Thomas Hardy uses an omniscient third-person narrator to explain the action and to provide extensive, detailed descriptions and the characters’ thoughts. Chapter 12 of the novel centers on Bathsheba’s thoughts and actions in regard to her decision to become an independent farmer. The narrator presents Bathsheba entering Casterbridge on market day, the only woman present, enduring the men’s stares. She must summon up all her confidence and present herself to the many potential business partners whom she has never met and who, she suspects, will not necessarily want to do business with a woman. The nuances in her manner, as she is both firm and flexible in her dealings with the men, overcomes much of their reluctance.
Hardy introduces sample dialogue that would have occurred among farmers who did not know her personally but knew of her family background. Such men were likely to underestimate her as a businessperson and to comment upon her personal appearance, calling her a “shapely maid” and speculating about her marital prospects.
The exception to the general interest was one particular man who, by ignoring her, becomes interesting to Bathsheba. Hardy includes her conversation with Liddy to provide both women’s opinions and provide the reader with information about the identity of this man, Farmer Boldwood, that will prove useful later in the novel. Liddy tends to agree with the young miss’s opinions except to strongly endorse that, in the matter of his broken engagement, that it was he and not the woman who was “served cruelly.”