Pride and Pomposity Essay

Submitted By akav33
Words: 3119
Pages: 13

From the moment Thomas Hardy introduces Bathsheba, the protagonist in his novel Far From the Madding Crowd, her vanity controls her interactions, hampers her relationships, and defines others’ perceptions of her. The men who attempt to court Bathsheba all discover her vanity, though they react differently. Some contribute to it, and others rebuke it. Throughout the novel, Bathsheba’s vanity defines her character and influences her relationships. Husbandless, her vanity shines radiantly. It is her source of power and her leverage over the men who wish to court her. Hardy introduces Bathsheba as having “charm” and being “handsome”. (5) Bathsheba is undoubtedly beautiful, and she knows it. Almost embarrassed at first, she draws a small mirror from her pocket. As she gazes into it, “she blushed at herself, and seeing her reflection blush, blushed the more.” (6) Even while she is alone and seemingly unnoticed, she is arrogant. In its earliest stages, Bathsheba’s self-appreciation is simply a personal flaw. She does not use the vanity against anyone. She sees how beautiful she is and embraces it. Her timidness while taking out the mirror demonstrates how mild this problem was initially. At this point, she is only concerned with her own beauty, and she doesn’t realize the potential effects it has on those around her.
This simple vanity grew, however. When the vanity is suddenly targeted at others, it is no longer a personal matter. She realizes the power that it gives her over others, and she uses her beauty to manipulate people. When Bathsheba inherits a farm and a certain amount of wealth, she is faced with the challenge of managing them without any experience whatsoever in the fields. But, because she is arrogant, she ignores the experienced laborers and scolds them for not following her directions. Noticing her vanity, one of the laborers points out that Bathsheba is “a headstrong maid- that’s what she is- and won’t listen to any advice at all.” (16) He also warns against her temperament by relating that “pride and vanity have ruined many a cobbler’s dog.” (16) This laborer’s description accurately portrays Bathsheba’s stubbornness. She begins to let the money and the beauty get to her head. She has developed a sense in her mind that she is now better than everyone else. She owns land, she is gorgeous, and she is rich. Despite all the commodities, the laborer also predicts her downfall. Hardy use of foreshadowing reveals that the vanity will indeed spread and become dangerous. Her realization that her beauty can be used as a weapon starts an unrelenting series of events that do ultimately lead to destruction and tragedy. Gabriel Oak, a humble bailiff and suitor of Bathsheba, is the only one who sees through her mask of arrogance. Throughout the novel, he represents the only alternative to her demise. He offers her genuine love when no one else comes close. He desperately wants to draw her away from her constant manipulation of others. He treats her with friendship and respect, but she is blinded by her own arrogance and ignores him. Upon first seeing Bathsheba, “Gabriel, perhaps a little piqued by the comely traveler’s indifference, glanced back to where he had witnessed her performance over the hedge, and said, ‘Vanity.’” (7) Gabriel was quick to notice her major flaw, but unlike the others, he yearned to help her. This realization is crucial in Gabriel’s potential to rescue her from herself. The vanity is indeed pivotal in her demise. She pushes away her best chance for recovery in Gabriel. Yet, the fact that Gabriel continues to fight for her, despite this recognition of her faults, shows that there is hope. Hardy uses the name Gabriel to suggest that amongst the chaos of the upcoming events, there is one man who will remain Bathsheba’s “guardian angel.” When the two eventually meet, Bathsheba’s pride slips between them immediately. Gabriel, in an act of sheer admiration, offers to pay a