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Gabriel Oak’s character has developed a lot in ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. He started off as ‘clumsy and foolish’ and he ended up as ‘heroic’. A hero is a man admired for achievements and noble qualities; In this case this word does not refer to someone with superhuman powers! The first description of Gabriel Oak: ‘on working days, he was a man of sound judgement, easy motions, proper dress and general good character’. Hardy’s description implies that there is nothing special about Farmer Oak; that he is just an average man.
Hardy also states, that on a Sunday, a non-working day; Oak is a kind of pepper and salt mixture.
This means that he is normal; he is a man with ‘balanced’ morals. Another thing that Hardy uses to bring across Oak’s personality is the way he dresses. This gives people more idea about Oak’s character and personality. His clothes were very practical but they made him look ‘clumsy and foolish’. Hardy also states that Gabriel was a source of some amusement; his watch was very difficult to get out, apart from being amusing, this also demonstrates that Oak doesn’t need to use modern conventions to tell the time. He can use the position of the sun and stars to tell the time. This is an example of how close he is to nature.
This is also hinted in his name: Gabriel ‘oak’, the word oak is used to describe him as ‘natural and sturdy’ like the oak tree. In the 1st chapter, Bathsheba is in a carriage laden with goods, she is stopped at a toll gate and she refuses to pay the toll. When Farmer Oak sees this he steps in and pays the man at the gate the money needed to let Bathsheba pass. This shows that Oak is a generous and bold man. Generosity is one of Oaks many ‘noble qualities’. In chapter 5, Hardy demonstrates one of Gabriel’s first changes in character: one of Farmer Oak’s dogs rounded up and chased all of his flock over the cliff.
This lost him a lot of money as the sheep were not insured and ruined his livelihood. His first thought was of pity, he felt pity for the sheep, after this Gabriel muttered: “Thank God I am not married: what would she have done in the poverty now coming upon me! ” This proves Oak to be a very humble and kind man, he did not think of himself or the debts he now had. This demonstrates another noble quality that Farmer Oak has: selflessness. It also shows Oak’s true feelings about Bathsheba. In chapter 6, Hardy also demonstrates Oak’s heroism: there was a fire at the farm in weatherbury, a rick of straw had caught fire in a barn.
There was a crowd of spectators all panicking, none of them new what to do. Gabriel immediately and calmly took charge of the panicking crowd. He called for a ladder and began putting out the fire himself with no concern of his own personal safety. This was a very heroic act by Gabriel. He was described as ‘bold’ by one of the bystanders. In chapter 21, there is another disaster at Bathsheba’s farm, one of her flocks of sheep managed to get into a clover field and they are all going to die.
Bathsheba sends for Farmer Oak; he is the one who knows how to cure them, as Oak has just been sacked from the farm, he is reluctant to come back and help. Although, Gabriel swallows his pride and goes to the farm and began to cure the sheep very calmly and precisely: “Gabriel began to use it with a dexterity that would have graced a hospital surgeon. ” This is a very heroic act, he swallows his own pride and helps someone else, he didn’t even think about receiving a reward, he did it out of his own kindness and his own concern for the animals.
In chapter 36, Gabriel realises that there is lots of Bathsheba’s produce exposed to rain. He goes back inside to fetch help but everybody has passed out because they were drunk. Gabriel, rather than leaving it and hoping it would not rain, begins work atop the rick with no concern for his own safety. This is a very helpful and heroic thing to do. In chapter 37, Gabriel Oak is working on top of one of the ricks of straw in a powerful lightning storm. Bathsheba comes up to help Oak; they then begin to engage in an intimate conversation in which Bathsheba turns to Gabriel for guidance.
Once again, Farmer Oak puts his own feelings aside and guides Bathsheba. Thomas Hardy made Gabriel Oak the hero in this novel, at the end of the novel, Gabriel’s noble qualities finally paid off and he managed to marry Bathsheba Everdene; he was always the one standing by her side, supporting and helping her in whatever she did. Hardy implied this by his name- he was a ‘rooted’ form of support. This shows Farmer Oak as a true hero, putting his feelings aside to help others.