Bathsheba is decisive, brisk and businesslike whilst dealing with the paying of the farm workers in chapter 10. She is very confident; “I have formed a resolution to have no bailiff at all”. The farm workers are astonished at this; “The men expired an audible breath of amazement”. “I shall be up before you are awake, I shall be afield before you are up, and I shall have breakfasted before you are afield. In short I shall astonish you all”. This phrasing and rhythm is very strong and very convincing.
This speech again shows her confidence and her ability to cope. Bathsheba is the only female in the corn exchange (“the single one of her sex that the room contained”) but does not seem to mind. “‘Tis a handsome maid, however, and she’ll soon get picked up”. Here the people in the corn market are discussing Bathsheba and assume that she will get married and hand over the farm for her husband to get picked up. This chapter alone shows that Bathsheba has a hard task ahead of her because of the men’s views of a woman farmer.
The farm workers are convinced that she will “bring them all to the bad”. She goes against traditional ways; “Why only yesterday she cut a rasher of bacon the longways of the flitch! ” (Chapter fifteen). For the farm workers, any change is wrong. Bathsheba has a traditional man’s job. She is a woman farmer but she is not afraid to join in with the manual labour (helping with the shearing etc… ). Bathsheba is very much out of place amongst a mostly male farming community. However, she copes very well. She is a hardheaded woman.
This handicap (her sex) brings doubt and lack of faith amongst the farm workers; “Our mis’ess will bring us all to the bad”. Bathsheba is of an “impulsive nature under a deliberative aspect”. In chapter three Bathsheba leans back on her saddle in a dangerous way. She is aware of this being ambitious. She is also aware that she is acting more like a man. This action is very unladylike and was certainly not expected of a woman. In chapter six, when Gabriel has just helped put out the fire he asks: “Where is your master the farmer? ” “Tisn’t a master; ’tis a Mistress, Shepherd. ” “A woman farmer? ”
Here Gabriel immediately assumes that it is a male farmer (as would have been expected in the mid 19th Century) and when he finds out that it is a female farmer he is astonished. The very fact that there is a question mark after “A woman farmer” shows that he is not simply repeating what he has been told but he is repeating it in disbelief. In this rural community responsibilities fall into two categories: the practical responsibilities and the moral responsibilities. Oak acts as a tutor on many occasions to Bathsheba and she slowly becomes aware of her need for his aid both practically and morally.
In chapter four when Gabriel is asking Bathsheba to marry him she acts irresponsibly, firstly by running after him and secondly by leading him on and then turning him down. Bathsheba runs after Gabriel not to accept him but also not to lose him. The way Bathsheba leads Gabriel on and treats it as a game when he is proposing to her and answering his offerings by saying “Yes: I should like that” and “Dearly I should like that” shows how she is vain and unintentionally cold hearted. She would like the bride’s opportunity of showing off, but not her responsibilities.
We learn why Gabriel will not succeed with her now. He is too humble (she needs impressing) and too honest (some deception is required). When Bathsheba, as a game uses the Bible and key for the old superstitious practice of foretelling her husband. The way Bathsheba leaves it to fate is very irresponsible. She fails to consider the consequences of her actions. Whilst Bathsheba is sending the valentine Hardy goes to great extent to stress the idle off-hand way in which the card is sent; “Bathsheba, a small yawn upon her mouth, took the pen, and with off-hand serenity directed the missive to Boldwood”.
The flippant manner in which she chooses the seal is again irresponsible. The way she chooses the seal solely to upset Boldwood; “Twould upset the solemnity of a parson and clerk too” is thoughtless and she cannot comprehend that this simple valentine would spark off a long chain of events ending in death and misery. Earlier in the novel she is emotionally immature, rash, impetuous, does things on the spur of the moment etc… However, in chapter 19 we see the beginnings of Bathsheba’s maturity.
She seems sincerely sorry for the pain and anguish she has caused Boldwood and we see a greater self-awareness; “O I am wicked to have made you suffer so! ” and “Don’t say it: don’t! “. In chapter 22 Hardy is still keeping Bathsheba’s vanity before us. Here, although she is distressed by Boldwood’s torment and grief and is prepared to pay a penalty for having caused it, she is nevertheless flattered by his idolising of her and pleased with her triumph; “The situation was not without fearful joy”.
She feels proud at her noble behaviour of giving an unconditional promise of marriage. We again see her acting maturely (acknowledging the damage she has done and accepting the penalty of marriage for it). However, her meeting with Troy shows that she has quickly forgotten her speech to Boldwood and once again we see her reverting to her old immature self. Bathsheba also plays the role of the idol. Both Boldwood and Oak idolise Bathsheba (Boldwood more than Oak). In chapter 16, Bathsheba, unknowingly, is performing a role for Boldwood.
Boldwood thinks that putting Bathsheba on a pedestal and admiring her from afar is a good way of getting to know her. Unfortunately Boldwood has not the slightest idea of how to act around Bathsheba. In fact he does not even know if she is pretty or not; “Is Miss Everdene considered handsome? ” Boldwood quickly goes from being indifferent about Bathsheba to being jealous of her. In chapter 19, when Gabriel is talking to Bathsheba, he is “criticising her conduct” and almost preaching at her. She is demurring herself. She does not want her to behave the way that she is.
He wants her to stay the way that he has idolised her as. In chapter 22 when Bathsheba has nobly done her best to make amends with Boldwood, Hardy says “the pleasure she derived from the proof that she was idolised”. This extract shows two things. One is that it shows that Boldwood is idolising her and the other is that Bathsheba enjoys being idolised (vanity). Bathsheba plays the role of the flirtatious lover. This is shown when Gabriel is proposing to her and she goes along with his proposal and treats it as a game but all along she had no intention of saying yes.
Bathsheba is solely interested in Boldwood because he is not interested in her. She is slightly peeved that the most highly respected man in the parish is also the only man who does not look at her. Bathsheba gets slightly “piqued” at this (which encourages her to send the valentine). The way she tosses the hymn book and leaves it to fate if she would send the valentine to Boldwood or not suggests that she wants to send it to Boldwood to get him to notice her by effectively asking him to marry her (“marry me”); she is acting flirtatiously.