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It may be difficult for a contemporary person to be patient with the timid outlook of the main female character, but in Hardy's time, 'proper' women really were that constrained by society, unless they had vast personal wealth under their own personal control.
The choices for others were submit, the street, or suicide.
Hardy may not have been the most skillful literary light. but his was a great and empathetic heart. His insight into the nuances of emotion, reason, and relationships are an education to his readers. Wish he had a sense of humor, but then, I read Trollope for that....