The Madding Crowd Essay
The Madding Crowd
” His profuse and exaggerated flattery on top of his handsome countenance and gallant demeanour mean he has a marked effect on Bathsheba. Though she is aware to a point that he may not be entirely sincere, she is completely overwhelmed by his extensive flattery and is torn between indignation at his forwardness and the desire to hear more. Troy unsettles her from their first meeting by his assured and engaging manner, and she is bewildered at his sudden and extreme attachment to her, though she does not quite know why. Troy is “altogether too much for her” and she is now mastered, “powerless to withstand or deny him.
” Troy has ‘swept her off her feet’ and soon she loves him deeply, “in the way only self reliant women love when they abandon their self reliance. ” Her love is “entire as a child’s, and though warm as summer, fresh as spring. ” She completely abandons herself to it without thinking of the consequences. She really has abandoned her self-reliance and she is truly “dazzled by brass and scarlet”. Her feelings make her unpredictable and agitated. Hardy says of Bathsheba that “she had too much womanliness to use her understanding to the best advantage.
” He is saying that Bathsheba loses her head and forgets all sense and reason in her love for Troy just because she is a woman. I do not agree with this at all, as Boldwood lost his head and fell completely for Bathsheba in a similar way. I think Bathsheba’s head is turned by Troy’s dashing appearance and his compliments which feed her vanity, and she abandoned herself so utterly to her feelings partly to escape from the reality of the unwanted situation with Boldwood, and partly because it is her first experience of love so she has never been disillusioned about love.
Despite the fact that Bathsheba is a strong character, in talking to Boldwood, “she begins to feel unmistakeable signs that she was inherently the weaker vessel” of the two. In typical impulsive Bathsheba fashion, she goes out to break things off with Troy, riding bareback in the middle of the night. However, though her intentions are good, when she gets there she cannot keep to her resolution and “between jealousy and distraction” she marries him instead.
However, this is another of the rash acts Bathsheba comes to regret later. Troy has a dominant personality and when they have been married for a while, Bathsheba is tamed and subdued; she is “listless” and has “lost all her former pluck and sauciness”. The man she loves is quite different from how she imagined him. He gambles away her money at the races, he does not look after the farm properly, and what is more his previous passion for her dies and now he treats her with near contempt because she is tamed.
When Bathsheba and Oak save the ricks from the storm together, we see her bravery and optimism in helping him though it is dangerous and despite Troy’s mastery of her she is still described as “the most venturesome woman in the parish. ” However, she trembles and exclaims at the storm, which detracts from the general image of her being still strong. When Troy, whom she still loves, rejects her utterly in favour of the dead Fanny, Bathsheba, “lonely and miserable now”, reproaches her husband and complains miserably. She is in despair, all her self-esteem gone as she cries out “I can’t help being ugly!
” She has lost her self control and dignity and pleads desperately with Troy, but to no avail. She lets out a “wail of anguish”. Troy “could hardly believe her to he his proud wife Bathsheba. ” It was a revelation to Troy of “all women being alike at heart, even those so different as Fanny and this one beside him”! What I think Hardy is saying by this is that deep inside all women are weak and needy like Fanny. Bathsheba’s voice is described as “quite that of another woman now” so much is she changed by her troubles.
In fact, Bathsheba’s own strength is not enough for her now, and “she suddenly felt a longing desire to some one stronger than herself. ” She goes to see Oak, of course, and though she does not speak to him she follows his example and prays. Yet in the midst of her despair, Bathsheba can still find solace in nature and “with a freshened existence and a cooler brain” she awakes outside to the dawn. Even though she has completely lost faith in love and warns Liddy against it, she won’t leave Troy, saying “it is only women with no pride in them who leave their husbands. ” Even in these dire straits, she stands firm.
While Troy wallows in self pity at the cruel blow fate has dealt him, Bathsheba tends to Fanny’s desolated grave which Troy gives up on so soon. Troy finds it easy to escape his responsibilities but Bathsheba remains at the farm, though her “original vigorous pride of youth” has “sickened” and her feelings are numbed by suffering. her experience has made her a better person, more considerate of others’ feelings, quite a contrast from the blunt, rash Bathsheba of earlier in the novel. The “severe schooling” which she has undergone has “made Bathsheba much more considerate than she had formerly been of the feelings of others.
” Her compassion shines through as she stops herself burning the lock of Fanny’s hair, instead keeping it in pity of her. Bathsheba is completely disillusioned with love, saying “love is an utterly bygone, sorry, worn out, miserable thing with me,” which is a dramatic change of only a short time ago when she was totally innocent of it, “of love subjectively Bathsheba knew nothing. ” When Boldwood flatters her at his party, she is no longer susceptible to it as she has lost her vanity and her desire to be complimented, and she cares little what happens to her.
He browbeats her into accepting his proposal, and she, her will almost utterly broken, is “fairly beaten into non resistance,” and “shaking with the occasional sob” whispers hopelessly “very well then. ” Though she cares little for herself, Bathsheba is sensitive of how much her answer means to Boldwood, and the fact that she fears for his very sanity influences her. Bathsheba’s behaviour after the shock of Troy’s return and Boldwood’s shooting Troy is surprising. Considering all she has been through, she is remarkably strong, yet another example of contradiction in her.
Somehow the disaster shakes her to her senses and while the rest of the household are “aghast” and “bewildered”, Bathsheba “was astonishing all around her now. ” Hardy informs us that “she was the stuff of which great men’s mothers are made” which is one of the most infuriatingly chauvinistic comments in the entire novel. Clearly Hardy feels that to be a great man’s mother is far more worthy a purpose for a woman than simply to be a great woman in her own right. Bathsheba copes incredibly well with the body and the surgeon exclaims, “this mere girl! she must have the nerve of a stoic!
” but at this point he is contradicted by Bathsheba who promptly sinks to the ground, “a shapeless heap of drapery on the floor. ” It is typical of Hardy that he cannot let his heroine simply be brave, he has to have her collapse upon the floor when the men arrive. Liddy accurately sums up the change in Bathsheba, “Her eyes are so miserable that she’s not the same woman. Only two years ago she was a romping girl and now she’s this. ” Bathsheba withdraws and shuns everyone and she is so different from the carefree, naive Bathsheba of two years before as to be completely unrecognisable.
She shows great kindness in burying Troy with Fanny and erecting a stone for him; I think she has no more bitterness left in her for them. Bathsheba “did not laugh readily now” as she has been truly tamed and subdued. It is only when Oak intends to leave that Bathsheba finally comes to appreciate his full worth. In a display of her usual contrariness, it is only when she realises what she would lose if Oak left that she realises how she feels. Typical of Hardy, it is only through an action of Oak’s that she comes to realise this, not through her own intelligence.
Also typical of Hardy, she could not simply overcome her pain alone, there had to be Oak there the whole time, watching over and helping her, and in the end, everything is basically solved by their love and marriage. On the whole I admire Bathsheba’s character and I can accept the faults Hardy gives her, because they make her more real. However, what I find hard to accept is that Hardy claims most of her good points are rare in most women, and that in general her bad points are those possessed by all women.
For every good attribute Hardy bestows upon his heroine, he also gives her some silly, weak or petty failing, most of which he claims are exclusive to women. Every independent word or deed of Bathsheba’s is balanced out by another that is weak, desperate or needy. I dislike the fact that while the men in Bathsheba’s life have clear cut bad points – Troy is the villain and Boldwood is the madman – Bathsheba as the woman has to be one with the petty little imperfections. I liked this novel, but it would have irked me a deal less had it lacked a good many of Thomas Hardy’s cynical and chauvinistic comments.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 3 October 2017