I once heard that an uncle of his was queer in his head, but I don’t know the rights o’t,’ he said. ” Whilst the majority of the plot is moved along by the actions of the main characters, the comments that the minor characters add can sometimes lead to the development of a major event. This provides a more varied and realistic method of moving the plot forward. As Liddy is very close to Bathsheba, the main character, her comments often affect the outcome and hence the plot of the story.
As mentioned previously, her remark suggesting the sending of a Valentine card to Boldwood seeded the obsession he had for Bathsheba. Further on into the story also provoked the event of Bathsheba seeing the tombstone which Troy erected for Fanny which lead to great despair and humiliation to Bathsheba: ” ‘I thought you might like to see where they have put Fanny, the trees hide the place from your window. ‘ ” however, the chances where the minor characters move along the plot are rare as most of the plan for the outcome of the story are acted out by the main characters.
Another crucial, albeit difficult to recognise, role that the rustics play is that they bring an air of authenticity about the story. Hardy uses many different methods to create an air of realism about the tale and it also provides a backdrop from which the story is told. The dialect of the rustics can be interpreted as a very good example of how Hardy tries to introduce authenticity. The language they use is typical of the location and time at which the story is set in so readers acquire the sense that this is not a fictional story but one that is real.
Consequently, the audience feel more involved towards the book. The following example of the dialect is from a discussion the rustics hold concerning the beauty of Bathsheba: ” ‘Ah, now. If so be ’tis like that, I cant look her in the face. Lord, no: not I-heh-heh-heh! Such a shy man as I be! ‘” The tales and stories the rustics tell also present a more realistic background to the history of the town and the rustics themselves. This provides the reader with a more complete feeling regarding the whole story, that everything has a story of its own to tell.
We feel that the world which Hardy has created is actually real because of the rich detail he gives us, instead of the feeling of a very fake and forged background which is only there for the sake of telling the account. There are also many festivals and celebrations that the characters take part in, such as the shearing festival and the harvest party. Hardy uses this to create genuineness by giving the minor characters a life of their own, whereas in most disappointing novels the minor characters are only mentioned when absolutely necessary.
The events that they take place in shows the rustics are not just there for the plots sake but are also part of the town and very part of the story. The sense of realism and authenticity is mostly provided by all the labourers, maids and other minor characteristics, which highlights the important role they play in the construction of the novel. Humour also adds to the authenticity for the setting of the tale. Again, this mostly comes from the labourers/rustics. There are many means by which this humour is illustrated.
At the beginning of the account humour is first introduced when Gabriel converses with the rustics at the pub in Weatherbury: ” ‘ And as he was coming along in the middle of the night, much afeared, and not able to find his way out of the tress nohow, a cried out, “man-a-lost! Man-a-lost! ” A owl in a tree happened to be crying “Whoo-whoo-whoo! ” as owls do, you know shepherd’ (Gabriel nodded). ‘and Joseph, all in a tremble said, “Joseph Poorgrass, of Whetherbury, sir! ‘”
The characters themselves provide an amusing insight into the different range of personalities in that countryside town. There is Joseph Poorgrass who is extremely timid that he even has trouble speaking fluently, Susan Tall’s husband who has a very dominant wife, so much so that he is mostly referred to as Susan Tall’s (his wife) husband instead of being addressed by his proper first name. Henery Fray who refuses to be called Henry; little details such as those just mentioned give the sensation of very realistic and factual characters, this is the success of Hardy’s attention to detail.
Aside from tale and characteristics, the plot that Hardy involves the rustics with also contain humour themselves, in actual fact most of the humour is centred around the labourers which results in the rustics actually having an air of amusement surrounding them. A particularly good example of a rustic providing humour in his actions is when Cainy Ball tries to tell Oak and the other labourers of his sighting of Bathsheba and Troy in Bath.
However, he chokes on food and everyone is in suspense over what he has to say: ” ‘ I’ve seed the world at last-yes-and I’ve seed our mis’ess – ahok-ahok-ahok! ‘” During times of extreme tension and apprehension the humour relieves the pressure for a small while. As we can see from the studies of the minor characters, although they seem negligible and insignificant, they actually play a very important and vital role in the structure and arrangement of the plot.
At times the significance of their actions and comments provide the most important and major developments in the story. Therefore, their presence has been especially considered by Hardy and many of his subtle idea are conveyed through them. And so the function of the minor characters must not be dismissed. If they are not taken into serious attention one can easily fail to read the book at the depth at which Hardy intended and not fully appreciate his success which would be a great shame.