Bathsheba is, like others of Hardy's women, a strong-willed woman who experiences tragedies in part because she lives in a world where independent women are not accepted. She inherits her uncle's farm, and rather than hire a man to oversee it, Bathsheba chooses to act as a male farmer would. She takes her crop to market, handles disputes, and even works to help thatch when her crops are at risk. However, she also acts impulsively. Her joking valentine letter to Boldwood sparks an unwanted romance; her temper and jealousy lead to a hasty marriage. Ultimately, Bathsheba's strength is also her flaw: she is strong willed to both her advantage and disadvantage.
Gabriel is eight years Bathsheba Everdene's senior. When he sees her, he is drawn to her, but not with blindness to her faults. He starts out as a farmer, but a tragic loss of his flock leads him to end up as a shepherd in Bathsheba's employ. He defends her from criticism, speaks honestly to her, and loves her despite her engagements, near-engagement, and a marriage to another man. He protects her crops, and he works with integrity. He is not, however, simple. Gabriel reads, plays the flute, and appreciates nature. He strives for financial independence and ultimately achieves it. The conclusion of the novel also sees him achieve his goal of marrying Bathsheba.
Sergeant Francis Troy
Sergeant Francis "Frank" Troy initially appears as Fanny Robin's love. Although he does not yet know it, Fanny is pregnant. Their planned wedding does not happen as they both go to different churches. Troy is "well educated," especially for his social class and career as a soldier. After the wedding does not happen, Troy is in Weatherbury and meets Bathsheba Everdene. He woos her, both with charm and a sword demonstration. As such, she refuses the proposal from Farmer Boldwood. Troy's charm leads Bathsheba to marry him, in part out of jealousy. He buys his way out of the military. Their marriage becomes rocky as he gambles and fails in his duties to the farm. Ultimately, Troy's prior relationship with Fanny and her death lead to his desertion of Bathsheba. He is presumed dead when his clothes are found on shore, and for over a year, he works in America as an instructor of sword, gymnastics, and pugilism. He hides his return to England, performing in a traveling troupe. However, ultimately he decides to reveal himself to Bathsheba at Boldwood's Christmas party, where he is murdered by Boldwood.
William Boldwood is in his forties, and he has not taken a wife. He is much sought after in Weatherbury, but initially, he is uninterested in Bathsheba. If anything, he is oblivious to her charms. That changes when she sends him a letter saying "Marry me." Although she does not mean it seriously, Boldwood begins to think about the matter. He proposes and becomes obsessed with her, which seems resolved when she marries Troy. Boldwood slips into what today would be called depression. This state again changes when Troy vanishes and is presumed dead. Boldwood resumes his pursuit of Bathsheba, and when Troy arrives just as Boldwood's plan seems on track, Boldwood shoots Troy, attempts suicide, and then walks to the jail to turn himself in for murder.
Fanny Robin leaves Weatherbury to pursue the man who has courted her, Sergeant Francis Troy. She expects him to marry her. This union does not come to pass, and Fanny ends up destitute and alone. She dies in a poorhouse, and her body is brought back to Weatherbury on Bathsheba's order. What Bathsheba does not know at this point, although both Gabriel Oak and William Boldwood do, is that the man Bathsheba has married is the soldier Fanny followed. Fanny's death, and that of her child with Troy, is the spark that leads to Troy's leaving Bathsheba. Troy arranges for a grave marker for Fanny, one that will eventually be his own, too.