Thomas Hardy uses strong imagery and description throughout the novel to reflect on his characters situations, emotions and thoughts. He does this particularly with Fanny Robin, a young maid seduced by the villainous aspects of the novel, and his intelligent descriptions of both weather and setting allow the reader a clear insight into her characters tragic existence and ultimate ruination. We are first introduced to Fanny Robin in chapter 7 when the hero of the novel, Gabriel Oak, comes across her “slim”, “thinly clad” form.
She is introduced during the night and the darkness of the churchyard in which she resides could possibly signify death or warn the reader of future tragic events in store for her. Gabriel’s abrupt reaction towards her sudden movement shows Oak’s recognition of her being a conventional unfortunate maiden, shown through his heroic need to assist her. Hardy’s description also suggests she is poor as she is “thinly clad” on such a cold night. “The voice was unexpectedly attractive; it was the low and dulcet note suggestive of romance; common in descriptions, rare in experience.
” Fanny Robin’s voice is here described as “music”, that Gabriel is keen to hear more of, and “unexpectedly attractive” for someone dressed so poorly and whom he would not expect to have such a voice. It is here that we obtain an insight into her character as just by her voice we can tell that she conforms to the typically portrayed woman; weak minded and easily tempted. This is clear as in comparison, Bathsheba’s headstrong confidence and independence is illustrated through her speech and directness in tone, something not evident in Fanny Robin’s “timorous” delivery.
“It was beating with a throb of tragic intensity. He had frequently felt the same quick, hard beat in the femoral artery of — his lambs when overdriven. ” Here Fanny Robin is likened to Gabriel’s lambs by the “tragic intensity” of her beating heart and this comparison illustrates, just like a lamb, how young and vulnerable she is to the evils of the world that she does not have the strength or knowledge to protect against.
She shows no pride when adamantly accepting the gift of a shilling from Gabriel which could be due to her complete insignificance, shown by her nameless, unrecognisable figure in the dark, pride is not something that she depends upon; she is already past the point of being respectable enough to decline however she is extremely grateful. Fanny then urges Gabriel to keep their meeting a secret and by keeping her identity hidden Hardy is able to make the reader question why and how she became so troubled.
Hardy also describes Fanny as a “motionless figure” which dehumanises her and makes her appear to be extremely fragile. “He fancied that he had felt himself in the penumbra of a very deep sadness when touching that slight and fragile creature” We are already aware of Oak’s perceptive judge of character as he identified Bathsheba’s main flaw of vanity earlier in the novel and so we can easily trust this one of Fanny Robin as it evidences Oak’s likeness between her and a lamb; “slight and fragile creature”.
However, it is slightly shocking to see Oak react in this way as we are used to him approaching situations very level-headedly and Hardy’s use of the words “penumbra” and “very deep sadness” are not those which we would associate with Oak. It seems Fanny Robin’s situation and meek character has made an impact on Oak, even if he’s not aware of it. Hardy uses the comparison between both Bathsheba and Fanny to illustrate the integrity of the other; when Bathsheba shows strength and independence it emphasizes that Fanny Robin shows the opposite as they remain to be the only two main female characters in the novel.
We can also tell from the infrequent meetings with Fanny how the male characters change when in contact with both her and Bathsheba; it seems ironic that Fanny’s ruination brings out the generous and charitable side in Gabriel Oak in chapter 7 whereas he feels nervous and anxious in the presence of Bathsheba. Hardy cleverly illustrates just how insignificant she is to the characters but inevitably plays a vital part which they are unaware of until it’s too late; the element of tragedy about her means that she is overlooked as anything significant especially by Troy and also by Oak; “Gabriel did not pause in his walk.
” On page 70 of the novel the subject of Fanny Robin is brought up by Bathsheba and the other malt house dwellers discussing the whereabouts of her servant. She is described as having “such low spirits these days” which marks the start of her ruination at the present time. “For any lover of hers might have come to the house if he had been a respectable lad. ” This comment from Bathsheba when the idea that her disappearance is in connection with a man is brought up distinguishes the fact that any courtship she is caught up in is not with a decent man in the eyes of both the parish and society.
This is then evidenced by Maryann who states “I believe he’s a soldier”. Soldiers are often renowned for having many different girlfriends and so Fanny comes across as being almost dimwitted in her decision to love a man with such a bad reputation. We next see Fanny Robin in chapter 11 where Hardy uses intense pathetic fallacy to express to the reader her situation. The first sentence creates an atmosphere of gloom and desolation and is used as a warning to the reader of the unpleasant events to come.