“Bathsheba’s heart was young…”
– Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
If you read my blog post last week, you’ll probably have the impression that Bathsheba Everdene of Thomas Hardy’s Victorian novel Far from the Madding Crowd is rather naïve and immature. She’s not altogether aware of the consequences her actions will have, and she’s a little childish when it comes to facing these consequences in real time.
But, in my opinion, Bathsheba’s age and the fact that she is a young woman quite a bit younger than the men who court her doesn’t have much at all to do with the way she conducts herself or her knowledge of and capacity to love. Yes, Bathsheba may be “young”, to use Hardy’s word, when it comes to romance, but it is not her literal age that makes her so – it is the age and experience of her heart.
In the quote cited above, Hardy makes the distinction that it is Bathsheba’s “heart” that is “young”. He makes no mention of her date of birth, of the number of years she has been alive. That information is inconsequential – what is significant is the fact that Bathsheba is young emotionally, that her heart has not yet had the time to mature and develop to a point where she can appreciate or properly deal with the love offered to her.
This leads me to the question of today’s blog post…
Is it possible to be young and have an “old” heart?
I think so. I’m not very old at all; I’m in my (ALMOST) mid-twenties, I’ve just finished school and started a full-time job, so I’m in the earlier half of my life, one could say. BUT, this does not in any way mean that my heart is young, childlike or inexperienced. In my twenty-something years on this planet, I have been through quite a lot romantically: there have been numerous ups and downs (a lot more downs, to be honest), there have been moments of blinding joy and confidence as well as moments of pitiful depression and sadness. I’ve met a wide array of men, I’ve had various sorts of relationships with them, and I’ve learned a great deal from each one of my encounters. So, although I haven’t literally spent a lot of time on Earth interacting with men, I have accumulated a certain amount of experience and formed a concrete opinion about love.
For all these reasons, when I met SS, I knew pretty quickly that he was The One. He treated me sooo differently from any man I had ever known, and he absolutely respected me from the very first date we had. More than that, as we continued to date and get to know each other, he began to idolize me, but not without recognizing my faults and embracing them. He said he loved every part of me, and I believed him – I still do! And I was able to say the exact same about him: at first, it impressed me that he was so chivalrous and mature, then I grew to really care for him, and finally, I found myself loving him for every aspect of his personality, every little quirk, every nerdy obsession, every detail of his past and present. I was 22 years old when I met SS – perhaps not the age that anyone would recommend settling down – but I was an old soul, and I realized that I had found the same in him.
This doesn’t mean that everyone is overjoyed for us and 100% believes in our love, though. The people that count definitely do – my parents, his parents, our close friends, are always so excited for us! But, every now and then, there’s that dissenter, that person who says we are too young to get married as soon as we want to. SS and I are a little bit old-fashioned: we’d like to get married as soon as is logistically possible, then move in together. It’s just how we want to conduct our relationship, fully recognizing that it isn’t the way for everyone. And sure, people nowadays don’t get married in their mid-twenties necessarily, so we face the occasional comment that we’re crazy to “rush into things”, that we have “tons of time to make commitments like that”.
But how is it rushing if you are so sure and if doing those things will make you indescribably happy? If SS and I were young at heart, then fine, I accept the argument – but we aren’t. We aren’t like Bathsheba Everdene in that way, because we have had enough challenges and triumphs in our romantic lives to realize when we’ve really won. We are mature enough in our love to know what the best next steps are, to know what the perfect path is for us. Our hearts aren’t young, and they’re even less so now that they’ve found each other.
What Hardy says is true of Bathsheba, no doubt. She is young at her heart, and she needs to grow up in the romance department before she can commit to any one person. And, to prove Hardy’s point, once Bathsheba has endured the course of the novel, lived through tragedy and identified where happiness is, she is able to find her true match and give herself to him fully because her heart is smarter and more sure. What I like best about Hardy’s description is that he implies that being young at heart is not the same as, is not synonymous with being literally young.
So, if a heart is old, can it not make wise decisions?
Girl with a Green Heart