Can I use feminist interpretation as theoretical support in studying Bathsheba in Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy?

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Yes, a feminist interpretation would work well for Far From the Madding Crowd. One strand of feminist criticism examines how writers depict women in a piece of literature and what this says about the perceptions of women in that society.

Hardy is commendable in many ways for his creation and depiction of the strong female character of Bathsheba Everdene. Bathsheba inherits a farm and runs it on her own successfully, revealing both to readers and her fellow farm owners in the novel that women are capable of competing on male turf. She is respected by her workers, and she shows what women can do when they are able to achieve financial independence.

Nevertheless, Bathsheba has problems with love. She does not see the value of Gabriel Oak, who truly loves her and has a moral character worthy of her. She treats him high-handedly, in part because she knows he loves her. She also sends a teasing valentine on a whim to an older local landowner, Farmer Boldwood, which is more or less his undoing when he falls hopelessly in love with her. Worse, she impulsively marries Francis Troy, a soldier who does not love her. It is not until she is humbled by this disastrous marriage that she is able to see what Gabriel has to offer.

Hardy seems to be implying that a woman cannot be successful at both business and love and that the characteristics that make a good businesswoman work against the characteristics that make one good in relationships. Is this a problem with Bathsheba or the expectations of the society she lives in? The novel also exposes the evils of patriarchy: through marriage, Troy gains control of Bathsheba's farm and money and almost destroys the farm, as he is not fit to run it. Hardy shows a firm grasp in his depiction of this marriage of how the law makes a woman vulnerable, but he also lays the blame at the feet of Bathsheba in her inability to discern a good partner from a poor one.

Another female character worth looking at as a foil to Bathsheba is Fanny Robin. A much more typical Victorian woman, she is undone when Troy seduces, impregnates, and, due to a mishap when she goes to the wrong church the day they are to marry, abandons her. Hardy shows how much less margin for error a woman has in a society where men hold almost all the power, but how does the idealized portrait of the passive Fanny shed light on Bathsheba's character? Is she a way of, through contrast, critiquing Bathsheba as "unwomanly" according to Victorian dictates? Such an argument could be established.

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Bathsheba Everdene is a strong and independent female character, which was a rarity in late 1800s literature. Bathsheba inherits her uncle's large estate, which includes a working farm. She runs the farm on her own. This was rare for a woman to do at the time.  

Feminist theory examines gender inequality in society. In late 1800s England, women were typically wives and mothers. Very few professions were held by women. It was unusual for a woman to run an estate, as Bathsheba Everdene does in the novel.

Bathsheba is not only independent in her running of the estate. In that time, many women did not marry for love. Instead, they married men who would support them and care for their well-being. At the beginning of the novel, Gabriel proposes marriage to Bathsheba. Gabriel is a hardworking man with a large flock of sheep at the time, and because of this is able to support her. She refuses him, as she prefers to be independent.  

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