From your reading of Far from the Madding Crowd, what do you find of interest in Hardy’s presentation of women’s experiences in the 19th century? We take for granted that women can choose whether or not to marry, and whether or not to have children, and how many. In the 19th Century woman did not have as many choices as men did in their lives. They usually had low paid jobs and less education. Woman did not have the choice of weather they could have sex or have children this was always the man’s decision.
If the women had the man’s child the husband could have this child taken away and had it raised somewhere else, the woman had to input in this. The woman had fewer rights in marriage then men did and they could be abused on by their husbands. Once married, a woman’s property and income would be owned by her husband. Only in 1891 woman were allowed to divorce their husbands before this they had no choice unless it was very rare circumstances. The men were allowed to imprison the women. In Far from the Madding Crowd Hardy could be considered as a ‘proto-feminist’ because of what he says about women.
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There are two main female characters in Far from the Madding Crowd and these are Bathsheba Everdene and Fanny Robin. Fanny Robin is a poor, vulnerable and working class woman, she is living in a society which frowns upon sex outside of marriage. Bathsheba Everdene is very different from Fanny Robin because she is an independent woman who owns and runs a farm which she inherited from her uncle. She is very powerful. Fanny Robin was the typical country girl in the nineteenth century. Towards the beginning of the book it shows that Fanny could be seen as vulnerable and weak.
One passage in the book show that she is living in poverty and here it says she is a ‘slim’ girl and ‘thinly clad’ this would mean that she does not have enough money to spend on food and buy some more clothes. Also in this passage it says that she willingly accepts a shilling from Gabriel Oak and even though it is not a lot of money it shows how desperate she is. While Oak was passing this shilling to Fanny he touched her wrist and he realized how fragile she was, he thought that she could easily been taken advantage of. Oak felt a bit of romance with her. ‘It was beating with a tragic intensity’ and Oak immediately feels saddened.
In Chapter 8 Bathsheba suspects something has happened to Fanny when she is missing but she does hope that Fanny has ‘come to no harm through a man of that kind’. You could tell that she had left the house in a rush because she left without her bonnet. Bathsheba wonders she left in a rush to find a male figure. She may be in a hurry to find him because she knows she needs to marry him as soon as she can because it is frowned upon to be pregnant outside of marriage. If people were pregnant outside of marriage then they normally would have been classed as an outcast of society.
In Chapter 11 Fanny and Troy meet and Hardy describes Fanny as she’s coming into view as a ‘little shape’ this suggest that she is insignificant because she is a woman. After this you can tell that Troy shows a lack of commitment towards Fanny and this is shown where he says ‘the fact is I forgot to ask’ this also shows that he cannot keep his word, in this case his word was to marry Fanny and so she is not pregnant outside of marriage. Near the end of this chapter Hardy uses the phrase ‘an obligation of snow’ this could indicate that the love between Fanny and Troy has been lost.