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Compare and contrast Oak and Troyas representations of 'The Victorian Man'.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast Oak and Troy as representations of 'The Victorian Man' 44 out of 54: A Before publishing 'Far from the Madding Crowd' in 1874, Thomas Hardy's novels were known, by readers at the time, to be rather vulgar because of their concentration on country folk and not members of high society. This was an unusual choice for an author at the time, whilst other classics by Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters focused their attentions to tales of the aristocracy. Hardy's many Biblical and Romantic allusions added a new dimension to the novel, and his often profound comments show there is more to this tale than just a simple love story. In Victorian England, farm workers were seen to be poor people who accumulated large families and were generally less presentable in appearance and often had a lower standard of living. However, Hardy attempted to alter feelings of city folk towards the countryside and its rustics by writing his pastoral tragedy with an aim to help educate the literate people of the city. The novel is an authentic depiction of people living in rural society during the nineteenth century. Each of the main characters represents the different personalities that existed in the social climate at the time. The story takes place in a rustic part of England in the late Victorian period and follows three suitors in pursuit of the female character whom, they feel, would be their ideal wife. The lady at the centre of attention in the village is Bathsheba Everdene. Being a wealthy, independent young lady, she is highly sought after. She is the protagonist, propelling the plot through her interaction with her various suitors. At the beginning of the novel she is a penniless young lady but she quickly inherits and learns to run a farm, from her uncle, in Weatherbury, where most of the novel takes place. ...read more.

Middle

" ... I feel like new wine in an old bottle here. My notion is that sash-windows should be put throughout, and these old wainscoated walls brightened up a bit; or the oak cleared quite away, and the walls papered ... I am for making this place modern." (P224 Ch 35) Here, Troy shows his desire to change the atmosphere in his home, and he admits that the old house urgently needs renovation. The "new wine in an old bottle" suggests that the decoration is not approved of by Troy and implies that the bottle needs a new appearance. Troy's condescending and arrogant approach causes Hardy to portray Troy as a snob. Hardy opposed change and modernisation, which is what Troy was recommending in the quotation. Troy, being a well-educated, handsome young man would appeal to women as he complies to the Victorian ideals. Gabriel Oak is portrayed as an honest farmer, who has a divine love for nature. Hardy uses him as a mouthpiece to perhaps convey his own enduring love of the countryside. But Oak's characteristics do not fully comply to the Victorian ideals. His occupation of a shepherd would not provide the satisfactory wealth that women expected from the 'ideal man'. His appearance is not one of an attractive, middle-class man who would attract women, but of a rustic who lacks confidence in his appearance and approach to women, like Bathsheba. Oak cares for Bathsheba, but does not succeed in marrying her until the end of the novel (when Troy is dead and Boldwood is imprisonment), as he feels she is a woman who would prefer handsome men with considerable wealth as her 'ideal husband'. Oak does not have the academic intelligence or education of the 'ideal husband' which may explain why he is occupied on a farm and does not work in a higher-paid job, or in Boldwood's case, a yeoman farmer. ...read more.

Conclusion

as identifiable, with flaws and strengths in personality. As Hardy was a man with respect for nature, he represents Oak as the more admirable and likeable of the two men, and the one who conforms best to the ideal man of the 1870s. The name 'Gabriel' gives the reader an insight into his character, a 'good angel' who is the hero of the novel, whilst 'Oak' suggest his character is a strong individual, and has associations with nature. Hardy admires Oak for his devotion to Bathsheba, and his respect for her. "I will help to my last effort the woman I have loved so dearly" (p231 Ch 36) Oak's clear devotion to Bathsheba is evident here, and his caring attitude impresses Bathsheba who feels slightly shy to praise his actions. Oak's attitude towards women is like that of a stereotypical man in the Victorian age; protecting his loved one, caring for her, whilst being brave and heroic. Unlike his image of Oak he gives to the reader, Hardy portrays Troy as the more detestable of the two characters as he was not a fond lover of nature. Hardy feels it is appropriate to give the reader a villain, and therefore characterizes him as a person who is opposed to Hardy's own feelings and attitude of respect. "... it is foolish of you to take away my money so ..." "Humbug about cruel. Now there 'tis again - turn on the water-works; that's just like you." Here Troy shows his cruelty towards his wife, and tries to deflate her, claiming she is weak and cries when she feels defeated, showing his disrespect for her. Hardy's moral message to the reader is that one should not judge an individual on their appearance. He feels that because Troy is attractive and young, he would appear as a likeable character, whereas in contrast Oak's character is not as lively as Troy. However, Oak is portrayed as a polite gentleman and his respect for women is genuine and is the novel's hero, whereas Troy is manipulative and disrespectful, proving his moral message. Sean Flynn 10 KO 1 ...read more.

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