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What do we learn about the role of women in the 19th century from Thomas Hardy's "Far from the Madding Crowd"?

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"WHAT DO WE LEARN ABOUT THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY FROM THOMAS HARDY'S FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD"? "Far from the Madding Crowd" is a work of fiction, not a historical record of the period in which it is set, the 19th century. However, it provides some useful insights into the experiences of women in the 19th century. 19th century women were disadvantaged in many ways. They had no role, of power, and they had no rights to hold positions of power. Women in the 19th century had no civil rights, no voting rights and no seats in parliament. Generally women were not educated. The only jobs for working class women were in the textile industry or factories, and in service. The workhouse took in orphaned children, disabled children, disabled people, unmarried mothers and generally those who had fallen on hard times. They offered meagre food and accommodation in return for work. In the workhouse, families were also separated, sexes were separated and children were separated from the adults. Destitute women would typically end up in the workhouse. Employers preferred women because they were paid less. It was also very rare for women to have or own land and money but it made them eligible and gave them more choices for a husband. Their social status came from their husbands. A woman of the 19th century was seen as husband's property. All of her property was transferred to him, on marriage this until the Married Women's Property Act of 1870. Women married on average at the age of 18 - 22. Husbands were needed to provide security. In Hardy's portrayal of Fanny Robin. He offers an accurate interpretation of a working class woman who is dependant on others for survival. In the title of chapter 7, where she first appears, Hardy described Fanny as, "A timid girl". He describes her as vulnerable, physical, weak, and poor. ...read more.


In contrast to Fanny is the character, Bathsheba Everdene. Bathsheba is very much independent, and does everything for herself. She will not marry if she does not love, because she does not like to be seen "as men's property", but when she does marry unwisely she is under the same confines as any other woman who becomes the property of her husband. In the first appearance that Bathsheba makes, she is seen as unconventional and vain, "Looking over a hedge his eye caught by an attractive dark haired girl sitting in a wagon, admiring her reflection in a looking glass." There is too much vanity and pride in her that will lead her towards tragedy. Bathsheba's behaviour in the novel provides useful insights into the way women were expected to behave in the 19th century. In chapter 1, Bathsheba is not being depicted as a stereotypical Victorian female despite humble beginnings. On her first appearance Bathsheba is travelling to her aunts to help her with her land, which is typical of what a young woman without money would have to do, but what is not typical is her appearance and her independence. She was wearing a crimson jacket, which is not typical clothing and a sign of her independence and confidence. In chapter 3, Gabriel had observed Bathsheba riding her horse. She was riding without a side - saddle, which was uncomely for women and was a sign of not being considered a virgin, "she had no side saddle, and it was very apparent that a firm seat upon the smooth leather beneath her was unattainable sideways". She was also lying back on her back enjoying the movement of the horse. She was also unconcerned about having to ride without a hat, which would not have been regarded as appropriate for women. In this sequin of events Bathsheba's spirit of freedom and independence is very clear and also depicted as very unconventional. ...read more.


Troy. The fact is, I am thinking of leaving England - not ee, you know - next spring". Realising that she is now reliant on Gabriel she would not refuse his marriage proposal if he were to ask again. Hardy shows that just like Fanny, Bathsheba is also reliant on the security a man can offer her and she comes to realize that this security only comes with marriage. Bathsheba has taken on the role of the typical Victorian female, dependant on marriage for security, although the relationship is based on substantial affection. In "Far from the Madding Crowd" Hardy illustrates the position of 19th century women as being disadvantaged. Fanny and Bathsheba both provide contrasting examples of Victorian women who were victims of the treatment of their men. In their lives they are seen in the role of second-class citizens in need of a trustworthy man for survival, unless they can survive themselves. Women's social behaviour was expected to be restricted whereas men could have very little restrictions on how they behaved. They were even admired for some of their roguish tendencies. Hardy's language as he describes Fanny's plight expresses his sympathy for her, but Bathsheba's suffering is not dealt with in the same sympathetic response. Her character, which was independent, has changed at the end of the novel. She appeared a more reserved character accepting the role of Gabriel's wife. I think that Bathsheba had wrong treatment from men as a result the way she acted, having so much pride in herself and being vain. It was good for her to have that independence in her but maybe she felt too much of her independence, which got her in a muddle. The classic example is when in the beginning of the novel Gabriel proposed to her and she did not accept, because she did not want to be thought of as men's property, yet in marrying Troy she destined herself to this very fate. Henal R Patel 11s ...read more.

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