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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. ” Aunt: “But there’s no side – saddle. ” Bathsheba: “I can ride on the other: trust me” Bathsheba is in a position to make decisions, which is very unusual for a Victorian lady and she is able to make things happen. For example, she was able to hire Gabriel Oak, “Yes, I do want a shepherd. ” and then she was able to sack him. Bathsheba is in control of her own destiny and there is a reversal of roles ahead of her time when she takes over her Uncle’s farm. Furthermore, Bathsheba refuses Gabriel’s proposal to her.
This shows us that she has the power to decide whether to marry Gabriel or not, “I don’t want to marry you” Although Bathsheba is in control of her own destiny, which is shown, when she makes her decision to make a journey down to Bath after Troy, progressively in her relationship with Boldwood she becomes more and more passive. After the initial action of the fatal valentine, “Marry Me”, he increasingly wears her down. Boldwood wears Bathsheba down by persistence for his own good; gradually she gives in to him further and by the end of the novel she allows him to have hope that she will marry him.
Fanny, on the other hand, is a very passive character; all of her actions are negative. She has to leave Bathsheba’s farm because she is in disgrace, she has to beg Troy at the barracks to marry her and she is left at the church by Troy after a misunderstanding. Fanny is an outcast in society and she has nowhere to go. This results in her heading for the workhouse. She arrived at the workhouse in the evening and died that same night whilst having her child. The workhouses purported to be charitable but the people there were treated like prisoners and they were given the worse tasks to do to earn their keep.
The workhouse emphasizes Fanny’s physical fragility. In Fanny’s first meeting with Gabriel Oak he compares her to a lamb. I think that he used this metaphor because a lamb is weak, innocent and vulnerable just like Fanny. Fanny is a thin, poor, consumptive girl who cannot and is not allowed to make decisions. Fanny is totally dependent. This is shown when she says, “When will it be, Frank” This sums up Fanny’s fatal dependency, in comparison to Bathsheba who is completely independent. Bathsheba is so much more independent and active than Fanny that she can bring about success.
Fanny’s failure, however, is a direct consequence of her weakness. This shows us that Bathsheba’s success and Fanny’s failure are a direct consequence of their active and passive natures respectively. Both Bathsheba and Fanny break into worlds where they should not be. Bathsheba breaks into a male dominated world of farming, “Taint a master, it’s a mistress. ” Bathsheba breaks into power and choice. She tells her workmen and maids that just because she is a woman, they will not get away with anything and that she will be up before them all.
Again, this demonstrates her power. Fanny moves in the opposite direction to Bathsheba. Fanny enters the sub stratum of the workhouse where homeless and destitute people go. She dies in the workhouse after being rejected by Troy. The tragedy of her life is cut short. For Bathsheba the novel moves towards happiness, but for Fanny the novel moves towards tragedy. Yet not everybody agrees that Bathsheba is happy at the end of the novel. She works to a period of happiness after great sadness, but her conscience still plagues her with guilt, as Troy is dead.