“The rarest offerings of the
purest loves are but a self-indulgence, and no generosity at all” (Hardy, Far
from the Madding Crowd). If a Victorian narrator makes such a claim,
are his/her diegetic tragedies inevitable? Examine either Far
from the Madding Crowd or Tess of the d’Urbervilles in
light of this quote and question. You must generate your own thesis
statement. Grading will be strict! Your essay must be 600-1000
words long, submitted in hardcopy on January 8, at the start of class.
Tragedies In a novel refers to a
situation where the protagonist or the hero, makes a decision, which leads to
his or her eventual downfall. In the novel, one can consider Bathsheba Everdene
to be the Hero. The book is set in 1874, a time during which the traditional
view of women being useful mainly for taking care of the household and children
was still very popular. Bathsheba presents a completely different perspective
of women- she shows masculine characteristics like ambitiousness, focus,
determination, courage and independence. From the very beginning of the novel,
when the reader is introduced to Bathsheba, she makes it clear that she was not
a typical woman at the time looking for a husband, and rejects anyone who did
express their love for her, especially farmer Oak, who asked for her hand in
marriage on several occasions. Her willingness to be on her own are proven when
she said the lines, “Well
what I mean is that I shouldn’t mind being a bride at a wedding, if I could be
one without having a husband. But since a woman can’t show off in that way by
herself, I shan’t marry-at least yet.”1
By saying this, she is asserting herself as a different woman, where she defied
the expectations of women during the Victorian period.
This novel is very similar to another
novel, ‘Madame Bovary’, written by Gustave Flaubert in 1856. Both works are
alike in that they want to show the downfall of their hero, who is a woman in
both cases, by attacking romanticism. The author is able to show Bathsheba’s
character, which seemed flawless in the beginning, to have completely broken
down at the end of the novel. This goes to the extent of her abandoning her
moral and surrendering herself to the Roman concept of marriage.
In Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy
is able to show the downfall of Bathsheba by exposing and using her relations
with different suitors and coupling that with her ill-fate. Bathsheba’s
ill-fate would refer to the countless times where she found herself in
situations where she would not be want to be, or situations which
coincidentally occurred to bring her to being less than a hero. For example,
her seeing her lover, Troy being shot by Boldwood, or her witnessing Troy
leaving her for when he confessed his true love for Fanny and his real feelings
towards Bathsheba, which were not as strong as what he felt for Fanny. Along
with this, he attacked Romanticism, which is shown throughout the novel,
evident from the true love portrayed between characters. Showing
pure as being self-indulgent is within the idea of romanticism. In this way, he
has tried to convey something that goes completely against the title- that love
can only be pure if it is generous, and that anything apart from true love is
impure and selfish. At the same time, if love is selfish, it cannot be pure.
with most of Hardy’s novels, there is a pessimistic view, which leads to the
fall of the hero. It is a silly prank that initiates her fall. During a game of
Bible and key with her servant, Liddy, Bathsheba sends a valentine gift to
farmer Boldwood, asking him to marry her. This action is the start of
Bathsheba’s ill-fate and it is the cause for many of the other obstacles that
come across her path, eventually leading to her collapse. By sending the valentine,
not only is she showing love for someone who she did not truly love, she was
able to make Boldwood fall in love with her without her knowing. Boldwood’s
recognition of Bahsheba’s valentine and her fake desire to marry him led him to
the novel, Bathsheba falls for Troy, a jock who ran away from his bride. Though
they are deeply in love with one another, Bathsheba is not aware of the child
that Troy has. It could be argued that Troy married for the sake of his
reputation. It is supported by the fact that he ran away from Fanny and
immediately saw an opportunity to marry when he came across Bathsheba.
Therefore his pleasing of her could come across as selfish. Nonetheless,
Bathsheba is unaware of this child, and this makes the reader pity her, and it
contributes to the destruction of her character. Troy married to satisfy his
self-indulgence, and it causes Bathsheba to surrender to marriage- a concept
that she was completely against initially. This abandonment of her morals is
what makes the readers pity her.
was another farmer who Bathsheba involved herself with. Her toying with his
feelings led him to love her, to the extent that he wanted Troy to leave her.
The reader is able to sense that Boldwood’s love for Bathsheba was not selfish,
it was true. His constant asking for her hand in marriage, along with his
attempts to impress her, showed that he did have a genuine love for Bathsheba.
During this time, Bathsheba did not replicate any feelings of love towards
Boldwood. She kept giving him conditions as to when to ask her and whether she
would marry him or not based on those conditions. In this manner, the love is
one sided- it is Boldwood who loves Bathsheba, and therefore it is not
complete, the love is not pure. Boldwood goes to the extent of bribing Troy to
get him to leave Bathsheba. Towards the end of the novel, when Troy’s death was
announced, Boldwood took the opportunity to ask Bathsheba’ hand in marriage,
knowing that she had to accept. However, this was against her will- which is in
contrast to what she initially portrayed herself to be. By going against her
will to marry someone who she did not truly love, the reader pities her, as it
Is the second time that ill-fate has caught Bathsheba in a situation where it is
difficult for her to choose. When Boldwood shoots Troy for coming back, it is
again unfortunate for Bathsheba. Troy’s presence meant that they were still
married, and though this was still selfish love, the reader does feel happy for
Bathsheba, knowing what she has been through up to this point in the novel.
Boldwoods’ killing of Troy shows how far he took his selfishness, to keep
the end of the novel, Bathsheba submits to marriage and married farmer Oak.
This is the last coffin in Bathsheba’s fall from hero to traditional woman. Her
marriage to Oak was also not completely pure. Moreover, this happening in the
last part of the novel is appropriate, as it takes the reader along the
complete timeline of Bathsheba’s collapse.
Her transformation from hero to the status of a common woman during the
victorian period is what is seen. The collapse also shows that she was not able
to cope with her ill-fate. Lastly, her downfall signifies an important
principal. The rules and features of the Victorian period are fixed. The fact
that Bathsheba did eventually turn into a common victorian woman are a sign
that no matter what the initial state, the end will be fixed in the case of the
from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
the novel, there are instances where the reader
has, in his novel, been able to show the character, who seemed flawless in the
beginning, to have
has attacked romanticism
showed Emma’s downfall using her relations with her suitors and her ill fate
caused her downfall, and she attacked romanticism.
is shown by pure love shown between characters. Showing pure as being self-indulgent
is within the idea of romanticism.
At the end of the novel, does
Bathsheba surrender to the Victorian concept of marriage or does she make peace
with herself is Bathsheba a tragic hero.
Find a way where one uses love
for their own indulgence and how this leads to their death.
Troy had a child, Bath unaware,
reader pity Bathsheba for troy’s self indulgence. Despite loving him, is
marriage was only possible because of her unawareness.
Her destruction seen when she
surrendered to Victorian concept of marriage.
Victorian period rules were
Boldwood shooting troy and this
could be seen as a selfish act, due to Boldwood’s love for Bathsheba. At the
same time, her love for Troy could be considered stronger than that for
Boldwood. Her conditions to Boldwood could mean that her love for him was not
Not able to cope with her fate.
Boldwood must have Bath at any
cost. Bribed Troy to get Bath
1 Hardy, Thomas. Far from the Madding
Crowd. Vintage Books, 2015.