As a new, confident mistress of a farm, Bathsheba suddenly has the position and the freedom to write to others and be listened to, as well to complete a variety of business and personal transactions. Although she’s gained such power, she does not fully recognize the responsibility that comes with it. The valentine that Bathsheba dashes off to Boldwood, with its seal saying “Marry me,” thus represents Bathsheba’s tragic flaw for which she will have to atone. The valentine is meant to be playful and frivolous, hardly a true declaration of her feelings for Boldwood. In fact, Bathsheba only sends it because her pride is hurt that Boldwood won’t pay any attention to her, even though she hates to be ogled and gossiped about by the other villagers. She sends it off with little regard for the consequences it might have. Like other elements in the novel—the biblical or Greek mythological allusions, for instance—the valentine straddles comedy and tragedy, frivolity and great seriousness. It also is at the center of Bathsheba’s own transformation over the course of the book, as she recognizes that her actions do, in fact, have consequences, and that part of her position of authority requires acknowledging her responsibilities to others.
The Valentine Quotes in Far From the Madding Crowd
So very idly and unreflectingly was this deed done. Of love, as a spectacle Bathsheba had a fair knowledge; but of love subjectively she knew nothing.
Boldwood’s blindness to the difference between approving of what circumstance suggests, and originating what it does not, was well matched by Bathsheba’s insensibility to the possible great issues of little beginnings.