Puritan Sunday - Sample Essay

My initial thoughts on dealing with a substantial Victorian text such as ‘Far from the madding crowd’ were mixed. I was aware that even the basics such as sentence structure would be very different they ways of modern literature. This book was written about a different world, with different words to accompany it. One must expect that this book will demand a greater level of concentration and ongoing sustained effort. Although my first thoughts were varied, I looked forward to reading something of this calibre. The title suggests a ‘want for retreat’ possibly away from the industrialisation taking over Victorian England.

This book is the first ‘Wessex’ novel, a series of books about fictional places. I feel that these names were given to create a partly mythical, vision of rural England, bringing back ideas from before the time of urbanisation, possibly showing the authors longing for a return to the world he grew up in. As a romantic novel, it contains even more of a complex relationship than a love triangle, a love square! Hardy takes to using pathetic fallacy to put across his ideas which he can relate to nature to avoid offence in Victorian England.

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Other rural writers may use it to express themselves using ideas connected with the world they know, which is nature. Chapter XIV concentrates on the repercussions on Boldwood of the receipt of a valentine card from a yet unknown admirer. With the chapter titled ‘Sunrise’ this gives us an immediate intention of what the chapter could be about, with ‘sunrise’ suggesting an awakening of new ideas, For Boldwood possibly the idea of love, which is a long forgotten concept for this seemingly confirmed ‘bachelor’.

The description of his parlour ‘Where everything which was not grave was extraneous’- told the reader that everything that wasn’t needed wasn’t there, suggesting a life of basic necessity. The atmosphere was described like that of a ‘puritan Sunday’ which lasted all week, hinting that he had no enjoyment in his life. Pathetic fallacy becomes established in this section by Boldwood’s ‘beaming fire of aged logs. ‘ Suggesting there was a long established warm and cheerful atmosphere, indicating his lifestyle has become routine but he liked the entrenched way he lived.

Reading through the valentine, he imagines the yet unknown writer, giving the reader a series of ‘sensual images’: ‘curves of the writing reflecting the female form’ her mouth ‘red or pale, plump or creased’-Almost making obvious which he prefers. We get an insight into Boldwood’s psyche, with the description of how light was ‘casting shadows in strange places and putting light where shadows used to be’. This suggests that new ideas have been highlighted in his mind, namely ideas of having that special person to share his life with.

This puts his past thoughts of being alone out of thought. This can tie in with the title ‘sunrise’, indicating the new start, awakening of ideas of new direction to his life. Boldwood notes how the ‘frost had hardened and glazed over the surface of the snow’- giving a reflection on how he has lived his life through pathetic fallacy, being cold, hard and frosty… without love. The imagery continues with ideas of the ice melting, again tying in with the title, suggesting a change. Since the receipt of the valentine Boldwood has made his move on Bathsheba, asking for her hand in marriage.

After her initial refusal, she gives him some encouragement. However she had a chance encounter with an exciting young Sergeant Troy, Who seems to be everything Boldwood isn’t. Since their in initial meeting, he advanced his pursuit of Bathsheba, inviting her to see his ‘sword practice’; the social taboo of illicit meetings of un-chaperoned couples only seems to increase her interest in this ‘Casanova’. Troy takes the place of the attractive user, the cad, in typical romantic literature.

When they do meet, in is in an isolated area, highlighting the breaking of the social taboo, going against the ideas of the church, committing great sin. This is emphasised with the title of the chapter. Hardy uses personification from the start of the chapter, with the title ‘Hollow amid the ferns’, using this to sexually symbolise the woman. We are given many other images emphasising the male/female symbolism using the female image of a ‘hollow and the ferns’ in the title, ‘their soft feathery arms caressing her’ expressing her imagined intimacy with Troy.

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