The Madding Crowd Essay
Essay Topic: Literature
Paper type: Essay
Words: 842, Paragraphs: 9, Pages: 4
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One of the great strengths of ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’ is Hardy’s contrasting portrayals of Gabriel Oak and Sergeant Frank Troy. Discuss this observation on the novel’ Perhaps the greatest strength of Hardy’s novels is the excellent portrayals of his main characters. There are, however, many other strengths in ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’. For example, there are many descriptions of scenery that punctuate the action in the novel. These show Hardy’s skill as a writer by painting the scene so clearly in the reader’s mind that the characters can really flourish against their backdrop.
The themes of love, persistence and nature permeate the novel and give it depth, even when the plot slows down. The greatest strength, then, is likely to fall to the characters who drive both the plot and the action. Two of these characters, Oak and Troy, fall in love with Bathsheba Everdene and soon find themselves competing for her hand in marriage.
The portrayal of the differences between the characters is clearly an example of Hardy’s strongest work in the novel. Gabriel Oak is a simple man who is very clear on who he is. Whilst Oak is shy, he is also honest and always tells the truth.
Oak is described by Bathsheba as ‘honest and true’ and he often tells her how he feels, ‘I love you far more than common’. He doesn’t have the words and the education to express himself properly to Bathsheba, but he is steadfast, keeping to his bottom line, making Bathsheba happy. Oak is unlucky in love and in life. He fails time and time again to get Bathsheba to marry him, and when he loses his livelihood she is his first, unselfish thought: ‘“thank God I’m not married: what would she have done in the poverty now coming upon me!
”’ This shows that Oak puts other people first and is optimistic. He does not focus on the loss of his money and his farm, but on the good fortune that Bathsheba had not married him. It takes a strong personality to think in this way. Oak is described as a “young man of sound judgment…and general good character” very early on in the novel. He makes his intentions clear with regard to marrying Bathsheba within a few days of meeting her, and proposes a simple life to her, which reflects his own simplicity and honesty.
He says: “And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be— and whenever I look up, there will be you”, asking her in simple terms to accept him and love him always for who he is. Oak is very modest: ‘I was never very clever on my inside’ but he shines underneath his dull extremities, taking charge in the fire and saving Bathsheba’s farm, and again in the storm. The author Jane Bailey says that: “Gabriel is the only character to really master the forces of nature”. I agree with her in this statement because the other characters don’t deal with the problems nature gives them as well as Gabriel.
In the storm, Gabriel knows the rain is coming because of the formation of the sheep, he manages to cover the bales of hay alone, and he is able to save the farm. Boldwood doesn’t get his hay covered and he loses his harvest; Troy gets drunk in the warmth of the barn. This shows that Gabriel has control over Hardy’s main theme, nature. He is a natural leader, but he prefers to sink into the world of the rustics where he feels he fits in. Oak is a kind man, taking pity on a stranger in the night and giving her a shilling, which would have been a significant sum of money.
The stranger turns out to be Fanny, and he helps her a second time in death, rubbing out ‘and child’ on her coffin, although it can be debated as to whether Oak did this out of kindness to Fanny or to Bathsheba. Oak is very self-sacrificial, giving everything to Bathsheba, and telling her: “I love you and I shall love you always”. He does not change much over the course of the novel, showing how good Hardy believed him to be in the first place. Oak is not, however, a puritan. He drinks with the rustics and criticises Troy and Boldwood, who are both his class superiors.
Oak is determined and Hardy rewards him in the end with a happy marriage to Bathsheba, proving, in Hardy’s mind, that perseverance pays off. Even in Oak’s steadfast protection of Bathsheba, he is never faulted. He leaves quietly when she dismisses him and comes back to save her when she needs him. Even his first name, Gabriel, signifies his long-standing protection over Bathsheba- Gabriel is an Archangel, a protector of humans so his name is very apt. From Oak’s actions and from Hardy’s descriptions of him, we can tell that Oak is a kind hearted, ideal man who loves Bathsheba more than Troy or even Boldwood could imagine.