Women in Thomas Hardy’s best fictions are complicated, some are even hard to be understood. Reading their personalities challenge me and mixes my feelings. Hardy crafts these heroines so unique that they remain eternal in the minds of many literary lovers.
Below are five female heroines in Hardy’s novels who stuck in my brain:
My most beloved female figure in all Hardy’s leading books. Independent, hard-working and persistent. These prove helpful when chasing after wealth. But her overly independence makes her learning choosing the right life partner the hardest ways. She refuses a marriage proposal from Gabriel Oak out of emancipation. She later plays the heart of William Boldwood, her aggressive admirer until the game turns ugly with the arrival of Sergeant Troy, the man she loves but can never move on from her former lover, Fanny Robin. Both men fight for Bathsheba Everdene’s love, leaving William Boldwood living in a prison after shooting Sergeant Troy. Only after the tragedy that she finally realizes the only man she completely can’t live without is Gabriel Oak.
The favorite for many. One of the most enduring female figures in the classic literature. The struggles of Tess both in working life and romance are unbearable. Not only she has to work very hard to make ends meet she also has to face her fate as a victim of rape. Things get much depressed when Angel Clare, her husband leaves her on the first day of their wedding after finding out Tess is no longer a virgin. What happens to Tess disturbs my senses because almost of her entire life is all about torments. Her decision to kill Alec D’Urberville sets her free. This, too, makes me feel relieved for her act is understandable; that human patience can run out sooner or later.
The most inconsistent, unpredictable female personage in Hardy’s books. Her union with Jude Fawley, the protagonist of the book, is unlikely wonderful. It is the matrimony of two different human beings on the surface; Sue the outspoken and Jude the soft-spoken one. Sue the wild person and Jude the quite one. But on the inside, both share similar personalities; avid reader, marriage adversary, deep thinker. Her critical thinking impresses me at first. How she handles rejection from public on her elopement with Jude wins my attention until she can no longer help it. That is when she 180 degrees turns into a completely different person than she is used to be. Not only she leaves Jude after all the things they go through but she also returns to Mr. Phillotson, her former husband, whom she detests after she meets Jude. She now becomes a disgusting person, at least for me.
She is the perfect portrayal of Hardy’s view on spoiled, materialistic woman. She marries to Clym Yeobright after she finds out the fortune of the native of Egdon Heath. She hopes she can leave the place and depart for Paris yet this plan is against her husband’s wishes who wants to stay at the place and sets up a school. Eustacia is my kind of favorite antagonist because I can totally hate her. Beautiful face but ugly heart. She disrespects her mother-in-law, makes use of Clym’s good-heartedness for her benefits and worse, she is still in touch with her former boyfriend, Damon Wildeve.
Although she is not the leading female figure in Hardy’s The Woodlanders, Marty South has a special place in my heart. She is so devoted to Giles Winterborne, the main man in this book, despite his love to his wife, Grace Melbury. She keeps loving him after he dies. She becomes the only person to take care of his graveyard after Grace become less frequently visits it as she is now with another man, Edgar Fitzpiers. What happens to Marty is very rare, touching but some may say her decisions is pathetic and useless. All in all her presence successfully stirs emotion as previous characters do.
I can’t agree more with GoodReads statements when I once read its viewpoint on what makes classics books are evergreen. It says that certain works, be they are books or poems or drama, fall under canon literature because they convey messages that are timeless, stay-in-tune across culture and generations.
Whatever social backgrounds that lead authors of the Victorian era, I think the humanness of the fictional characters strongly portraying those living in the era is the one that makes them very memorable to readers.
General themes —- love, women role in society, faithfulness, religion, social interaction, poverty —- remain in the minds of modern readers because they are never old-fashioned. In my opinion, the emergence of the Industrial Revolution plays an important role to have made Charles Dickens’ novels highly applauded. The rise of industry in the United Kingdom at that time inspires Dickens to have raised topics on economy, materialism, consumerism, etc. But I mostly admire Dickens’ stories on people at that time. How industry has driven people to have acted at that time is related with what we see today, the modern world, where industry is no longer a phenomenon but an ordinary one.
The topic of love, particularly the relationship between women and men, I believe becomes the one that’s never enough to be written. But what makes the works in the era set standards for preceding works?
Here, my best reference is Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. So far, there’s no novel that can speak about love more thoroughly than this. To love means to work it out. Loving means compromising, working together for a bigger picture regardless bleak past stories. And the finale of the book says that you can’t have all that happy ending forever. But when you both work your best to be together, brief happy moments are all that you need to be contented.
The Victorian era provides perfect insights on women status, roles in the society, a topic that remains interesting no matter how rapid time has shifted. Referring to a few numbers of Victorian classics that I have read so far, female figures are the centre of all the books. Apparently, when it comes to the society, women take all the blames if they do something against public’ wishes. Take for instance, Hetty Sorrel in ‘Adam Bede’. She does commit adultery but it seems unfair that she is the one who is on the spotlight of all. She’s the one who gets very stressful after she murders her only kid then is put behind the bars.
Bathsheba Everdene, the central figure of ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ provides a clear picture on overwhelming burden women can suffer. In the book, she is an established woman who does not seek marriage to elevate her social status. Despite the already wealthy status, Bathsheba is still a subject to be blamed with all love stories revolving her and a few men who are fallen for her. I get the sense that all of her wishy-washy attitudes in romance taint her image as a successful woman.
In ‘Agnes Grey’ a very somber picture can be learned from the fate of Grey’s mother who chooses to have married against her father’s wishes expecting her to marry a rich man. As a result, she is let to have left her home. She is ‘no longer the daughter of the family’ then loses all her supposed inheritance.
While for some countries women are as equal as men, they sometimes remain a hot topic for debate in emerging or least developed ones probably in different, various cases. For instance, in some African countries, women are forced to marry wealthy men to help her family making ends meet. While for poor women, marriages may be driven by economy, career women may find themselves in contrastive perspectives against public. While many may wish career women to abandon their jobs after getting married, this type of women may hold different point of view.
All I can say is that women throughout time and space, across countries and generations, have been, are and will always be the ones whom public can easily put their fingers at. Those are themes that may sound usual but the creative minds of handful Victorian writers have turned them all into something extraordinary that stand the test of time.
One of the greatest reading benefits is knowing that I am not a solo fighter to affirm my perspectives on life. From religion, social status, gender… writers share what they think about the world, which in coincidence, matches with my own. And I can say there are things from each of the book that I have read which are just what I feel. As my latest reading experiences are, still, on Victorian era, I’d love to highlight what I and the fantastic four authors have in common:
Oh yes, there he is, again and again. He remains my darling for the Victorian era. His books are endless resources for my writings. What makes me liking this writer is definitely due to his views on life which are similar with mine. Below are some of his works that best describe my thoughts:
Far from the Madding Crowd Feminism is the first word that emerges in my mind the first time I read about Bathsheba Everdene. She’s the kind of feminist that I adore. I don’t exactly know well the definition of feminism. All I agree is that a woman must be independent, capable of doing her tasks and making ends meet on her own but she, one day, will be a wife and a mother because she wants to be like that. And she does that out of love, not by force. When she is at home, she respects her husband wholeheartedly.
Jude the Obscure Whenever I think about Jude, the main character in the book, introversion is the first word that perfectly characterizes him. I and Jude both agree that reading is the key to the world, or even, the tool that crafts our beings. Introversion and reading are best partners in life. Perfect mates to live up our dreams. Jude is the reflections of my characterization as someone who sticks at his introversion, lives the life according to his idealism amidst the world that prefers looking at extroverts.
The Woodlanders Sometimes, the best thing falling in love with someone is limited as standing by his side, giving a helping hand when he needs that, being his best friend even when he’s in love with another woman. So painful yet that experience has brought so much joy for Marty South, one of the characters in the book. The death of Giles Winterborne doesn’t encourage her to immediately find another lover. Is being faithful to an unrequited love is a pathetic romance? You have your say. But for me, her decision to love, to have her heart crushed, to fall until she reaches the very bottom of her life is a very brave, risky thing to do. She doesn’t mind being so vulnerable and that what makes her heart is so precious.
Elizabeth Gaskell is really sweet. She’s the kind of writer that nourishes your soul with her poetic, beautiful phrases. She is, what I call, as moderate realist. Neither skeptical nor an optimist. She’s such a refreshment.
Wives and Daughters Molly Gibson, the heroine of the novel, speaks my stance about womanhood very well in Wives and Daughters. I used to really hate table manners, ladylike sort of things when I was a teenager. I hated make up, wore dresses and girly accessories. They were so nonsense. They took up so much of my priceless time. Womanhood used to be so annoying for me. I even wished I were born as a boy, LOL. At that time, I thought boys were so free. No norms, public statements that would limit their movements. While girls were born with so many duties, stereotypes. And if they went against public norms, their lives would be doomed, filled with gossips.
But that was then. Just like Molly, now I understand the nicest things of becoming a woman. I enjoy them all by the time I was turning, may be, 25. Sounds a bit late but each and every of us has a wonderful journey of his or her own. My time happens when I was 25 years old. But still, I keep my tomboyish trait and let it flourishes once in a while, like when I do exercises and watch sport games.
Agnes Grey By the time I write this post, I almost complete reading Agnes Grey and I really love reading it. I usually prefer to read books with third person narration but Agnes Grey proves me that reading novels using first person narration method can be awesome, too. I am so fond of Agnes, the heroine of the book. Apart from the fact that she’s a bookworm and introvert, just like I am, she’s so bold and brutally honest. She’s so firm with her belief although that means she is risky of losing her jobs.
She does not give up easily pursuing her dreams despite the fact she faces hatred, unfair treatments, harsh words from her bosses and their families. She knows some people view her profession as a governess is no more than a servant but she keeps doing what she feels correct. Oh the last thing I really like about Agnes is that she’s not a people pleaser.
Adam Bede Dinah Morris, one of the major characters in this novel, amazes me because of her religiosity. She devotes her life for her religion then share what she has with the poor, the depressed or those in need of spiritual help out of love not for the sake of good impressions. She knows well what she wishes in her life, she practices her religious rituals because she knows what they mean to her life.
I, too, my ultimate goal in life is getting closer and closer to Alloh swt. I want to make Him as the best ever friend in the world and the hereafter through questioning, self-learning, doing religious rituals under His guidance as stated in Koran and the sunah from the Prophet Muhammad saw (peace be upon him). To make my life much more meaningful, I’d like to share good things and help people out of love and because Alloh swt wishes me to do so. I’d love to make Islam as my way of life, fully implement it to live the days full of peace even as days go wild because I have Alloh swt in my heart. (the source of the picture: http://www.azquotes.com)
Three good-looking gentlemen fall in love with Bathsheba Everdene the first moments they catch her glimpses. Well, who doesn’t? Young, pretty, confident, and smart. What makes Bathsheba worth loving is her strength amid hardships she is facing in early pages of the classic reading. That is such a rare quality for a woman living in the middle of the 19th century back in rural areas in England.
Gabriel Oak, a skillful farmer and shephard, meets her unintentionally when she enters the village he lives on. Oak can’t take his eyes off from her ever since the meeting. He then seeks for information about her whereabouts then finally he overhears her conversation with her aunt in a night. They are poor and Bathsheba is clueless on what she has to do to make ends meet.
Oak tries hard to approach her. But Bathsheba plays a hard game. Feeling so deeply in love, Oak then proposes her given the fact he is a well-to-do farmer while she is a poor girl. But Bathsheba turns it down, saying she does not love him. Despite his disappointment, Oak moves on with his life while hoping Bathsheba changes her mind one day. Meanwhile, Bathsheba leaves the village.
A misfortune falls for him one night. All of his sheeps are dies. His place is burned down. Oak is at the bottom of his life. Having nothing expect some clothes and a flute. He wanders all along for a livelihood. Back in his mind, he always wants to search for Bathsheba.
A coincidence occurs when he unintentionally rescues a house from a fire. From some servants working in the house, Oak learns that the mistress is looking for a shephard. They tell him to talk with the mistress who is walking out from the burning home. Oak chases her and begs for a job. When he looks up, he is surprised to know that he is speaking to Bathsheba.
Oak is a very diligent servant. And Bathsheba now turns to be an elegant mistress. Her uncle bequeathes a very large farm for her. She runs the place all alone with the helps of some servants. She enjoys taking care of jobs that are usually done by men. She shops, sells, instructs her servants quite well. All of her servants respect her just like a master.
Oak and Bathsheba’s relationship comes naturally more as a servant and mistress. Sometimes, they act like close friends, especially when Bathsheba asks for advice from him. Earlier marriage proposal is out of the topic since Oak knows how low his position is.
Bathsheba is very close to Liddy, one of the female servants in the house. To her confidante, she tells a lot of secrets, including when she meets respectable nearby farmer Mr. Boldwood.
From Liddy, Bathsheba knows his tragic love fate. He has love relationships with some women but to no marriages. Liddy says they leave him for some certain reasons. Bathsheba seems to develop an admiration for him. So in the Valentine’s day, she has a crazy idea to send a love letter to him containing words “marry me”, anonymously.
Puzzled by the very short letter, Boldwood comes to Oak and asks for the riddle. By looking at the handwriting, Oak knows well who writes that.
Boldwood, who adore Bathsheba’s beauty, encourages himself to visit her during a busy day. He boldly ask for her to marry him since he believes she does want that because of the letter. To his surprise, Bathsheba declines his proposal. She apologizes for what she has done. She blames on Liddy who succesfully persuades her to write that kind of letter. She admits she only admires him. But her confession comes a bit too late for Boldwood has had a high hope on her. So Bathsheba asks for more time to give best answer for his proposal. Boldwood is quite relieved.
Oak is unhappy with what Bathsheba does with Boldwood’s feeling. Despite previous rejection, Oak will be contented should she marry Boldwood thanks to latter’s good reputation. Oak gives honest critics that puts her in anger. She expels him. Oak leaves the farm immediately.
Bathsheba does not calculate the consequences from all of this. Shorly after Oak is gone, many of sheeps and lambs are died. After receiving some suggestions from her servants, Bathsheba has no other choice than begging Oak to return. Looks like everything goes well with both resumes their good relationship as either good friends and servant-mistress. So does her love story with Boldwood. Bathsheba is trying to love him and asking for deadline to marry him.
Boldwood goes on a business trip with a relief upon hearing her words. Just a quick moment then she is likely to be his mine. But just when the deadline is approaching, Bathsheba meets a very charming soldier namely Sergeant Francis Troy. Bathsheba can not resist his temptation. Little did she know about his past story. A lot of people already warn her about Troy’s womanizer attitude, but Bathsheba does not care. They get married not long after their meeting.
Only then Bathsheba knows her newly husband is not the kind man of what she used to think. He turns out to be a spender with his horse racing. Bathsheba complaints a lot but Troy ignores her. Bathsheba’s life becomes so miserable. She strives to win his husband’s heart.
In an unexpected night, when both of them are having an easy walk at night, Troy catches a glimpse of Fanny Robin, his old lover whom he leaves. They exchange a few words. Troy asks for her to wait for him in a secret place where which he will hand in some amount of money. Fanny, who is still in love with him, nods and goes there.
Troy and his wife are involved in a fierce verbal fight when Troy asks for some money to be given to Fanny. He does not say how will he use the money but Bathsheba is suspicious. She keeps questioning him about this and his weird act lately. Again, Troy ignores her.
Bathsheba is devastated. She is powerless and does not understand on why her husband is heartless. She goes out to the farm and meets one of her servants. She is shocked to know that Fanny, her former servant, is found died because of illness. Bathsheba demands for a proper funeral afterwards. She is still clueless about the ate relationship with her husband.
From Liddy, Bathsheba knows about that later on. One night, she pays a visit to the chuch where Fanny’s body is laid. She even gets completely sad when she knows that Fanny is pregnant. Both are passed away.
When she is still looking at Fanny’s body, her husband emerges. Troy gazes at his wife’s eyes when she does not answer his question on the identity of the corpse. When he knows that Fanny dies, Troy caress and kisses her, showing his deep affection. Bathsheba holds him from behind. She is jealous that her husband still loves Fanny but not her. Even if Fanny already dies, Bathsheba is still unable to get over her.
Bathsheba seeks for a brief escape in a jungle nearby her house. She repeatedly asks for Liddy’s updates on the funeral. She looks pale and sad. Troy, on the other hand, treats Fanny’s coffin and tomb very well. He puts beautiful flowers and takes care of everything. As their fight is still on, Troy wanders around the jungle and steps in a bay. There, he swims then meets with a group of sailors. Thinking how he is useless to his wife, Troy decides to follow them until the United States.
The news about her husband’s death shocks Bathsheba that she gets fainted when she is in a market. She disbelieves that at the beginning because Troy’s body is not discovered. But as everyone informs her about his clothes left in the bay and the last moment witnesses see him, Bathsheba then gradually tries to believe. Nine months pass and still no news about her husband’s whereabouts.
Bathsheba continues to move on with gloomy look. Boldwood, on the other hand, still wishes to marry her. He continues approaching her and even her servant for a little information on possible second marriage. Oak focuses on his career. He gradually becomes a respectable farmer who manages both Boldwood’s and Bathsheba’s farms.
There comes a shephard festival where which all farmers join and sell their animals in the party. Bathsheba and Boldwood are closer to each other in the event. Troy makes an unexpected appearance after nine months of missing in action. He joins a drama group that will peform in the festival. He is surprised to see his wife with Boldwood at the event and tries hard not to be noticed by everyone. But his effort is futile. One of the servants recognizes him.
Bolwood makes an overwhelming approach toward Bathsheba. Despite her polite refusal, Boldwood keeps on begging for her to marry him by reminding her about the secret words “marry me” years ago. Feeling cornered, Bathsheba promises to give a final answer during a Christmas celebration.
She consults to Oak about this. Oak tells her that may be Boldwood is obsessed with her. When he meets with Boldwood later, Oak hints that Bathsheba may likely to say no over his marriage proposal. But stubborn Boldwood believes Bathsheba will keep her word.
So, the D-day comes. Bathsheba, likely or not, has to meet Boldwood to give her final say. At first, she rejects the proposal but Boldwood pushes her. Tearfully, Bathsheba nods. She vows she will marry him in six years from when they join the party. A ring comes out. Bathsheba initially declines to wear it but she does what Boldwood wants after being intimidated by him. Along with the ring, Boldwood brings a box full of clothes belonging to Bathsheba Boldwood. He already prepares everything for his imaginary marriage six years later.
A very tragic incident occurs just when they leave the room. Troy comes up. “Come home with me my wife,” he says. Bathsheba’s mouth opens. She is in a full shock even after her husband takes her hand home. She screams and tries to get away from her husband. Seeing this, Boldwood takes a gun and shoots Troy. Blood coming out from Troy’s body, making the party turns out to be a chaos. Bathsheba takes Troy’s body to her home after asking for Oak to send her a doctor. All is too late. Troy dies afterwards while Boldwood surrenders himself to the authorities.
Years pass by. Through hard times, Bathsheba grows up into a mature woman. She learns to get over her past time. She determines to visit Oak, whom she rarely meets on a daily basis. When they meet, Bathsheba feels much more depressed than ever after knowing Oak is leaving for California. Even after this, they do not meet much. Oak prepares for his departure whilst Bathsheba is coping with her greatest loss, much worse than what she suffers from Troy’s sudden death.
Feeling so miserable, Bathsheba takes an initiative to visit Oak’s place one night. He welcomes her modestly since only a few people comes in. Through jokes and chats, they both admit their feelings. Oak confesses Bathsheba is the only woman he will marry in his life. Throughout all bitter life experiences and tough love lessons, both eventually tie a knot in a very simple wedding ceremony in front of several servants and friends.