‘the solitude of a mountain… the solitude of a cave’ –Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd

Bathsheba was lonely and miserable now; not lonelier actually than she had been before her marriage, but her loneliness then was to that of the present time as the solitude of a mountain is to the solitude of a cave.

—Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd, Chapter XLIII

Once again, in the chief aim of figurative language, to provide a gauge where there is no measure apparent, Hardy triumphs. The idea of a quantitative measure of solitude is perhaps a bit far-fetched, but this qualitative comparison really illuminates Bathsheba’s plight.


She is going to sleep on the night that Fanny’s body has been staged at her house for burial in the morning; naturally, the presence so close of Fanny, her husband’s great shame, has set her mind uneasy.


Yesterday I posted a passage about Bathsheba’s regrets over getting married in the first place. This quick line, a couple short chapters later, provides a kind of coda to those feelings, which from this later vantage, seem written at a different level of calm and tranquility. Obviously, part of novel-writing is to maintain the characters’ inner monologues consistently; once again, Hardy proves masterful. In the prior quote, Bathsheba indulges her native standoffishness, which the reader can easily compare to the solitude of a hermit on a mountain: she sees all around yet chooses to absent herself. With the quote above, Hardy throws this present loneliness into another domain altogether: the loneliness of someone whose soul feels truly lost.


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