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Thomas Hardy suggests that in the mid-ninteenth century women were limited in their choice of jobs. Factory work was available in some areas but this meant working long, tiresome hours. They could also work for the rich, but for very little money. The term used for a woman who makes dresses is a seamstress. They spent their lives sewing for the rich ladies who wore smart dresses. In Far From the Madding Crowd the main character ‘Bathsheba’ is the proud owner of her inherited farm. She has maids, farm workers and shepherds working for her.
She spends long hours of the day working in fields. She is a fortunate woman, very popular among the men but who clearly is unsure about life /love. Her character is affluent and enjoys a privileged lifestyle. In Wessex where the book was set it is very traditional, old fashioned (even some parts are today). The rural setting makes it relate to what the scenery was like, and enhances the atmosphere. At the time this book was written, health standards were very poor and there was no birth control.
Illness was common, and people often had to cope for themselves. A woman was considered lucky if she was rich enough to employ a maid to care for her. There were no injections to prevent people against tetanus, common among farm workers. (It occurs when dirt is passed through a wound with a risk of getting paralysed) Nowadays we have modern medicine and equipment and highly trained doctors. Unlike men, woman had many limitations. If a party/ festival was being held all the women were obliged to leave the room, while the men drank.
But Hardy shows a different stereotype to the one most women were accustomed to at that time- Bathsheba, instead of leaving the room quietly and without protestation, she leaves ‘indignantly’, having complained to her husband about the amount of alcohol that was offered- ‘don’t give it to them’. This shows she was more independent than other women of her day. Women were expected to cook mostly and were frequently bossed around by their husbands (male domination) this has held a topic of ‘sexism’ to woman today. In the Victorian times, women were expected to dress respectively.
Evan if a woman showed a small amount of her ankle it was though of as blasphemous and unpleasant! Woman wore long dresses, bonnets and covered their arms up. Obviously a rich person would have a more fancy-detailed dress than a poor person. People though that woman were not equal to men because men were stronger and protector. Women were quoted as ‘feeble’ and ‘timid’. Woman could vote very little and there was very little education for them. One thing I picked up on was that in the book when Troy was performing in the circus among the other men, there were no woman performing.
This was against the rules and the circus would have needed strong performers, which were not, in their eyes woman. The workhouse was a place in which many poor/old people ended their days. But the workhouse was also for young people too. Fanny was one who died in the workhouse after giving birth. People would work and pray throughout the day. They had a regime but they were also allowed to relax and have free time to do what they wanted. It was thought that religion would help the poor to overcome their “laziness, fecklessness and drunkenness”.
Even school lessons for children revolved around the Bible. There were foundation orphanages for children where they were treated with great care. This option was for woman who could not look after their children or were ill/having problems etc. This option would have done Fanny help, if she hadn’t had died. From reading the book, and observing the film I have seen in depth that life then, is extremely different from today and what woman could and couldn’t do. Men could do far more and seemed to get more out of life than woman. Troy was often seen doing much more than Bathsehba?