“Far from the Madding Crowd” is a work of fiction, not a historical record of the period in which it is set, the 19th century. However, it provides some useful insights into the experiences of women in the 19th century. 19th century women were disadvantaged in many ways. They had no role, of power, and they had no rights to hold positions of power. Women in the 19th century had no civil rights, no voting rights and no seats in parliament. Generally women were not educated. The only jobs for working class women were in the textile industry or factories, and in service.
The workhouse took in orphaned children, disabled children, disabled people, unmarried mothers and generally those who had fallen on hard times. They offered meagre food and accommodation in return for work. In the workhouse, families were also separated, sexes were separated and children were separated from the adults. Destitute women would typically end up in the workhouse. Employers preferred women because they were paid less. It was also very rare for women to have or own land and money but it made them eligible and gave them more choices for a husband.
Their social status came from their husbands. A woman of the 19th century was seen as husband’s property. All of her property was transferred to him, on marriage this until the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870. Women married on average at the age of 18 – 22. Husbands were needed to provide security. In Hardy’s portrayal of Fanny Robin. He offers an accurate interpretation of a working class woman who is dependant on others for survival. In the title of chapter 7, where she first appears, Hardy described Fanny as, “A timid girl”. He describes her as vulnerable, physical, weak, and poor.
Also in chapter 7, when Gabriel meets Fanny walking to Warren’s Malthouse after the fire, Hardy describes her as, ” a slim girl, rather thinly clad”. Whilst Gabriel was with Fanny he had noticed that she was very poorly. He asked her if she would accept a shilling from him, “It is only a shilling, but it is all I have to spare”. When Gabriel gives the money, he feels Fanny’s pulse and describes it a, “It was beating with a throb of tragic intensity”. Hardy also compares her to a young lamb, his imagery presenting her as innocent and helpless.
She may have become like this because maybe she was troubled, and also not forgetting she is on her own without a husband. Maybe if she had a husband she would have the security she needed, and she would have someone to depend on without worrying. In chapter 9, Hardy shows that Fanny was very much dependant on Boldwood’s charity: ” As she had no friends in her childhood, he took her and put her into school, and got her a place here under your uncle, he’s a very a kind man in that way”. This last sentence implies that Mr. Boldwood is a very nice and kind man. He has looked after Fanny very well.
Without Boldwood’s help she would have been penniless and illiterate like the majority of working class children in the 19th century. It is in this chapter Mrs. Coggan reveals that Boldwood is inquiring about Fanny’s disappearance from the farm. Sergeant Troy, the lover of Fanny Robin, is a sergeant of the Dragoons. Fanny has run away to be with him. She is nai?? ve to Troy’s promises and is also blinded to his faults. Fanny has abandoned her job and friends just to be with him. Fanny has gone to the barracks to see Sergeant Troy, “The tones were masculine, and not those of surprise.