Almost all the heroines of Hardy are quite charming and beautiful. Bathsheba is also no exception to this general rule. When Gabriel meets Bathsheba, Hardy describes her appearance very graphically. This description gives us a complete pictorial assessment of Bathsheba’s physical features. “The adjustment of Gabriel’s hazy conceptions of her charms to the portrait of herself. She now presented him which was less a miniature than a difference. The starting point selected by the judgment was her height. She seemed tall, but the pail was small one: and the hedge diminutive; hence, making allowance for error by comparison with these she could have been not above the height to be chosen by women as best. All features of consequence were severe and regular. It may have been observed by persons who go about the Shires with eyes for beauty that in English women a classically formed face is seldom found to be united with a figure of the same pattern, the highly finished feature as being generally too large for the remainder of the frame; that a graceful and proportionate figure of eight heads usually goes off into random facial curves. Without throwing a Nymphean tissue over a milkmaid, let it be said that here criticism checked itself as out of place, and looked at her proportions with a long consciousness of pleasure. From the contours of her figure in her upper part she must have had a beautiful neck and shoulders but since her infancy nobody had ever seen them. Had she been put into a low dress she would have run and thrust her head into a bush. Yet she was not a shy girl by any means; It was merely her instinct to draw the line dividing the seen from the unseen higher than they do it in towns.”
It is on account of her physical charm that she is courted and pursued by Oak, Boldwood and Troy.
From a close study of the character of Bathsheba it is clear that she is a very passionate Woman. Pointing out this quality Cyril Aldred says, “Like most of Hardy’s great characters, however, she is fundamentally a passionate creature; and the essential woman is seen in her when she demands of Troy the attentions he is giving to the corpse of Fanny. With a morbid dread of being thought a gushing girl, this guileless woman too well concealed under a manner of carelessness the warm depths of her own emotions.” Her lack of guidance is the chief cause of her indecision, and there is significance in her statement that she wants somebody to time her. External forces eventually sober her high-spirited nature, and then her resolution becomes the dominant part of her character. It is at this point that we may say with Hardy that she was of the stuff of which great men’s mothers are made. It is clear that from the very beginning Bathsheba fascinated every man that came into her contact. On the first day of her arrival at Weatherbury the nature of Bathsheba has been described by Hardy in the following words:
“There was no necessity whatever for her looking in the glass. She did not adjust her hat, or put her hair, or press a dimple into shape, or do one thing to signify that any sub-intention had been her motive in taking up the glass. She simply observed herself as a fair product of Nature in the feminine kind, her thoughts seeming to glide into far-off though likely dramas in which men would play a part-vista of probable triumphs – the smiles being of a phase, suggesting that hearts were imagined as lost and won.”
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It is on account of the physical charm that Gabriel Oak falls in love with Bathsheba at first sight. When Boldwood meets her he is equally attracted by her physical graces.
As a farmer, on her farm, Bathsheba is a very strong worker. She works hard to supervise the labourers. In every agricultural operation she is deeply interested. She takes care to supervise almost all the activities on the farm. The ordinary rustics working on her farm are under her direct control. The women workers are quite affectionately dealt with. Thus, her nature as a farmer is beyond any question.
Many critics have levelled charge of flirtation or faithlessness against Bathsheba. She first encouraged Gabriel Oak to love her. When in a sudden impulse she wrote a love letter to Boldwood and he was always under the impression that Bathsheba would marry him. When Troy appeared on the scene, she was very much attracted by his refined and attractive manners. Again one can say that she was not true to Boldwood. Boldwood tried his utmost to convince Bathsheba that he was her true lover.
In order to avoid the knowledge of her marriage with Troy she left the Weatherbury farm and went to Bath. There she married Troy clandestinely. When she came back to the farm in the company of Troy, her workers, Gabriel and Boldwood came to know about the secret marriage with Troy.
All these shifting acts of Bathsheba give the readers the impression that she was a flirt and faithless woman. But this is a very superficial view of her character. If we watch the actions of Bathsheba from the beginning to the end, we can say that she was in the grip of the instincts of love. Her nature was very whimsical, that is, why she does not stick to one lover. She is the greatest sufferer for her faults. Ultimately, she has to marry Gabriel after the death of Troy and the imprisonment of Boldwood. Thus we can say that Bathsheba is an impulsive woman as most of the heroines of Hardy are. The opinion of Duffin on the character of Bathsheba is worth noting:
“Here is Bathsheba, a sane, strong, successful woman: in her way comes Troy, whom any man knows to be a dirty scoundrel, the moment he sets eyes on him; she is at once attracted, and with little difficulty wooed and won. The explanation lies in the personal attitude that a woman generally takes on questions of ethics. The man’s behaviour is obviously offensive, but it apparently proceeds from admiration of Bathsheba’s person; therefore it is praiseworthy. He gives evidence of no solid qualities makes indeed, little attempt to hide qualities of a very different order: but women are capable of the most astonishing errors in the judging of men: so although Oak and Boldwood went in silent greatness, this tinsel and tin soldier carries the day. It is as distressing a picture of feminine folly as one may well desire, and the most distressing thing about it is that the picture is absolutely true to life. Never was the ruthless veracity of Hardy’s character-drawing made more plainly manifest.”