A New View of Bathsheba Everdene

  • Peter J. Casagrande


It has become commonplace among critics of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) to say that Bathsheba Everdene, the novel’s heroine, develops through misfortune and suffering from a vain, egotistical girl into a wise, sympathetic woman.1 There is something to this view, for apparently at least Bathsheba changes for the better between the beginning and end of the novel. She learns to sympathise with Fanny Robin, seeks to make amends to Farmer Boldwood, and marries the exemplary Gabriel Oak. However, there is much in Bathsheba that this view does not account for. Take for example the following passage, typical of others:

Bathsheba was no schemer for marriage, nor was she deliberately a trifler with the affections of men, and a censor’s experience on seeing an actual flirt after observing her would have been a feeling of surprise that Bathsheba could be so different from such a one, and yet so like what a flirt is supposed to be.


Critical Approach Moral Consciousness Wide Sympathy Masculine Role Moral Growth 
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  1. 1.
    See John Halperin, Egoism & Self-Discovery in the Victorian Novel (New York: Burt Franklin, 1974) p. 217Google Scholar
  2. Dale Kramer, Thomas Hardy: The Forms of Tragedy (London: Macmillan; Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1975) p. 31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Albert J. Guerard, Thomas Hardy: The Novels and Stories (1949: rpt. New York: New Directions, 1964) p. 140Google Scholar
  4. Richard C. Carpenter, ‘The Mirror and the Sword: Imagery in Far from the Madding Crowd’, NCF, XVIII (1964) 345Google Scholar
  5. J. I. M. Stewart (Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography [London: Longman, 1971] pp. 89–90)Google Scholar
  6. Robert Gittings (Young Thomas Hardy [London: Heine- mann; Boston: Little, Brown, 1975] p. 175)Google Scholar
  7. 2.
    See also Irving Howe, Thomas Hardy (New York: Macmillan, 1967) p. 55Google Scholar
  8. 3.
    James’s review (The Nation [New York], 24 December 1874)Google Scholar
  9. Laurence Lerner and John Holmstrom (eds), Thomas Hardy and His Readers: A Selection of Contemporary Reviews (London: The Bodley Head, 1968) pp. 28–33.Google Scholar
  10. John Paterson, The Novel as Faith (Boston: Gambit, 1973) pp. 40–68.Google Scholar
  11. 4.
    Hardy was still at work on A Pair of Blue Eyes in early 1873Google Scholar
  12. (quoted by Richard L. Purdy, Thomas Hardy: A Bibliographical Study [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954] p. 16).Google Scholar
  13. 5.
    The Complete Poems of Thomas Hardy, ed. James Gibson (London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1976) pp. 13, 829, 7, 14; 929, 310, 338–39, 914, 726– 8.Google Scholar
  14. (One Rare Fair Woman: Thomas Hardy’s Letters to Florence Henniker, 1893–1922, ed. Evelyn Hardy and F. B. Pinion [London: Macmillan, 1972] p. 185).Google Scholar
  15. 8.
    Richard C. Carpenter, Thomas Hardy (New York: Twayne, 1964) p. 87, argues that Bathsheba is not ready for reform until she is ‘dominated by a sexually aggressive man’.Google Scholar
  16. 9.
    Howard Babb, ‘Setting and Theme in Far from the Madding Crowd’, ELH, XXX (1963) 160, argues that the meaning of Bathsheba’s experience in the swamp is that ‘she has found refuge from Troy in nature and been morally regenerated by that world’.Google Scholar
  17. 14.
    Frank B. Pinion, A Hardy Companion [London: Macmillan, 1968] p. 214;Google Scholar
  18. Peter J. Casagrande, ‘Hardy’s Wordsworth: A Record and a Commentary’, ELT, XX [1977] 210 –37Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    Roy Morrell, Thomas Hardy: The Will and the Way (Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press; London: Oxford University Press, 1965) P. 59.Google Scholar

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© Peter J. Casagrande 1979

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  • Peter J. Casagrande

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