Bathsheba Everdene and the most dangerous Valentine’s card in English Literature
One of the most complicated love stories in English literature revolves around Bathsheba Everdene, from Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd (1874) and the three very different men who love her. Bathsheba is a beautiful, independent farm owner; determined to make it alone in a man’s world – which the men in her life found very attractive! Unfortunately, her free spirit also causes pain and suffering and makes true love very difficult to find.
First she refuses the marriage proposal of Gabriel Oak, a sensible sheep farmer, who she later employs to work on her farm when he loses his own sheep. Oak knows she is too rich for him but remains in love with her and does all he can to help her. Meanwhile, Bathsheba is intrigued by her wealthy, middle aged neighbour, Mr Boldwood. When he doesn’t pay her any attention she is annoyed and sends him a Valentine’s card saying ‘Marry me!’ She sends the card as a joke, without realising the profound effect it will have on him, and this is when the problems start. He becomes obsessed with her and proposes marriage. She obviously says no.
With both Boldwood and Oak in love with her, Bathsheba falls for Frank Troy, a handsome but unreliable soldier. She is swept off her feet when Troy kisses her, something that the other two were never brave enough to do. But this is just the beginning of the complicated story. Bathsheba’s Valentine’s card joke taught her that playing with feelings can have serious consequences, but it is her experience of passion, betrayal and loss that teaches her what true love really is.