06 September 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 64

WE ARE DONE! =D That is, I am done. Everyone else was finished weeks ago . . . if not years ago. =P

Thanks to Bat, LTG, Sheila, and even Amy on Twitter for reading Far from the Madding Crowd with me! I just wish I had been as good at hosting as you've been at commenting. At last, we come to the best part . . . 

He accompanied her up the hill, explaining to her the details of his forthcoming tenure of the other farm. They spoke very little of their mutual feeling; pretty phrases and warm expressions being probably unnecessary between such tried friends. Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other's character, and not the best till further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality. This good-fellowship--camaraderie--usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death—that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam.

But not so fast! Before we can fully enjoy the fruits of this happy ending, let's trace the last steps of the path Thomas Hardy takes to get us there. Although many modern romantic comedies play upon a similar formula by making lovers loathe each other at first meeting, they get the proportions all wrong.

Chapters 51 to 57

So do you buy it? Bathsheba's big change, I mean. At the beginning of the Christmas party, she is so totally overwhelmed by Mr. Boldwood that she can't even tell him she doesn't want to wear his creepy ring and then so stunned at the reappearance of Sergeant Troy that that she is virtually struck blind . . . but the second the first man shoots the second, she is completely transformed.

Deeds of endurance, which seem ordinary in philosophy, are rare in conduct, and Bathsheba was astonishing all around her now, for her philosophy was her conduct, and she seldom thought practicable what she did not practice. She was of the stuff of which great men's mothers are made. She was indispensible to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises.

Is that really all it takes? I was prepared to call Thomas Hardy to task again, despite being unfit to spit shine his shoes, for relying on nothing but magic here, when two possibilities occurred to me.

First, that it may be that Bathsheba was always like this, and simply never had the right frame to show her off. But I considered and nixed this theory in about two seconds.

Second, that she was both never like this and incapable of developing into it, which means that something else had to tip the scale to get her to this point. Only one thing could have done that, and sure enough, it was the thing that did it here. I am referring to human sacrifice. Of course this makes more sense. 

The gargoyle was right to laugh at Troy's sentimental offering of flowers--and at any man who thinks flowers can make up for sin. But I think even it would have been impressed by Mr. Boldwood's crazy first offering of Troy . . . and sane final offering of himself.

And let's remember, in fairness to Bathsheba, that she thought that she would have to be the sacrificial offering, in marriage, to atone not just for her early act of revenge against him, but also for every time she has ever acted on her vanity--which includes her rash first marriage. But Hardy has a more romantic view of matrimony. At least he doesn't think it is meant to be the wages of sin. =P

I really love that despite Gabriel and Bathsheba's best efforts to be married in "the most private, secret, plainest wedding that it is possible to have," the workers still insist on celebrating it properly. Call it the folk memory of the fitness of things. It is just right when they show up with a band and a cannon--and when they get the last word.

"Yes; I suppose that's the size o't," said Joseph Poorgrass with a cheerful sigh as they moved away; "and I wish him joy o' her; though I were once or twice upon saying to-day with holy Hosea, in my scripture manner, which is my second nature. 'Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.' But since 'tis as 'tis why, it might have been worse, and I feel my thanks accordingly."

Yeah, we all want Hosea 4 read at our weddings. Thanks Joseph. =P

What are your thoughts on Chapters 51 to 57?

1) Did someone have to die?
2) Do you feel satisfied by the ending?
3) Have you tried making Hardy's recipe for romantic love? If so, how did it turn out?

Image Source: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy


love the girls said...

Now that the story is read. Does anyone agree with me that the story is of Bathshba's redemption by putting her and Uriah in a time machine and sending Uriah back to life by compromising?

Sheila said...

Nah, not really. I always felt the David-Uriah-Bathsheba parallel only went so far.

1. Yes. Just like so many other Victorian novels where the unhappy marriage gets "fixed" at the last minute by somebody dying. Practically speaking, the only way out for Bathsheba was for somebody to die.

It was a relief that Boldwood didn't; though he's a nut job, one does feel sorry for him.

2. Pretty well. It's a bit annoying, though, to flash by the only real romance in the book. Bathsheba and Gabriel haven't really been what I would call friends. She trusts him, he cares about her, but camaraderie? I feel like I missed that. They've worked together, and that counts for a lot, but pretty much every conversation they've had the whole book has been awkward, so it's a little hard to imagine that everything's okay now. But that's sort of a quibble. It's not that it's unbelievable; just that I didn't quite see it. I have to admit I thought for a second, "Wait, are they going be married-married, or is this Bathsheba going along with getting married just so she can keep ONE man around at least?" But I think she really has come around about Gabriel.

3. YES. I actually quoted that on my Facebook as soon as I read it, and tagged my husband. I get annoyed when people trumpet such distinct gender roles as to preclude any opportunity for men and women to have enough in common to talk about. That would make for a pretty boring marriage.

Now, my way does have its downsides. We've been up till past eleven every night this week because we have so much to talk about. But all in all, one prefers these difficulties.

About Bathsheba being the model of endurance ... I don't see how it's incredible at all. Hasn't she been taking care of everything on the farm for years now? Sure, we mostly catch her at her failures, but overall the farm has prospered, and she's been the one managing everything.

And wouldn't *you* feel a great deal of relief if the two men you didn't like were both instantly made non-problems? She was married to one, promised to the other, and now the one is dead and the other will at least be imprisoned.

But I don't think that's really what's going on, exactly. It's more that she locks herself into being coldly practical because if she even tries to deal with the confusing array of feelings, she'll collapse. Which, in fact, she does a moment later. And then she can barely go to the market for some time after. She's no superwoman -- she just has some grit in her that she hasn't had the opportunity to display much.

I think this sort of thing isn't nearly as rare as Hardy thinks, though. In stressful circumstances many of us snap into action. I know I do -- let one of my kids get injured, and I drop all the poetry and niceness and go straight into "hand me that rag, fetch the bandaids," etc. Once everything is taken care of I can go hyperventilate about it. I think pretty much everyone would do the same, though perhaps not to the extent that Bathsheba does it here.

Belfry Bat said...

... LTG, I just don't see it. And the first reason I don't see it is that David was a Shepherd before he was a Captain. That and Hardy quoting of David's son Solomon like that at the end.

* * *

Enbrethiliel, it has been great fun sharing a book more-or-less in real time with such company! The biggest part of being a good host is, I think, knowing whom to invite and helping them get along. And you've done more than that!

I do like your take on the Horae Momento and After; though I must say that, actually, Bathsheba is shown elsewhere to be good at dealing with merely practical questions — if there's a good thing to be done rather than a difficult choice to be made, she can take care of the sick cow, or rescue the stupid suffocating shepherd, or lend a hand covering the ricks before a storm (when it should have been done before). As Hardy puts it just before your long quote, "the household convulsion had made her herself again". I think the real test and sign of this sudden transformation is how it sticks: whether it grows into some kind of humility. I was going to say something about that, but on reviewing the text it seems I was transposing a couple of passages... but no matter.

May I say? That passage about her one visit to Mr. Oak's rooms was one of the most delightful little vignettes I've read anywhere. I can't even pin down what closes the scene for me, but... Perhaps it's the fireplace. I love a good fireplace. Come to think of it, fire does quite a lot between these two, from charcoal to haystacks to lightnings to gunpowder... well.

1) We are in the Old Testament, it seems, and not the book of Ruth. Or, as someone remarked (was it you, or was it Sheila?) about Victorian romance novels and awkward spouses... I haven't read many Victorian romances, so I'm leaning on others, here.

2) Greatly satisfied.

3) That's none of your business!

But there's still only the one of me.

Belfry Bat said...

Yes, it was Sheila that said it, and then repeated it, and then anticipated most of what I had to say while I was writing it. Oh well.

Hello, Sheila!


love the girls said...

1)back then, yes. Today, no. Today any marriage can be annulled. Or divorced. Or just moved on to the next significant other.

They were much more brutal back then killing off mothers for the inheritance and such. Today's world is much more civilized, (or should I say sanitized? no more communal drinking mugs), the courts are used for the same purpose.

Enbrethiliel said...


LTG -- I think the David-Bathsheba-Uriah angle is definitely one way to read the story, but I agree with Sheila that the parallels only go so far before the novel takes on a meaning of its own. Personally, I prefer to read Far from the Madding Crowd as another of Thomas Hardy's elegies to a way of life that was already dying out. (Its very title comes from Grey's Elegy.) There's a sense that we'll have traditional sheep farming for at least one more generation--because Bathsheba (finally) marries the right man--but it feels precarious.

I've also toyed with the idea that a Victorian reader would be able to identify certain types in Gabriel, Mr. Boldwood and Sergeant Troy and to read a kind of social commentary in them. But as I haven't been able to do any research, I'm squirreling that thought away for the future.

Sheila -- If you had told me at the beginning that one of the four principal characters would die at the end, I would have guessed Mr. Boldwood! But I am as relieved as the workers that his sentence was reduced to life imprisonment.

I think Gabriel got a pretty raw romantic deal. While I love the passage about camaraderie and agree on principle, I think that Bathsheba's "rougher side" has always been much worse than Gabriel's. Her vanity has led to the death of one man and the imprisonment of another. His carelessness with the sheep didn't hurt anyone but the poor beasts--and Bathsheba didn't mind any of that as much as she minded his plain speaking, which is a flaw in manner rather than in character.

Bathsheba's self-possession and competence right after Troy's death doesn't seem out of character to me, but it's incredible to me that Hardy chooses that moment as proof that she is "of the stuff of which great men's mothers are made."

Bat -- Well spotted on the fire! =)

As I've said to Sheila, I do believe that Bathsheba has always been more competent than she has looked. I just don't see why that particular moment in which one man shoots another in cold blood, the terrible fruit of her actions in the past, should be her crowning glory just because she doesn't lose her head.

Belfry Bat said...

That wasn't cold blooded on Boldwood's part, that was the heat of the moment! And I wouldn't call it her triumph so much as her atonement (Hardy doesn't say she was loved in this crisis). She may well have lived some sort of grudging spousal duty before, but After the Shock she is spending dear charity, and it costs her a winter and spring of health.

Lest we think too much of Gabriel's virtue, let it not be forgotten in what three circumstances he first caught sight of Miss Everdene!

Enbrethiliel said...


I guess we could split hairs on this all day! ;-P I think that Bathsheba's reaction after Troy is shot is evidence of competence, not necessarily of charity. And having decided, right after reading the passage, that it was competence, I went on to be surprised that it took her so long to recover from it.

Hmmmm. So it probably was charity, after all. LOL! Or can one be competent at charity?

Sheila said...

She was using her competence to do a charitable thing. She felt it was her duty as a wife, and she hadn't been that good of a wife before. She's also trying to atone because she feels the whole thing is her fault. It isn't, but her scream when Troy grabbed her is what prompted Boldwood to shoot, and she feels culpable.

I don't think that moment is her crowning glory, though. I just think it's a convenient moment for Hardy to tell us about the competent sort of person she is.

Enbrethiliel said...


I think you've articulated it better than I ever could, Sheila! And now I see that there's another loose end to tie up.

A few meetings ago, LTG said that Bathsheba's competence has no real importance to the story; and because he was, at that point in the discussion, the only one who had read the whole book, I decided to take his word for it. Unfortunately, he turned out to be off the mark. (But we still love you, LTG!) I think that Hardy's description of Bathsheba--as awkwardly placed as it may be--is definitive proof that he himself doesn't think that her "babeness" should have ever overshadowed her ability to get things done. That, in fact, all the characters who didn't see her as a competent individual were, in effect, blind.

love the girls said...

Bathsheba's babeness is what drives the story.

Let her be competent, just as the babe in legally blond is competent to put together a video that gets her into law school. So what?

Her competency is simply an aspect of the story, not the plot.

love the girls said...

Let me add.

Of course in the movie they try to make her competency relevant by her being mistreated because the only reason she was taken on is because she's a babe. But just as the only reason she was accepted was because of her babeness, so likewise her babeness is what sold tickets to the movie and drove the actual plot of babes in lawschool.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bathsheba's attractiveness may drive the story, but the moral is that there was more to her than what met the eye. That is, it is necessary for her to be attractive, but for another reason that we don't find out until the end. Unless you are arguing that all it takes to be "indispensible to high generation, hated at parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises" is beauty.

Let me put it this way: you'd have basically the same story if Bathsheba had been male and the uncle's half-black nephew from a British outpost in the Caribbean, as long as everyone underestimated him at the beginning and he still pulled something off at the end.

You actually have a worse case where Legally Blonde is involved. (Pun intended! =P) Its whole point is that you can't separate the legal mind from the blonde hair. They have to go together, otherwise there would be no movie. Reese Witherspoon's looks may have sold tickets (to men?), but do you really think the movie would have done as well if the first audiences had said that it was about a beautiful woman who earns the mockery of the legal system, flunks out of law school, and loses the guy? To directly contradict you, the competence is one half of the plot.

Sheila said...

Yeah, I'm with E here (though about FFTMC, not LB because I haven't seen it) -- Bathsheba's beauty is certainly important, and it's why she gets so much attention, but the qualities and flaws of her *character* are what drives the book. She is vain, she isn't very wise in love, she is driven to succeed on her farm, she is efficient in a pinch, she eventually gets a good notion of whom she should trust. She is an active agent in the story, not just a passive object as a "babe." She could be just as beautiful and make different choices to turn the story in a completely different direction.

love the girls said...

Miss E.,

I can't say why the gals watched the movie and what they enjoyed about it, but I suspect most guy remember with a smile the bend and snap, and the application video, especially the boards reaction to it because it is such a guy response.

As far as competency is concerned, she had to be competent enough to not flunk out because the story line is just because a girl's a babe, and acts like an air head ditz doesn't mean she is one and the guy was wrong to drop her for the plain jane smart girl because he could have had it all.

And no, you would not have had the same story if Bathsheba . . . because the story is a love story, not a story of competency. And Gabriel did not fall in love with her because she was competent, nor did he stay with her always because she was competent. Nor did he stay in the end because she was a competent. He stayed long enough for her to realize who she was actually in love with but couldn't figure it out, a not uncommon plot theme.

love the girls said...


Of course her flaws and qualities drives the book, along with her babeness. What does not drive the book is her competency.

In fact it's her lack of competency, or at least incompetency at what she should be competent at that drives the book. Of course there would not be a book if she had known what she wanted because there wouldn't have been a compelling conflict requiring a resolution.

The story is babe can't figure out what she wants and drags down men with her along the way until she figures it out that who she loves is the guy she started out with and who was steadfastly by her side throughout her journey.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila -- I'll add to what you said that a lot of the events of the novel wouldn't have happened if Bathsheba had not set them in motion, not by looking pretty but by making certain decisions. Mr. Boldwood, for instance, would never have been so obsessed with her if she had not sent him that Valentine. Her appearance never mattered to him.

LTG -- Actually, you can say why women watched and enjoyed Legally Blonde, because I'm telling you. ;-) We like it because a pretty girl who is underestimated proves that there is more to her than her appearance. And since the screenplay of Legally Blonde was written by two women, I think it's safe to argue that this moral is something which they intended.

But now it seems that we're talking past each other. Your second paragraph only validates everything I've said, though I imagine that you wrote it as a rebuttal.

What really baffles me is that you seem to think that what you're saying and what I'm saying are mutually exclusive. Gabriel fell in love with Bathsheba because she was pretty. That's clear. Bathsheba proved that she was competent in the end. That's clear, too. How does one make the other impossible when they both happen in the same novel?

love the girls said...

Miss E.,

Because competency as being used has virtually nothing to do with understanding one's own heart. I used competency as metaphor.

Sheila said...

A metaphor for what ....???

Now I'm thinking I'd better watch Legally Blonde. If there's one thing most women agree on, it's that we're tired -- both the "babes" and the homely ones -- of being judged on our appearance.

I say this, though I think I am rarely judged on my appearance anymore. That's probably because I rarely leave the house. ;)

Bathsheba is vain because she's always been admired for her beauty .... but that's pretty much the only way her beauty matters. Boldwood falls for her because of a Valentine, and Troy begins his flirtation with her in the *dark*! Gabriel certainly notices her appearance, but I'm pretty sure that's not the only thing he likes about her. (I sort of wish Hardy had gone more in-depth there. Gabriel clearly sees her as more than a pretty face by the end of the book, but it's hard to say when this transformation happened.)

Belfry Bat said...

I think it's pretty clear that Gabriel was intrigued by Bathsheba's appearance at her first appearance, but notes her tendency to vanity right away; on the occasion he first starts to fall for her, towards the end of chapter 2, he doesn't realize it is her:
"I think we had better send for some oatmeal," said the elder woman; "there's no more bran."

"Yes, aunt; and I'll ride over for it as soon as it is light."

"But there's no side-saddle."

"I can ride on the other: trust me."

Oak, upon hearing these remarks, became more curious to observe her features, but this prospect being denied him by the hooding effect of the cloak, and by his aerial position, he felt himself drawing upon his fancy for their details.

The invention of the side-saddle being for purposes of skirted modesty (or against ankle-length impossibility), though Miss Mysteria might well be trousered at this moment, it would be unusual for her to have practised men's riding form, you see; so either Gabe is a bit off (that he's full of mischief is quite plain), or he's drawn in by her raw farmer potential.

love the girls said...

Sheila writes : "A metaphor for what ....???"

A metaphor for self reflection.

Sheila writes : "If there's one thing most women agree on, it's that we're tired -- both the "babes" and the homely ones -- of being judged on our appearance."

But yet my daughter tells me that if the girls dorm caught on fire in the middle of the night the east coast girls would insist on getting their makeup and hair right first before they would exit the building, because there are priorities in life.


Enbrethiliel said...


LTG -- Far from the Madding Crowd , like all novels, weaves together many threads to create a single tapestry. One of these is the Biblical element. Another is Hardy's love for a way of life that had started to pass away in his lifetime. A third is the motif of vision (and blindness). A fourth is the romance. A fifth is the development of Bathsheba's character from a silly girl into a mature woman. Even you admit this when you say that Bathsheba learns, in the end, her lesson about which man is the best match for her. It may be true that her growth in virtue does not affect the men's reactions to her, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Plus, the conventions of romance would have been sorely disappointed if Gabriel had ended up with an unworthy woman in the end. It matters to the story even if it does not matter to him.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila -- That's an excellent point about Troy! There are so many plays on the motifs of vision and blindness in this book.

On the other hand, when I recall that Gabriel's character fails to develop at all, I see LTG's point a little better. Although Bathsheba becomes a better person at the end, that really doesn't matter to Gabriel.

Bat -- To Sheila's point about Troy in the dark, I add my oft-reiterated observation about the "blot of blood on the retina of [Boldwood's] eye and your memory of Gabriel's two Peeping Tom moments . . . and it's plain to see (Ha!) that even the men who look at Bathsheba most closely fail to see her correctly. We can assume that Gabriel's vision clears up in the end, but there doesn't seem to be anything to indicate it.

In fairness, Bathsheba fails to see Gabriel, Boldwood and Troy correctly, too--but this story is about her as a "watched woman" rather than them as watched men.

love the girls said...

Miss E.,

The book may be a tapestry, but I don't think Bathsheba's competency is anything more than a thread running through it that helps form part of the pattern. It needs to be there, but then again so does the farm and the farm animals.

Dora in David Copperfield was decidedly incompetent to run a household, but she had what was more desirable, she had the common sense to know what she was and what she was not. In contrast, Bathsheba had common sense to run a household but not the common sense to know what she was and what she was not.

True, as a peasant, wisdom at running a farm was highly prized, but as you note, Gabriel and all others were caught by her charms, not by her household management and it is her charms that the book is about, while her competency at household management is what helps cause her to not be self reflective.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bathsheba's competency . . . or if you prefer, her compassion . . . or as Bat has called it, her charity . . . because they are all the same thing . . . works as the epiphany that reveals to the three not-so-wise men of the story what they have failed to see with the naked eye.

love the girls said...

Miss E.,

Two unwise, and one guardian angle who knew what she was and stayed with her even when she married poorly.

Gabriel may have been drawn by her charms, but unlike the others he likewise sees her for what she is and loves her.

Sheila said...

LTG, I admit I don't speak for all women. But did it ever occur to you that these girls put on makeup before going out because they know they'll be judged for their appearance if they don't? One poor friend of mine always wore lots of makeup, and I asked her why she NEVER skipped it. Her answer was that every time she did, people asked her if she was all right, if she was sick, if she was tired.

I never got in that habit; I wear makeup a few times a year. So people pigeonhole me as "a woman who never wears makeup" and chide me if I decide to wear some. Can't win for losing.

E, I think I disagree with this line of yours: "Although Bathsheba becomes a better person at the end, that really doesn't matter to Gabriel."

Couldn't it be argued that it actually makes all the difference? He's into her at the beginning, because she's pretty. Later he tells her that he no longer wants to marry her -- partly, I think, to be cool and not give her what she wants, but perhaps partly because he's disappointed in her behavior. At the end, he won't stick around to be leaned on by her. But since she's willing to get over her desire to be the admired one who gives nothing in return, THAT makes the difference so that he's willing to be with her again?

Hardy doesn't really let us into much of the deliberation on this topic in Gabriel's mind, and of course it could be argued that his feelings for her are constant from the beginning of the book to its end. But I think there has to be some sort of development, as what he knows of Bathsheba changes throughout the book.

love the girls said...


You mean it would be better if women where not judged by their appearance. But what you think is better goes against the natural order God created.

Let me put it this way, nature acts for an end. Just as lions have sharp teeth in order to eat meat so likewise do women have curvaceous bodies so men will be attracted to them.

God made men to be attracted to women and women to be attractive to attract men.

Belfry Bat said...

One big thing that changed from young prospective Farmer Oak with his first herd of sheep to Shepherd Oak keeping Bathsheba's sheep is his prospects on his own account; and these are restored to him at the end (maybe it isn't Bathsheba and David, but Job! Although Job, of course, was not a peeping-Tom.)

Sort-of incidental to this point, I was thinking recently of his exclamation after George's pup scared all those sheep to death: "Thank God I'm not married...". At that point in the read-along I think we all thought that was mostly his selfless instinct; but after seeing how the whole plays out, I wonder if it isn't more wounded pride (and maybe we hear an echo of this at the "beggars can't be choosers" incident). He won't marry Bathsheba merely for his own advancement (which is what Troy did) or to satisfy longing: in short, he won't beg Bathsheba to marry him, but only wants her hand if she really wants his.

There's also a strange counterfactual, that if he and Bathsheba had married, they might well have had better eyes or leash on that stupid dog, and never have lost all the sheep in the first place! But that wouldn't have made a novel, either.

Belfry Bat said...

... I think, LTG, what Sheila is getting at is that apparent reproductive health is not how women want to be estimated when applying to work, sell, or buy, say, anywhere-at-all in the world of commerce, academia, or public service.

love the girls said...

Mr. Bat,

Perhaps, but the context and the original comment were in reference to Bathsheba as suitable marriage partner and when did Gabriel stop seeing Bathsheba as just a pretty face.

I would say he started seeing her as more than a pretty face from the beginning, but it was the pretty face that caught his eye and held it long enough for him to see more of her.

Enbrethiliel said...


LTG -- It saves Gabriel that he was so clear-eyed at the beginning, but he still peeps at her when he should not, and that's a flaw related to vision. If he were a literal Angel, I guess it would be all right, but that's not the case.

Addressing your point to Bat that Gabriel sees her as more than a pretty face very early on, the question is whether he also sees that she is "ndispensible to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises." I doubt it. He needs the epiphany at the end, too.

Sheila -- The reason I think that Gabriel's perception of Bathsheba is so constant is that everything else about him (save his economic standing) is also constant. The things around him change, but he seems like the land itself.

I can see that he is disappointed by how Bathsheba treats Mr. Boldwood early on, but he still stays on with her. We could argue that it is his job and he can't just leave (especially after how much trouble he went through to find it at the beginning), but after she marries Troy--which is far worse--he still goes above and beyond what his duties require. And it is made clear to the reader that he is not doing it for the farm workers who will also suffer, but entirely for Bathsheba. (I wonder, because it is never addressed, whether he ends up doing the work of a bailiff for the pay of a shepherd. I hope not!)

I also get the sense that the reason he doesn't want to marry her at that point is that it would look as if he is only after her money and her land. Remember that when he lost his sheep at the beginning, he was happy that she had not accepted his proposal. Only in the end, when he is about to take charge of Boldwood's farm--and becomes the logical choice for her husband the way Boldwood used to be--does it once more become respectable for them to be married.

Beyond economic circumstance, there are also the times when they bond over the running of the farm. I see her growing and I see the dynamic of their relationship changing, but I do get the sense that even if she had not changed for the better, Gabriel would have remained happy to marry her after his own lot in life improved. Heck, he dropped his plans to go to California just for her!

I really don't think he changes much with respect to Bathsheba--and so even though he may note that she has changed for the better, it doesn't make a difference to him.

(By the way, that California thing strikes me as another instance of Hardy pulling America out of a top hat. It makes sense for him to want to own his own farm in a place where there is land to be had, but until he mentions it to Bathsheba, he has always given the impression of being deeply rooted in English soil. California seems to be a MacGuffin to get Bathsheba to admit her feelings for him, and I confess that I find it a little manipulative of Hardy.)

Bat -- And now that I've typed all that for Sheila, I see that you've already made the same point! =) I agree that even if they both loved each other at that point, it would have been too much for him to have married a woman so much better off than he was. He would really rather be her employee than a . . . What's the word for "male gold digger"? =P

Sheila said...

Opportunist I think is the word you want!

LTG -- this line of yours makes me feel squicky: "Just as lions have sharp teeth in order to eat meat so likewise do women have curvaceous bodies so men will be attracted to them. God made men to be attracted to women and women to be attractive to attract men. "

Actually women are curvaceous because they store up fat for childbearing. Certain types of body fat also contain more estrogen, so women with round bottoms do tend to be more fertile. And men are unconsciously capable of detecting this.

It would be equally true for me to say "Men have those broad shoulders and lantern jaws so that women will be attracted to them." Yes, these things are often considered attractive. But that is not the POINT. My body is more than a brightly colored and scented flower hoping for a honeybee.

E -- You may be right. It may very well be that each time Gabriel appears to withdraw, it's not because he's lost any love for Bathsheba at all, but because he respects himself so thoroughly. He refuses to let himself be taken advantage of. (Personally I think women in relationships should do more of the same -- react well to good treatment, and withdraw in response to bad treatment. When Troy said he would fall for some other woman if she didn't marry him, she should have said, "If you can't keep your eyes on me, you don't deserve me" and ridden right home again.)

And I think, though he might have accepted her unchanged, their relationship would not have been a very healthy one if she hadn't gone through the journey she does and gotten over her vanity.

love the girls said...


Don't you find it just a bit interesting that what men by nature find most attractive in women is related to procreation?

That layer of body fat is not only essential to procreation, girls who don't have it typically can't conceive, but it likewise serves the purpose of attracting men.

Look at the Book cover on this post. Bathsheba's dress accentuates her curves because those curves were recognized as a good. Curves are good.

Sheila said...

From evolutionary terms, it's not remotely surprising. Men who liked fertile-looking women ended up having lots of sons. Women who liked fertile-looking men also had more kids than women who went after sterile men. Stands to reason.

If you want to leave evolution out of it, you could simply say, "God made people to be attracted to healthy people of the opposite sex, because he wanted them to be fruitful and multiply."

That's still different from saying, "My body looks the way it does so men can look at it." Do you see that?

love the girls said...


Evolution?? You mean like from pond scum to man? and if this pond scum wasn't attracted to some other pond scum they would not have made made more scum?

Considering that rational man is a fully new creation, meaning you can't get from pond scum to man, there isn't much point in looking pond scum, but there is all the reason in the world to look to Adam and Eve. And God made Eve attractive to Adam.

Belfry Bat said...

"And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul." D-R/C translation.

Furthermore, genetic drift and heredity are observed even in Man, in his variations from Australia (thick melanin, against steady, overhead sun) to Norway (nearly no melanin, the better to form vitamin D under low and oft-hidden sun). Providence perfects nature, and the appetites furthermore operate in the flesh. Reason is to govern the flesh over them; not to mention that when we speak of human reason we mean precisely this governing appetite. Even Thomas conceded that beasts have instrumental reason; the specific difference of Man is that he is given to reconsider his ends and to fashion his means according to conveniens.

All of which has remarkably little to do with Hardy's book, but ain't it all nifty! Or... Enbrethiliel, can you think of a clever way to tie this all back to the book, again?

Belfry Bat said...

(and, furthermore, I don't mind much difference, supernaturally, whether you suppose the slime of the earth was the same mud of which Babel's builders made their bricks, or looked and walked and howled like an ape).

love the girls said...

Mr. Bat,

The differences you cite are accidental differences, really no more important in the scheme of understanding mans nature than you stand here or standing there.

Your reference to slime is an equivocation because it suggests an accidental difference, whereas man because his rational is substantially different from slime.

Further, the specific difference of man is rational, i.e. a capacity that requires an immortal soul, which is why man is a new creation because otherwise the effect would be greater than the cause.

And how does it tie into the book, does it have to? Why?

love the girls said...

But if you want a tie in.

It's that the men in the story were attracted to Bathsheba for the same reason David was. And as we know, David knows Bathsheba according to only what can only be known from a distance of rooftop before he sent for her to 'know' her in the manner that men have traditionally known women.

Did David know Bathsheba other than the traditional manner prior to marriage, I doubt it.

In contrast, Gabriel does know Bathsheba prior to his knowing her, but he first needed to want to know her, which is where physical attraction of the kind David had for Bathsheba comes in. A physical attraction Sheila doesn't like because it doesn't pay enough attention to a woman's other assets, even though most men really don't look beyond a woman's twin assets.

Belfry Bat said...

What I mean by refering to obvious accidental differences among men (melanin) is exactly what you mean by refering to the attraction for men of a particular kind of shape: it is all of it acting within the flesh, as a mode of the instrumental reason which even the beasts possess. No man thinks to himself "I perceive that this woman before me is softly curved in outline, therefore I shall be attracted to her". His physico-chemical brain does all that, upon which his (ehem) rationality may perceive the emotion within him, and then choose how to act.

If you want to say "rationality" where I say "human reason", fine. I have tried to indicate how the operation and character of rationality is different from those of instrumental reason, and you have differentiated their locus of operation; fine. Are we getting somewhere?

I have no idea what you think I'm equivocating about. I'm certainly not suggesting the difference between slime and man is accidental: the same verse explicitly says that Man's living soul originates in a Divine gift. Really, you must try to impute fewer and simpler motives to my comments! But if you will balk at the notion that Man's flesh is descended from pond scum, I can but point to the scripture that says something very like that!

love the girls said...

Mr. Bat,

Fair enough, I thought your comments were directed at my reply to Sheila's arguing for man's nature being grounded in evolutionary development.

And you are correct, man's attraction to women is accidental while likewise being proper to man. What's important is that it's proper to man just as eyesight is proper to man.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila -- The possibility that Bathsheba and Gabriel's marriage might be another ticking time bomb is what made me ask the second question of this post. Yes, it makes a happy ending--but is it only happy in the way her first marriage to Troy was? We've already seen what happens when lovers get what they want, and it's not always a guarantee of marital bliss.

While I do see the evidence which Hardy gives us that this marriage will be better than the first, I'm still picking up mixed signals. Why, for instance, does the story end with a quotation from an angry prophet that "Ephraim is joined to idols"?

LTG and Bat -- The story of David and the biblical Bathsheba actually makes an excellent connection back to the book! Like the men in this novel, David had problems with his vision when he first beheld Bathsheba. While it is true (or as LTG might put it, "proper") that a man would feel attraction to a beautiful woman whom he has watched bathing, it does not follow that he is right to see another man's wife as his for the taking.

Now the question is: when David went on to choose Bathsheba to be the mother of his heir, was it in order to make a statement about God's forgiveness or because he had his own epiphany about her?

Sheila said...

Oh, I figured that line was just Joseph Poorgrass complaining (in his characteristic pious way) that Gabriel has left the bachelor brotherhood -- a "betrayal," from a bachelor's perspective.

LTG, I am not contesting that Gabriel's first attraction to Bathsheba is physical. I don't like it, but I have to accept it. (Perhaps it can be detected from my vehemence here that I am not much of a babe, and hope to be appreciated for non-physical assets. My own husband is not very "visual," thank goodness, but it seems that everyone from potential employers to other moms at the park is happy to judge me first on appearance.)

But I've been trying to get you to amend the statement of yours that women look the way we do *in order to attract men.* Can you not instead say that men are attracted to certain features *because that is the way women look.* Do you see the difference? Do you realize why the first is upsetting? Or are you going to force the rib passage of Genesis to fit your idea that everything about women was created around men -- as if the idea of Eve weren't firmly lodged in the mind of God when He made Adam?

love the girls said...


The first is correct according to nature, the second is correct according to culture.

And I'm sure your husband is as visual as any other guy and what your husband sees is alot more than you make yourself out to be.

And marrying the most attractive girl around can be a horrible error. I was engaged to a girl who was so stunning, or as a friend said to me so attractive to guys that it had to be more than looks alone, hormones or something, and I was fully captured by her charms, it also, looking back, would have been a miserable marriage.

Sheila said...

He likes how I look well enough now. But he knew how I looked for 18 months before falling for me ... that is, for my intelligence, which is what he finds most attractive about me.

Your example is a good one. Men are attracted to women's looks, but that is hardly the whole story.

Enbrethiliel said...


Before I forget again . . . I think Joseph mourning the loss of another bachelor makes sense! Their wedding party was composed entirely of men, after all, and that's likely how a few bachelors do see marriage. =)