Elfride Swancourt - Sample Essay
What is revealed about the character of Elfride Swancourt in chapters VI-X ? Throughout the novel Elfride is viewed through the eyes of those around her Hardy uses them to put across his ideas on the nature of women, by making the thoughts, dialogues and descriptions, a representation to his thoughts and ideas. It is hard to distinguish whether his thoughts on Elfride represent Elfride’s character or the traits of all women in the novel and in the society of that era. At the beginning of chapter six we are at the residence of Lord Luxellian.
Elfride, Stephen and Mr. Swancourt are checking the house. The first time we see Elfride’s thoughts are when she sees Stephen kissing another woman on the lawn. The quotation “Her unpracticed thoughts were occupied… ” is a prime example of Hardy’s use of adjectives to describe Elfride’s nature. The word “unpracticed” implies that her mind is unused and distracted, and also that her mind is not developed as of yet and this symbolises her immaturity. Elfride’s thoughts move on “Elfride at once assumed that she could not be an inferior”.
In this quotation she makes a comparison of class between herself and Stephen. She regards herself as superior to Stephen, but only due to her father’s wealth. After Elfride has had these thoughts she is puzzled then later, she becomes vexed through “her natural sequence of girlish sensations”. This once again exhibits her immaturity as “girlish” means she is childish. Elfride’s feelings are very mercurial. Elfride tests her superiority when Stephen offers to take her hand when they are walking: “she considered her array of feelings.
She was determined to punish Stephen. ” She wants to punish Stephen for not telling her about the kiss on the lawn and when she rejects his arm she expects him to know why, almost as if she is playing a game with him. But then, she says “on second thoughts I will take it. ” This creates the effect that she has grown up and sees that she is being treated like a woman, which her father has obviously never done. In this chapter we see that Elfride’s childishness has been brought about by lack of exposure to the real world, and through living in a small village.
At the beginning of chapter seven, Stephen is inspecting the dilapidated church that has brought him to Endlestow. He then goes to the house of Elfride for the evening. He spends most of his time “chatting” to Mr. Swancourt but he also plays chess with Elfride. She soon perceives that he is a learner, by watching the way he moves his pieces. Elfride is then considerate and almost pitiful for Stephen in the way she allows him to win, but he can see through her act, and on later realisation she says: “… I could not, upon my conscience win a victory… over one who fought at such a disadvantage…
” It is as if she is condescending him indicating that he is inferior to her. This is Hardy’s portrayal of her arrogance. When she does admit to Stephen that she let him win, she was in no way subtle and so shatters Stephen’s pride. She again treats him with disrespect when she says, “Fancy a man not able to ride” and again in no way sympathetic or shrewd in her words. Later in the chapter, she reinforces her supremacy by ordering Stephen “imperatively” to watch her earrings that are “liable to fall off. … Keep your eyes fixed on them”. When Elfride humiliates Stephen, he feels the need for self-improvement.
He says “I will learn riding, and all connected with it because then you would like me better… ” which gives the reader the impression that Stephen is striving for Elfride’s attention through flattery. After they have been riding for a while they stop and kiss and we find that they are both unpracticed in love. “I was told by my friend Knight that that [kissing badly] is an excellent fault in a woman” referring to Elfride, this is also a reflection on him as this is not his own view but that of a friend. She later plainly asks. “What did you love me for? ” This shows her simple mind and her truth searching characteristics.
Stephen answers her question by telling her it was for her good looks as he thinks women to be vain. We then unearth that she loved him for being “docile and gentle” but he is dissatisfied with this comment but is still willing to marry her. Hardy then sets up the story line for later in the novel by making a reference to the “Court of King Arthur’s Castle” the novel written by Elfride. Elfride then tests his love for her by asking who he would rather save, herself or Knight (Stephen’s good friend and tutor). We are shown again her playful side when she says ” ‘And let him drown.
Come on or you don’t love me! ‘ she teasingly went on… ” Hardy uses the adverb “teasingly” to imply that anything she says is not real and not as important as anything Stephen says. When he has given in to her, “a woman’s flush of triumph lit her eyes. ” This once again indicates that Elfride is playing a game with Elfride. But this “triumph” maybe Elfride confirming their mutual love. In Chapter eight we find out about Stephen’s background but there is first a reference to the missing earrings after Stephen has been out looking for it: “Never mind though I am much vexed; they are my prettiest.
” This quotation is an indication of Elfride’s vanity as she is more interested because they were her “prettiest” and not their sentimental value. It is possible to read deeper into this as Elfride may be hiding her true feelings as she is trying to conceal the truth about her previous lover. Elfride is still very suspicious of the kiss she witnessed earlier and so she inquires abruptly “Has your trouble anything to do with the kiss on the lawn? ” At first, Stephen denies but then he realises that Elfride deserves the truth, and asks her “Elfie, will you love me in spite of everything that maybe said against me?
” Elfride’s intuition tells her that there is something wrong “O Stephen what makes you repeat that so continually and so sadly? ” Elfride then inquisitively unravels Stephen’s secret, that his family live in the parish of Mr. Swancourt. The reason for Stephen’s confession is that he has proposed to Elfride but her father has not blessed it. Elfride soon enough feels that her father will not let them wed but this may be because she has her own doubts about marrying Stephen. Her erratic nature is shown again when he asks her if she had any previous lovers.
She replies “only one” and that “he loved her much more than she loved him”, in which case she has no real idea of what love is. In chapter nine, Elfride and Stephen tell Mr. Swancourt of their plans for marriage and of Stephens family. At the beginning of the chapter Hardy writes “Women except their destiny more readily then men. ” This is the key to Elfride’s character as she is often driven more by desire than thought and logic, just as how she has readily accepted Stephen’s offer of marriage.
Elfride is collecting something from her father and there with him, is Mr.Martin Cannister, she describes him: “He had shrewd small eyes and a great wealth of double chin, which compensated in some measure for considerable poverty of nose. ” In this quotation it is hard to substantiate whether Hardy is making a judgement on the nature of women or just Elfride, in that everything refers to facial features and wealth. Elfride’s character contrasts with her father as she notices physical appearance and he notices status.
Mr. Swancourt and Cannister discuss John Smith and ironically, Mr.Swancourt thinks of him highly but he not so highly enough to be part of his family. When Elfride pleas to her father all her thoughts come out, through her emotional rage. She tells her father that she does not want to marry him until he is richer which is another reference to her interest in wealth. She then argues with her father over the engagement. She puts it to her father as if she is defending him, she uses her skills of rhetoric effectively but is broken down by emotion and frustration as “she bursts into tears.
” Her arguments and comments are valid but her father is as stubborn as she is and because she is emotionally weak, she cannot hold her argument. In chapter ten, Stephen reports to his mother and father that he has told the Swancourts the truth, about his family. His mother and father are at ease, and proud of their son for being honest. Stephen contemplates leaving Endlestow to earn money but Elfride is unhappy with this and tries to persuade him to stay with her. He argues that once he has worked to make a name for himself her father will allow their marriage but she disagrees and believes that “…now is as good a time as any! ” She then argues that other women will seduce him but he declines this argument.
This may have been said because if Stephen is not around to be a constant reminder of their love then she might go a stray as she later does. Her arguments are passionate as Elfride seems to be really speaking from her heart. Throughout the text Elfride is viewed and assessed by the reader. We can conclude that Hardy’s views of women are in some cases portrayed in the character of Elfride.
Hardy sees women as objects of desire by men, as Elfride is seen by Stephen. Her character is playful seeing that the world is a game. She is very simple and takes things at face value although she is able to delve deeper in arguments. Her nature is very whimsical and spontaneous as she takes what she wants because she is so desirous. Although she is nai?? ve, she is inquisitive. It is quite obvious that these characteristics do not always refer to all women but are just a few that Hardy dwells on to portray Elfride.