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Discuss Hardy's Treatment of Women in "Far from the Madding Crowd"

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Emma Blower 10 P Altrincham / Loreto Centre No. 33615 Discuss Hardy's Treatment of Women in "Far from the Madding Crowd" The nineteenth Century novel "Far from the Madding Crowd" written by Thomas Hardy, is one of great variety in terms of its female characters. Even though a male wrote this book, the protagonist is a very dominant and headstrong woman called Bathsheba Everdene. Bathsheba is the heroine of the story and she dominates the novel. This novel is very successful as it shows great empathy with the female psyche and incredible male insight. Fanny, however, is a maid and a traditional folklore figure. She is a wronged woman and a victim who has been betrayed by Sergeant Troy. There is a great contrast between and a tremendous polarization of Fanny the Victim and Bathsheba the Heroine. On the other hand, Liddy is an average female of the time and she is a norm by which to measure Bathsheba's superiority. She has gained Bathsheba's trust and even friendship. Susan Tall and Temperance and Soberness Miller are stereotypical women who are in the novel to add humour which will contrast with the darker moods of the plot. Hardy uses these women for lighthearted comic effect. Temperance and Soberness are ironic characters because they are "Yielding Women." The other women, the maids and the peasants are in the novel to provide a realistic setting. Without Bathsheba's aunt, the kitchen maids and Maryann the novel would be lacking realism. These characters are also in the novel to offer comments to the reader on what is happening and they help to create the atmosphere of simple, unchanging country life which Hardy loved and valued so much. Bathsheba is a very active character in this novel. She is an unconventional woman and she defies the conventions of the time. This is shown when Bathsheba rides upon horseback in a very skilled manner rather then on the side - saddle, Bathsheba: "Yes, aunt; and I'll ride over for it as soon as it is light." ...read more.


Bathsheba: "Because you never ask." Bathsheba has the best and the worst of femininity. She is a woman ahead of her time but she is still very much a woman. By Contrast, Fanny's course is downward while Bathsheba's is upward. Fanny breaks the sexual laws and pays the harsh price for this; this is that she herself is broken. Fanny is helpless when she traipses to the barracks to convince Troy that they must get married and when she waits at the wrong church for Troy. Fanny knows that if Troy does not marry her she will be a social outcast; this results in her begging Troy. Here Hardy is showing how helpless women were in Victorian times. Hardy is also telling us that there was a double standard in Victorian times. This is that sexual looseness is a source of amusement and admiration for men, in this case Frank, but for women, in this case Fanny it wrecks their life. Fanny becomes a person of no account, which shows society's coldness. She disappears and to get to the workhouse Fanny has to depend on a dog. Fanny was dependant on a dumb creature. This is a very visual chapter as the dog is the only thing that helped Fanny and then it was stoned away, ""I stoned him away," said the man." The dog that helped Fanny is a stray just like her. Hardy uses the dog as a symbol for Fanny because the are both rejected and badly treated: the dog was stoned, Fanny was left by Troy. There is the utter desolation of the barracks and the workhouse in these scenes. Hardy sympathises with Fanny but has great contempt for Troy and the workhouse officials who treated her so badly. Hardy has no contempt for Fanny's loss of her virginity but he says that Fanny was too trusting to the wrong man. ...read more.


For example she experiences long months of loneliness when Troy has gone away and when he died. During these times she simply stayed in her room. By the end of the novel Bathsheba is very different from the beginning. She becomes a more serious, thoughtful and caring girl. She has to learn to swallow her pride and tell Gabriel that she wants him. Bathsheba is rewarded with a good man and a good marriage, which is built on friendship, trust and extensive knowledge of each other, including the best and worst of each other's character. Hardy's point is that they know each other in a practical way as they are work partners and so they can trust each other. They can depend on each other and have the security that Bathsheba needs, "This good -fellowship - camaraderie - usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely ...... that loves which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam." Bathsheba's marriage is a good marriage as there are no illusions and romantic notions. In Victorian times a woman status depended on her marriage, this shows us that luck is in Bathsheba's way. On the other hand there is something inescapably sad. She only smiles, she does not laugh now. Bathsheba is truly in a traditional role now: she is dependent on a man (Gabriel), she has long since lost interest, in the farm which she used to check each night and she takes no part in the farms running. Hardy's words point towards Bathsheba in triumph but the mood points towards Bathsheba in defeat. Still, for all that, Hardy is remarkable in his treatment of women, his understanding, compassion, respect and equality for the most part. But perhaps the implications of the final ambiguous image show him a Victorian at heart. Bathsheba has a lightweight personality and is lucky indeed to have won Gabriel. 1 ...read more.

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