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Some Victorian readers condemned Bathsheba as a ‘hussy’ who did not deserve to win Gabriel as a husband. Do you agree?

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Introduction

Rachael Crewe 11Mt Some Victorian readers condemned Bathsheba as a 'hussy' who did not deserve to win Gabriel as a husband. Do you agree??? In the dictionary, a 'hussy' is defined as: "woman of light or worthless character; pert girl." This definition, though being from a modern dictionary, I do not believe describes Bathsheba at all. Her character, being far from worthless, is strong, determined and often very stubborn. At the beginning of the novel, Bathsheba is na�ve and childish, thinking only of herself and her immediate future. She shows this in her rejection of Gabriel Oak in the fourth chapter: 'I hate to be thought of as men's property in that way, though possibly I shall be had someday.' She does not think of Gabriel's feelings when she chases after him, but her own reputation. Not noticing his feelings and trying desperately to clear her name. Her lack of forward thinking is apparent and she later realises what she has done, trying to correct herself: 'There was no harm in hurrying to correct a piece of false news that had been told you' She is trying to excuse her rashness in chasing Gabriel up the hill. Although she meant no harm, she realises what she has done. Bathsheba may, in this case be thought of as slightly to free willed for society's liking, as she shows throughout the novel. However, she is merely strong willed and passionate about her beliefs: 'It [marriage] would be very nice in one sense. People would talk about me and think I had won my battle, and I should feel triumphant and all that. But a husband...' What battle Bathsheba talks about is quite radical and rebellious for the era and her lack of the want of a husband was thought of as absurd by the readers of the time. A woman's place was in the home, her goal being to marry as soon as possible to a wealthy man and produce many children. ...read more.

Middle

I was bound to show some feeling, if I would not be a graceless shrew. Yet each of those pleasures was just for the day- the day just for the pleasure. How was I to know that what is a past time to other men was death to you?' However, she dissolves into her emotions when Troy's name is brought up in the conversation. 'Don't, don't, O, don't pray down evil upon him! Anything but that- anything. O, be kind to him, sir, for I love him true!' This is the first time that Bathsheba has admitted her love to anyone other than Liddy. In no way can Bathsheba be damned as a hussy for her actions. She does this, not in any way maliciously towards Boldwood, but out of sheer despair that the man she loves is being cursed by a man who loves her. Even if, in the past, she was not quite trusting of Troy, she now submits to the overwhelming power of blind love on a young, impressionable woman. She shows no contempt towards Boldwood, quite the contrary; the utmost respect. She is firm with her declination but not rude. Bathsheba does try to heed Gabriel's warnings of Troy's untrustworthy aspirations and heads for Bath with the intention of calling off the affair. However, her lover makes use of her emotional vulnerability to blackmail her into marrying him: 'I was coming away, when he suddenly said he had that day seen a woman more beautiful than I, and that his constancy could not be counted on unless I at once became his...And I was grieved and troubled-' She cleared her voice, and waited a moment, as if to gather breath. 'And then, between jealousy and distraction, I married him!' Bathsheba is taken in by this tale and believes her lover to be in total innocence and honesty. She does not marry Troy to spite Gabriel, or Boldwood, but because of her oblivion of such men in society. ...read more.

Conclusion

At the start of the novel, when Bathsheba was a young, na�ve girl, it was said: 'Farmer Oak had one-and-a-half Christian characteristics too many to succeed with Bathsheba: his humility, and a superfluous moiety of honesty.' Now it seems that Bathsheba has obtained, through trial and great error, those one-and-a-half more characteristics that make Gabriel. The book, it seems, was a learning curve for the heroine and it's soul purpose, to strengthen her character sufficiently so as to deserve Gabriel at the close. Gabriel had to prove his honesty many times throughout the course of events but only to guide Bathsheba along the right path. She learns humility, honesty, modesty and, most importantly, to love, not only with her heart, but the rest of her countenance as well. They marry in quiet modesty quite unlike the bride's previous aspirations of marriage: 'I shouldn't mind being a bride at a wedding, if I could be one without having a husband. But since a woman cant show off in that way by herself, I shan't marry- at least yet.' It seems that, whence previously Bathsheba had wanted to be a bride without a husband, she now wants to have a husband without being a bride: 'Bathsheba has a great wish that all the parish shall not be in church, looking at her- she's shy-like and nervous about it, in fact.' The change in Bathsheba over the course of the novel is a remarkable one. She proves the saying wrong: 'Whereas nature turns girls into women, society has to make boys into men.' Anthony Stevens The tale of Bathsheba and her three suitors has shown that women too, must be shaped and educated by society. Condemning her as a hussy before analysing her actions and the circumstances is a mistake. I therefore disagree with the statement: 'Some Victorian readers condemned Bathsheba as a 'hussy' who did not deserve to win Gabriel as a husband.' Because, as illustrated in my arguments above, Bathsheba is not immoral in her behaviour, merely unlearned and na�ve. ...read more.

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