathsheba has many good qualities and pleasant aspects to her character, she also possesses a number of weaknesses that dramatically affected her life, hence humanising her for the audience sympathy. At the beginning of the novel Bathsheba could be described as arrogant for her stubborn behaviour she displays to the waggoner as she pays the man at the tollgate an inadequate amount of money, ‘she says that enough that I’ve offered and she won’t pay anymore’. She behaves in a disdainful way with him. She looks down on him as someone who is there to take orders from her. This haughtiness is derived from some sense of superiority. But as the story progresses and she is introduced to Troy she is weaken by him into a vulnerable and stereotypical woman, which the reader begins to favour, and like. Hardy’s portrayal of the protagonist’s descent from an outspoken unconventional women to a stereotypical woman ‘her husband’s property, instantly gains the reader’s commiserations.

Hardy’s relationship with his protagonist character can be defined as ‘respected’. He keeps an exceedingly close connection to Bathsheba allowing the reader to understand her situations throughout the novel. Hardy’s choice of enabling the reader to see her from Oak’s point of view, gives the spectators opportunity to understand her decisions as Gabriel is portrayed as a modest and humble man for even when he lost his farm he moved forward. ‘Passed through an ordeal of wretchedness’. Therefore, for Gabriel to like such an ‘unconventional woman’ suggest to the reader that there are many good points of her. ‘Poor Bathsheba.’ This quote was emphasised by Hardy himself. Hardy shows sympathy for his protagonist with his use of emotive language, ‘her eyes are so miserable that she’s not the same woman .

Fanny Robin is on the other end of the social hierarchy, she is a direct contrast of Bathsheba Everdene; Bathsheba has ‘dark hair’ and wears bold clothes that highlight her personality ‘crimson jacket’. However, Fanny has ‘yellow hair’ and could be easily portrayed has frail ‘slight and fragile creature’. Fanny is depicted as a shadowy figure, adding mystery to the plot.

Hardy evokes sympathy for Fanny when she is first introduced in chapter seven, in Weatherbury churchyard where she is escaping from her daily job as a housemaid. ‘When abreast of a trunk, which appeared to be the oldest of the old, he became aware that a figure was standing behind it’ she appears to be a timid girl that wants to go unnoticed if she could help it. Gabriel notices how weak and vulnerable she seems, as she is ‘thinly clad’. Gabriel shows his generosity by offering her ‘a shilling’, which she happily accepts. The audience instantly becomes aware of her lower social status and are confused by why she is running away from a secure environment.

Fanny spent all of her life depending on others for her well being. Mr. Boldwood out of genoristy brought her up as she is an orphan. Boldwood represented a father figure to Fanny for she lost both her parents at an early age, He provided her with both an eductaion, “Took her and put her to school” and found her work “Got her a place” on The Everdene’s farm. Orphan girls such as Fanny were placed in domestic work. Even though Boldwood provided her with a secure environment, she missed the presence of a mother figure. When Fanny meets Troy she is immediately portrayed as a pleading, desperate young lady. ‘Now, dear Frank, when shall it be?’ Hardy’s use of language illustrates how desperate she is. But, through her difficult situation she never demands but instead pleads with Troy.

Similar to Bathsheba, Fanny can also act unconventionally, for example when she runs away from the Everdene’s farm to marry Troy although she is depicted as a vulnerable girl in a hostile landscape. This is effective in that it draws the reader’s sympathy for Fanny because of her weak stature and the harsh surroundings that she had to survive with each day.

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Ironically though her letter rejoicing in her forthcoming marriage she could be perceived as naive and premature. Through this Hardy again evokes sympathy and pity for Fanny when she goes to the wrong church and faces Troy’s wrath, This gave Troy a perfect opportunity to abandon Fanny and marry Bathsheba, unknowingly to Troy, Fanny is pregnant and destitute. She is a victim in this circumstance, a shadowy presence who reveals Troy’s fickleness when he flirts with Bathsheba. Fanny would be frowned upon for giving birth to an illegitimate child, with no husband by her side she would have to face this prejudice unaccompanied. Her determination helps her deal with her pregnancy. She still carries on her search for Troy despite her condition. This is the complete opposite to Troy’s nature. This shows that Fanny is naïve, she does not realise Troy’s true nature and that he is simply using her.

Troy’s treatment towards Fanny contributes to the affection given by the reader to Fanny. In chapter 11- Outside the barrack, Troy is introduced for the first time in the novel he is immediately portrayed as a careless and thoughtless man, when he leaves Fanny outside the barrack in the cold weather ‘the embrowning by frost’. Hardy positions Troy so that the window he is in when conversing with Fanny is portrayed as a framing device symbolising his power over Fanny. Hardy’s use of language to describe the control Troy as over Fanny provokes the reader’s compassion to watch a weak lady being handled by a selfish man, who only cares for his own interest and health. It’s obvious that Fanny is in love with Troy, as she tells him directly, ‘Frank I love you so.’ also she walked most of the way to the barracks from Casterbridge proves how much she loves him but instead of sympathy for Fanny, Troy’s initial thought were ‘well, you have to get some proper clothes.

Consequently, Fanny conceals her pregnancy and supports herself until she goes to Casterbridge workhouse to have her baby. Hardy evokes sympathy for Fanny in this situation, because she could have demanded Troy to take care of her and the unborn baby, but she didn’t, and in doing so demonstrate that she had respected Troy’s choice to marry Bathsheba. Realising how her social status and upbringing would have affected Troy, she left him alone. Fanny shows great courage and generous behaviour for she had so little, but yet payed the ultimate price of death. Hardy’s emotive explanation of Fanny’s intense exhaustion depicts in harrowing detail her last journey. The audience are able to emphasise every step she takes ‘she crawled to the bridge’ Hardy illustrates a poignant picture of her suffering, with her ‘little arms’ resting on a large dog dragging her to the workhouse where she awaits her death caused by giving birth to an illegitimate child.

It is Fanny’s death and Troy’s realisation that he did love her in retrospect that finally annihilates their already deteriorating marriage between him and Bathsheba. This meeting enables Hardy to emphasise the irony of her role: she is used to highlight Troy’s character, until Bathsheba herself realises Troy’s true character.

Gabriel leaves Fanny coffin to rest at Bathsheba’s house, which is near to where she will be buried the next day. On the coffin though it read ‘Fanny Robin and Child’ Gabriel took his handkerchief and cautiously rubbed out the two final words, leaving one dedication ‘Fanny Robin’ only. Gabriel did this to protect Bathsheba from getting hurt and maybe even to protect Troy from the embarrassment, as he was the father of an illegitimate child.

From analysing Fanny’s surname ‘Robin’ gives an idea of an animal that is small, fragile and beautiful but is also vulnerable and timid that hardy wanted to create connotations to her surname and this was just the simplicity of her character.

In the end Hardy left Fanny with the most remarkable scene in the novel where the gurgoyle was dripping water all over her grave leaving it ruined. The persistent torrent from the gurgoyle’s jaws directed all of its vengeance into the grave ‘. This is where Hardy has evoked the most sympathy for Fanny, as most readers would agree. Troy took Fanny for granted always expecting her to be there and only realised how much he loved her when she died, ‘you don’t know what you got till its gone .

Throughout the novel, Fanny is presented as a victim of fate and circumstance. Her life is controlled by fate and chance and this portrays how her function for Hardy extends beyond the plot and the development of other characters. Fanny Robin has a minor role in the novel ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ however the sense cannot be said about the significance of the character Fanny Robin she is use to highlight Troy’s true character and represent a model of a Victorian women. Hardy’s use of language describe the grief of Fanny’s struggle as a ‘stereotypical Victorian woman’ in a society that disregards men’s error but excludes women for theirs. Through Hardy’s emotional descriptions, the reader is made to feel empathy for Fanny and her circumstance, ‘O pity me, Lord!’. Each time Fanny is seen in the novel, she is either traveling or waiting to meet her only love. Hardy’s pity is given to Fanny as he expresses in the text ‘suffering woman’ showing his sorrow for Fanny.

Hardy has presented his female characters in the most appropriate and effective way in order to draw sympathy from them. His use of men helped to evoke sympathy for his two female characters; for example Gabriel kind hearted generosity allowed the reader to sympathise with Bathsheba situations for she always came to him in desperate need of advice’And what shall I do without you?’ Gabriel was the first character to interact with Fanny noticing how desperate and weak she appeared. Another example is Sergeant Troy and his dismissal to Fanny immediately allows the reader to relate and understand her through her difficult circumstance. It was Troy that weakens Bathsheba in believing that he was the only man for her and going against all of her feminist rights. But towards the ending of the novel Hardy holds a great moral at which is to cherish everything you have in life because one day they might not be there.


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