As Fanny Robin does not appear very often throughout the novel and because the events in which she is involved would not at first appear significant for the reader, she would therefore not appear to be a main character in Far From The Madding Crowd, although as the novel progresses, we can see that she is in fact very important in the plot and has several functions throughout the novel: she is used by Hardy to create drama in the plot and create a sense of tension and suspense; she highlights the different sides of the nature of the other main characters in the novel, and helps to develop a reader’s opinion about these characters.
Frances Troy in particular; along with Bathsheba, Fanny also allows Hardy to focus on social attitudes towards women; finally, she is an example of how fate and chance affect the characters throughout the plot and so helps Hardy to present one of the main themes of the novel.
Fanny Robin’s first and most obvious role in the novel is to enable Hardy to create a feeling of suspense and drama for the reader in some sections of the plot. When Fanny is first introduced into the plot, there is a lot of tension and drama in Weatherbury which is caused by her disappearance and the consequent search for her. When Joseph Poorgrass says “What a night of horrors! I’ve heard the news-bells ringing quite bad enough for murder, and I’ve seen a magpie all alone! ” and then goes on to talk about Fanny’s disappearance, shows a reader that the people of Weatherbury are concerned as to her whereabouts and this makes a reader wonder what has happened to her.
The fact that she left without any indication as to where she was going makes a reader curious about the circumstances surrounding her disappearance and this creates interest for the reader. When the farm workers are saying “Oh – ’tis burned – ’tis burned! ” and “No – ’tis drowned! ” and “Or ’tis her father’s razor! ” as they discuss the cause of Fanny’s disappearance also adds to the reader’s interest as to what has happened to her. Again, when we are told that Fanny has gone missing from the farm, we are not told that she is the same girl that Farmer Oak had encountered by the side of the road so, although we learn of this later in the novel, the fact that Hardy has kept her identity secret adds to the atmosphere of tension and suspense which Hardy is building up in relation to Fanny towards the start of the novel.
When Oak and Fanny meet by the side of the road, Fanny tells Oak to “let you having seen me be a secret” which again makes a reader curious as to why she would want their meeting to be kept secret. The mystery surrounding her earlier is made even more intense by her not showing up for the wedding. The heavy silence in the church as Troy is waiting for her adds to the tension which is already surrounding her character, so, although Fanny hasn’t appeared very often at this stage in the novel, a reader is already getting an impression of how the situations in which she is involved are very melodramatic. Another role for Fanny Robin is to expose specific aspects of other characters in the novel, especially Troy.
Her function for Hardy is to reveal to the reader different aspects of Troy’s nature, and to highlight his bad points and therefore present him in a negative view for the reader. However, Troy is not the only character with which Hardy uses Fanny to expose different sides of their characters. Gabriel Oak initially appears to be very solitary and self sufficient as we are told he lives alone on his farm where he looks after his sheep and makes a living from this. However, when he sees Fanny by the side of the road, he greets her, although he doesn’t know her, and then is sympathetic when she asks him for help, “she seemed won by his heartiness”, and the fact the he offers Fanny all his spare change shows how kind and generous he is.
Also, when Fanny asks him to “let your having seen me be a secret”, the fact that he does never does tell anyone this, shows how he is very trustworthy, which contrasts with Troy’s character. The way that Troy treated Fanny before his relationship with Bathsheba shows that Troy is superficial and the way he dismisses Fanny when she comes to see him at the barracks shows this. It is obvious that Fanny is in love with Troy, as she tells him this directly, “Frank I love you so. ” Also, the fact that she walked most of the way to the barracks from Casterbridge shows how much she loves him but instead of sympathy for Fanny, Troy’s first thought is “well, you have to get some proper clothes.
” Later in the novel, we see again how superficial Troy is when he says to Boldwood “I like Fanny best, but she’s only a servant. ” This shows how important status within the community is to Troy because he has no living relatives so there is no pressure from family to marry well. The way Troy treats Fanny also begins to show his underlying character. When Fanny is discovered to have run away to find her lover, Bathsheba says “any lover of hers might have come to the house if he had been a respectable lad. ” This is beginning to establish Troy’s true nature for the reader and to show early on the flaws in Troy’s character. Hardy could have done this arguably to forewarn a reader of how Troy would be in his relationship with Bathsheba.
At the church, his pride prevented him from just accepting Fanny’s mistake in the name of the churches – an easy mistake to make given that the names of the churches were All Saints’ and All Souls’ – whereas he could have just simply married her the next day. When Fanny asks him about setting another date for the wedding, he says to her “I don’t want to go through that experience again for some time, I warrant you! ” This shows as well his shallowness as he cared more about his hurt ego than for Fanny. This event foreshadows Troy’s selfishness and when later in the novel he effectively fakes his own death, we see this selfishness again as he doesn’t let anyone know where he is, or even if he is alive or not.
The way that Troy treats Fanny after his relationship with Bathsheba shows that in retrospect, Troy did in some ways love Fanny. Ironically, we see this the most after Fanny’s death when Troy gets a tombstone for Fanny and plants flowers on her grave, but the fact that the water from the gargoyle could wash away the flowers so easily, could signify how fickle Troy is and how easily his affections for Fanny were also ‘washed away’. Fanny also allows Hardy to let a reader see that Troy is careless and inconsiderate. He doesn’t think about the consequences of his actions and the things he says. After Fanny has missed the wedding, Troy says to her “You fool, for so fooling me!
” His over-reaction to Fanny’s mistake will prove an even bigger mistake later in the novel, as in the long term, if he had married Fanny, he wouldn’t have married Bathsheba, he wouldn’t have therefore provoked Boldwood and so eventually, he wouldn’t have been shot by Boldwood. This is also one example of the use of a ‘minor accident leading to a major incident’ which Hardy uses throughout the novel.
Earlier on in the novel when Fanny comes to see Troy at the barracks, Troy does not realise that is Fanny – his future wife – standing outside his window: “What girl are you? ” He “doesn’t quite recollect” that he promised Fanny they would marry, even though “he said lots of times that he would marry her”. This shows how he doesn’t think of the consequences of his words. Fanny’s disastrous relationship with Troy could have been used to foreshadow the consequences of his relationship with Bathsheba.