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Gabriel Oak in 'Far from the Madding Crowd' by Thomas Hardy

Categories Character, Literature, Novels

Essay, Pages 5 (1182 words)

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Essay, Pages 5 (1182 words)

Her desire for a big, fancy wedding but her dislike of the mundane aspects of marriage contrasts with the very end of the book, when she just wants to marry Oak in as quietly and with as little fuss as possible. This shows how the materialistic side of her, which cares what everyone thinks and says about her, disappears as the novel progresses and she has other, more important things to worry about. I think her problems give Bathsheba a sense of perspective, and I think she matures under the onslaught of her numerous troubles.

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When Bathsheba’s uncle dies, she is left his farm and takes over the running of it. She makes clear to her new employees in a rousing, spirited speech that she intends to do it properly despite the fact that she is a woman, “Don’t suppose that because I’m a woman I don’t understand the difference between bad goings on and good… in short I shall astonish you all.

” She is described as “supervising and cool” and Hardy says in praise of her, “some women only require an emergency to make them fit for one. ”

She even takes on the job of bailiff herself. taking responsibility for the running of the farm onto herself. Bathsheba is also not afraid of hard work and goes to work alongside her employees at lambing time. When she visits the corn market she is the only woman there and it must be very intimidating for her, “requiring far more determination than she had first imagined.

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” However, she holds her own fairly well, and as Hardy puts it, “strange to say of a female in full bloom and vigour, she always allowed her interlocutors to finish their statements before rejoining with hers”.

Basically Hardy is implying that unlike most women, Bathsheba does not interrupt people. Despite Bathsheba’s determination to achieve success as a farmer in her own right, we gain an insight into the general view of the times in a snippet of conversation, “she’ll soon get picked up”. People expected a young woman, especially a beautiful property owning one like Bathsheba, to get married, though it is clear from what we know of her that this is not one of Bathsheba’s main aims in life and in this she defies convention yet again.

Yet despite the favourable impression we have of Bathsheba’s independence and courage, Hardy also feels he has to mention yet another fault she has in common with the rest of womankind, again based on vanity. Bathsheba refuses to answer the door to Mr Boldwood because she is in a mess from dusting and gets quite flustered, “fluttering under the onset of a crowd of romantic possibilities”. This is very silly behaviour and Hardy explains it as such: “A woman’s dress being a part of her countenance and any disorder in the one being of the same nature with a malformation or wound in the other.

” Bathsheba also becomes irritable with little Teddy Coggan because he tells Mr Boldwood she is old. Despite Bathsheba’s triumph at the corn exchange, she cannot help but notice (for of course, as Hardy puts it, “women have eyes in their ribbons for matters such as these”) that there is one man who does not notice her as the other farmers do. The fact that Farmer Boldwood pays her no attention, only serves to excite her curiosity in him. She is somewhat nettled that he is completely indifferent to her very existence, and it is this that tempts her to send him a Valentine’s card.

This rash act, done “idly and unreflectingly” is another example of her light-hearted, thoughtless approach to life at the start of the novel. She gives no thought to Boldwood’s feelings and cannot possibly imagine what a “hotbed of tropic intensity” she is igniting in him. For Bathsheba “was no schemer for marriage, nor was she deliberately a trifler with the affections of men”, yet however unconsciously she does it, she sets off a chain reaction in Boldwood by this one foolish action that will have dire consequences in the future.

When Bathsheba discovers Boldwood’s feelings for her, she feels responsible and sorry for the hurt she must cause, and it is “somewhat to her credit” that she feels her guilt in leading Boldwood on, albeit unwittingly. I think this is the reason why she treats his proposal with more sensitivity than she did Oak’s, choosing the words of her refusal carefully. She also sees the very intensity of his emotions, realises she is out of her depth, and has wisdom enough to be careful of his feelings.

Feeling as she does earlier in the novel that Oak is “not quite good enough” for her, it is not hard to refuse him bluntly and honestly, yet she is intimidated and overwhelmed by the dignified Boldwood baring his very soul to her with a passion few thought him capable of. Bathsheba is “frightened as well as agitated at his vehemence” and she is influenced by guilt into not entirely refusing him. When Boldwood comes to propose again Bathsheba finds it impossible to say no to him. Her cheeks “had lost a great deal of their healthful fire” and she speaks in a “trembling voice quite unlike her usual self confidence.

” Bathsheba’s strength of character and will cannot stand up to Boldwood’s pressure, and her resolve simply buckles under the pressure of his demands and the sympathy and guilt she feels for inflicting this upon him. An incident which does not reflect well upon Bathsheba’s character is her argument with Gabriel Oak when he attempts to lecture her about her treatment of Boldwood. Her temper gets the better of her when he reprimands her for leading Boldwood on and, pettily, she fires him for it. In this situation it is he who is calm and in control whereas she acts childishly, petulantly even.

When her sheep are dying and the only one who can have them is Oak, she stubbornly declares, “never will I send for him – never! ” and as if to punctuate the remark a ewe promptly leaps dramatically into the air nearby and falls down dead. The situation is amusing in its very absurdity. Bathsheba is forced to relent and sends for Oak, who unfortunately for Bathsheba chooses also to be stubborn and demand a proper, civil request. Bathsheba, annoyed, refuses to beg, and no sooner has she made the proud remark another ewe “sprang into the air, and fell dead.

” In the end Bathsheba swallows her pride and resorts to pleading with Oak, “Gabriel, do not desert me! ” and although she does feel some scruples at her blatant manipulation of him, she does it anyway for the sake of the sheep. The next man to enter Bathsheba’s life is one Sergeant Francis Troy. He has a great effect on Bathsheba right from their first meeting in the fir plantation at night. His sudden appearance, “brilliant in brass and scarlet… was to darkness what the sound of the trumpet is to silence.

Cite this essay

Gabriel Oak in ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ by Thomas Hardy. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/gabriel-oak-in-far-from-the-madding-crowd-by-thomas-hardy-essay

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