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Archived Group Reads 2016 > FFTMC - Week 5

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message 1: by Rose (new)

Rose Rocha dos Santos (roserocha) | 33 comments Hi, everyone!

This week's reading is about: Chapter 39 (Coming home: a cry) - Chapter 48 (Doubts arise: doubts linger).

From chapter 48:
" 'Fearful did you say?' Boldwood wished to get more involved in talk without seeming to attempt it."

Some would say this is an instance of Boldwood’s latent psychosis. Do you agree?


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter In earlier posts I have mentioned that I found Hardy's style somewhat episodic and uneven. This section of writing has completely changed my mind.

I found the description, style and power of Ch XXXIX truly remarkable. The trials of Fanny Robbin's journey are mirrored through Hardy's use of his sentences. Longer sentences of mood are linked by short, terse sentences that create a feeling of urgency. Hardy's use of the comma establishes pauses, halts, hesitations in Fanny's journey. Masterful work.

For instance, we have Fanny counting the distance posts. Short brisk sentences that serve to tire us, followed by the evocative word "crawled" and then a sentence that literally takes our breath away.

She passed five more.
"It lies only five further."
She passed five more.
"But it is five further."
She passed them.
"The end of these railings is the end of my journey," she said, when the end was in view.
She crawled to the end. During the effort each breath of the woman went into the air as if never to return again.

If we look at this chapter we notice that Hardy never identifies the female traveller as Fanny. The word "she" is repeatedly used, and other words are "wayfarer," "woman" and even "panting heap of clothes." The lack of a specific identifying name suggests how her individuality of person has been replaced by a generic impersonal pronoun. Fanny has no individual value anymore. The one friend that Fanny did find on this journey was another wayward traveller, a dog, who helps her on her way.

There is a bitter and poignant ending to this chapter. At the door of the poorhouse Fanny is described, as I mentioned above, as a "panting heap of clothes." The word panting is de-humanizing. It suggests an animal. When asked how Fanny reached the poorhouse door she replies "There is a dog outside ... . Where is he gone? He helped me."
"I stoned him away, " said the man.

Fanny is symbolically linked to the dog both in the action of "panting" and in fact of how the dog acted as her crutch and guide.

That the dog was "stoned ... away" brings to this chapter's close a force of style and allusion that demonstrates Hardy's power as a writer.


message 3: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 499 comments The chapter "On Casterbridge Highway" is indeed compelling and worthy of study. I like your comments, Peter, and I wanted to add this. Related to the "feel of urgency" are the hints of Death. The sound of a clock is thinning (dying), the bark of a fox has the tempo of a funeral bell. Fanny refers to her destination as "my resting place", "the longed for spot", and "the end of my journey", all synonyms for the grave. The actual building is "a mere case for people" (coffin). A pall hangs over our reading, even as we tire with every step.


message 4: by Peter (new)

Peter Linda wrote: "The chapter "On Casterbridge Highway" is indeed compelling and worthy of study. I like your comments, Peter, and I wanted to add this. Related to the "feel of urgency" are the hints of Death. The s..."

Yes, Linda

We could study "On Casterbridge Highway" as a stand-alone chapter for a week. For me, it was a masterful chapter. Thank you for further expanding our appreciation of it.


message 5: by Peter (new)

Peter Ch. 40 offers another unpleasant insight into the character of Troy. His apparent love for Bathsheba has dwindled into a cruel, insensitive place. Hardy tells us that he "did not love [Bathsheba] enough to allow himself to be carried too far by her ways." When he then comments to Bathsheba that all romances " end at marriage" and then Bathsheba sees the coil of light hair in his watch case the final stake is driven into her heart.

I found the manner in which Fanny's body was to be returned to the churchyard to be very powerful. Bathsheba's insistence that Fanny's body be brought home in a"pretty waggon " rather than an "ugly hearst" and that the wagon should be covered in evergreens and flowers demonstrates that Bathsheba is capable of kindness and sensitivity while under severe personal stress.

The title Far from the Madding Crowd comes from Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard." In this poem is found one of the most profound poems in English Literature that celebrates the common person. ( Well, in my opinion, anyway :-))).

If anyone has an interest in reading the poem and joining in on our study of this poem simply go to the Poetry Corner of Victorians! and join us.


message 6: by Diane (new)

Diane | 152 comments Hardy is the master at depicting unhappiness and misery. I can't think of anyone better.


message 7: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 923 comments Diane wrote: "Hardy is the master at depicting unhappiness and misery. I can't think of anyone better."

He's also a master in describing nature. It really becomes part of the story instead of just a backdrop.


message 8: by Frances (new)

Frances (francesab) | 296 comments I agree, Peter, that Troy's treatment of Bathsheba is surprisingly cruel-he wakes up to the realization that he married the wrong woman, then blames and deeply wounds Bathsheba despite the fact that he had been so forward in wooing her. There are definitely parallels to Bathsheba's relationship with Boldwood-she had played a childish prank of flirting, only to awaken an unexpectedly strong passion in him, which parallels her reaction to Troy.

Was anyone else shocked by the depths of feelings expressed by Troy for Fanny? From the sections in which we see the 2 of them together earlier I didn't get the impression that Troy cared for Fanny at all. Even when he came to the church to marry her, I assumed that she was pregnant and he was doing it out of a sense of obligation and was relieved when she didn't show up (or arrived late). Was he surprised that she had a child? It wasn't clear to me.


message 9: by Peter (new)

Peter Frances

I, too, was confused and surprised about the depth of Troy's feelings towards Fanny. Troy seemed to be to a brash and rather self-centred man. His drunken post-wedding celebration with the farmhands as the weather turns worse acts as a grand bit of foreshadowing of his forthcoming married life with Bathsheba. I cannot, however, find any corresponding scene where Hardy shows a corresponding scene where the essence and depth of feeling that Troy has for Fanny occurs.

The three men that court Bathsheba are very different in personality yet Hardy develops their motivations as well. The relationship and depth of passion that Troy apparently has for Fanny remains somewhat a mystery. Perhaps Hardy wants us to understand that there are times that lovers and the depths of their emotions bubble to the surface of their understanding in very different ways and different times.


message 10: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 499 comments In the chapter New Acquaintance Described, Hardy says that Troy had only two ways of dealing with women, flattery or cursing. His relationship with Bathsheba. I imagine his relationship with Fanny as equally shallow. I don't believe any of his professions of love for her. After all, he could have rescued her, a weak dying pregnant woman, on the road to Casterbridge.


message 11: by Peter (new)

Peter Linda wrote: "In the chapter New Acquaintance Described, Hardy says that Troy had only two ways of dealing with women, flattery or cursing. His relationship with Bathsheba. I imagine his relationship with Fanny ..."

Hi Linda

Yes. Unravelling Troy is a fascinating problem. To what extent do you see Troy's words and actions regarding Fanny as an act rather than a true revelation into his heart? I wonder why Troy would have a lock of Fanny's hair in his watch, and not Bathsheba's.

I can offer only guesses for my above questions. Perhaps Bathsheba was more of a conquest than an emotional attraction? There is no question that Fanny was treated horribly by Troy, both because we know she is carrying his child and because we know he treated her horribly when she was in need.

How much of an act did Troy put on upon learning about Fanny's death? In this week's final commentary we will be able to open up our speculations somewhat.



message 12: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte (charlottecph) | 271 comments My conclusion was that Troy gave up on Fanny because of lack of finances and he thought it was impossible to lead a life together based on love only. He must have been attracted to Bathsheba because of her money.


message 13: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte (charlottecph) | 271 comments I thought Hardy did a brilliant job in the way Troy was taken off the scene: the marriage with Bathsheba went sour - Troy travelling one way and Fanny in the coffin travelling the other way - how his connection with her was revealed - how the burial progressed - how he ran away and ended up convieniently lost and reluctant to come back. I was thrilled with those chapters!

Oak was exceptionally patient during all the months with Troy and the time after. He is never bitter.


message 14: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 499 comments Peter: re the question: Why did Troy have a lock of Fanny's hair...? I have a theory: Troy only did it for show, to further his possession of Fanny, either before Bathsheba, or after his marriage when Fanny was jealous.


message 15: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 499 comments Charlotte: re Troy's motive for marrying Bathsheba, not Fanny: I hadn't thought of the money angle until you mentioned it, but I like it. Especially when I think of his habit of betting on horse races.


message 16: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 131 comments The comment about the dog being stoned away hit me hard. It seemed more poignant than most of the tragedies in the book. There is so much of the absurd in most of what happens, it's tragicomedy. Like the gargoyle washing the grave away. Fanny Robin's journey and death, on the other hand, are pure tragedy.

Things seem to go a bit crazy whenever Bathsheba and her people get involved. The wagon is decked out with flowers, but the driver goes on a drinking binge, also humorously detailed. The burial likewise, decked out with flowers but then ruined.

Re: Troy's motivation for marrying Bathsheba. Her money and property was probably a bonus that added to the attraction. But Troy strikes me as an unsympathetic version of Bathsheba. They both act on a whim. Fanny had left him, he says. (Why? What happened there? She was pregnant. Did she know at the time they almost got married? How many months have passed?) He fell for Bathsheba, decided to conquer, succeeded. He must have known that it's one thing to dally with a servant, like Fanny, and another to seduce a land owner like Bathsheba. He had to marry her to get anywhere, and as he is described as someone who lives in the moment.


message 17: by Peter (last edited Jun 22, 2016 04:47PM) (new)

Peter Linda wrote: "Peter: re the question: Why did Troy have a lock of Fanny's hair...? I have a theory: Troy only did it for show, to further his possession of Fanny, either before Bathsheba, or after his marriage w..."

Hi Linda

The locket of hair certainly does give us insight into Troy's character, forms a link into Hardy's use of symbolism and also offers an insight into a common Victorian custom.

Earlier in the novel while Troy is courting Bathsheba he gives her a demonstration of his sword skills where he both cuts off a lock of her hair and then pierces a spider that is in front of Bathsheba's breast. When we read the revelation scene of Bathsheba seeing a lock of Fanny's hair in Troy's watch case there is the realization that being in possession of a woman's hair seems to be a habit of Troy's. Symbolically, I see the locks of hair to represent his possession of, and dominance over, both Fanny and Bathsheba. That Troy would still carry a lock of Fanny's hair after his marriage to Bathsheba suggests that while he is married to one woman he still has deep-seeded feelings for another woman we know about in his life. The fact that both locks of hair would have been snipped, cut or slashed off both woman's heads leads us to further understand his character as well as, I would suggest, add a certain sexual suggestion to the novel.

As strange as it may seem to our 21C ideas, the Victorians quite commonly would use their hair, or more commonly another's hair, as an ornament or token of attachment that would be kept unseen within a locket, watch or the like, or, as commonly, woven into a bracelet to be worn on a person's wrist.

Many people still do keep hair, baby booties and the like today as tokens and attachments to our families. I confess to having kept some artwork that once was hung proudly on our fridge painted by our children in a box. After my mother's passing some years ago I found my mother had also been an "art collector"of my early years. I never knew she was during her lifetime.


message 18: by Peter (last edited Jun 21, 2016 08:19AM) (new)

Peter Linda wrote: "Peter: re the question: Why did Troy have a lock of Fanny's hair...? I have a theory: Troy only did it for show, to further his possession of Fanny, either before Bathsheba, or after his marriage w..."

Hi again Linda

The Wilkie Collins novel Hide and Seek uses as a central part of its story a bracelet made of hair. The story revolves around (and I'm sorry for the awful comment to come :-)) ) unravelling the mystery of whose hair it is that comprises the bracelet ... which explains the title of the novel.

This Collins novel is not of the quality of The Moonstone or The Woman in White. In fact, I would imagine the best place to find it quickly would be gutenburg.com. There would be some who would say that the novel should remain obscure.


message 19: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 499 comments Peter wrote: "Linda wrote: "Peter: re the question: That Troy would still carry a lock of Fanny's hair after his marriage to Bathsheba suggests that while he is married to one woma he still has deep-seeded feelings for another woman we know about in his life. .."

The fact that Troy, as you point out, carries a symbol of his possession of Fanny while he is married to (and thus possesses)Bathsheba reminds me of that quote that was posted earlier about acting one way and thinking of dinner instead. It's as if he is always false at the same time he is avowing something.


message 20: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 499 comments Thanks, Peter, for the heads-up about the Collins novel. I can see why it is obscure.


message 21: by Kerstin, Moderator (last edited Jun 22, 2016 03:43PM) (new)

Kerstin | 576 comments Mod
Every time we meet Fanny she is outdoors. She is always on the outside, in isolation from the rest of the community. First she is running away under the cover of night when Gabriel happens upon her.
When she throws stones at Troy's window it is dark again, and at the garrison she has no entry.
The next day she is shut out yet again. This time due to her own error in not meeting up with Troy at the right church. Though if Troy had really loved her, which due to his self-absorbed nature he is incapable of, he would have forgiven her and the nuptials would have taken place.
Months later she is alone on the road trying to get to the poorhouse. Troy happens to pass her and he leaves her to her own devices even though her dire situation must have been unmistakable. He is incapable of helping anyone in need, even a former lover. Saving face with Bathsheba has precedence.
She makes it to the poorhouse and is taken in -- only to die and her baby with her. She leaves no legacy.
Joseph Poorgrass is tasked to transport Fanny's remains and her child's to the churchyard. A thick fog rolls in, obscuring all shapes and forms. Hardy's masterful description of the stillness of the surroundings and dripping moisture give it an eerie, other-worldy hue, a foretaste of the imminent interment. Even on her last journey she is isolated.
Joseph decides to fortify himself at the pub having just experienced this eerie ride, and after much inebriated talk over the differences in religion, he says,

But she's dead, and no speed of ours will bring her to life. The woman's past us— time spent upon her is throwed away: why should we hurry to do what's not required?

But he is wrong, the corporal works of mercy require that the dead are buried. Fanny is again pushed aside.

Much later, Troy's spectacle over Fanny's death is almost comical if it weren't so tragic. He showers emotions over the body while deeply insulting his wife. After the burial he plants flowers on her grave. Yet his work and the emotions he invested will not survive the night in an act of poetic justice by a downpour and the spout of a gargoyle.

Everything Troy touches becomes diminished or dies. Fanny and the child he sired die. His marriage to Bathsheba deteriorates rapidly after the conquest was made. He is in a drunken stupor when Gabriel and Bathsheba save the harvest from the incoming storm. Even the flowers he planted become uprooted. It is again Gabriel and Bathsheba who replant.


message 22: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 131 comments Very nice analysis, Kerstin! I hadn't thought of Fanny always being outdoors, outside, separated. But you're quite right. Her place of burial too is behind the church, away from where "proper" folk were buried.

I have just noticed another difference between the penguin edition and the free online edition, but this time it isn't the penguin edition that is lacking. My e-book doesn't have the description of Fanny and child in the coffin. It has left out a full page, from the paragraph with the little verse about "A nameless piece of babyhood", and picks up again where her "head sank upon her bosom". It also doesn't show the horse tracks from when Oak tracks the presumed gypsy horse thief.


message 23: by Peter (new)

Peter Kerstin wrote: "Every time we meet Fanny she is outdoors. She is always on the outside, in isolation from the rest of the community. First she is running away under the cover of night when Gabriel happens upon her..."

Hi Kerstin

I echo Leni's comments. Your ideas and insights are spot on. Like Leni, I missed the fact that Fanny is always seen outdoors and seemingly shut out from both buildings and caring human contact. The stone thrown at the dog now becomes, in my mind at least, even more powerful and symbolic. Thank you.


message 24: by Peter (new)

Peter Leni wrote: "Very nice analysis, Kerstin! I hadn't thought of Fanny always being outdoors, outside, separated. But you're quite right. Her place of burial too is behind the church, away from where "proper" folk..."

It is apparent from your discovery and earlier discussion of this novel that FFTMC has many different variants of publication. I'm guessing each reflects the early days and decisions made during its early publication format(s).

Clearly, some heavy hands somewhere ...


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