Thomas Hardy is not my favorite author, because most of his characters are unrelatable. I don’t just mean that I don’t know what it feels like to be a shepherd (though this is true), but because the emotions and reactions to situations were so disconnected to what I would do.
This problem is particularly evident in the beautiful Bathsheba Everdene, who vacillates from being the clever, strong woman of means that every man adores, to a weak, undecided, irrational servant of her own emotions. It was as if the character of Bathsheba took on a life of her own against Hardy’s will, and he felt the need to inflict all the negative stereotypes of women on her in order to control her. The problem with this characterization is it isn’t stable. Hardy tries to have it both ways: he makes a great assertive character, someone who is lovable because she is strong and independent and fiery, in order to make it believable that all these men would fall in love with her. But then he turns around and makes her needy, passive, compliant, so that she isn’t completely “out of their league.” Because face it, all three men are boring compared to Bathsheba.