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Far from the madding crowd - Show how Hardy helps his readers to understand Gabriel's character and his relationship with Bathsheba through the way he deals with disasters in the novel.

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Introduction

G.S.C.E. ENGLISH / ENGLISH LITERATURE PROSE STUDY Show how Hardy helps his readers to understand Gabriel's character and his relationship with Bathsheba through the way he deals with disasters in the novel The name Thomas Hardy gives to the hero of his novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, is not merely accidental. Hardy deliberately means to associate Gabriel Oak with the Angel Gabriel. God's hero lit up the darkness, and it is important for the reader to note that when Hardy's hero saves a situation from having disastrous consequences, nearly every time he does so in darkness. Gabriel's name is very significant in relation to his character, but he is not just meant to be a holy saint, whose sole purpose is to pour oil on troubled waters. He is a very real person with very human feelings, and this becomes obvious as his relationship with Bathsheba grows. To understand how the relationship between the two main characters has changed at the end of the novel, I need to explain how their relationship began. Previous to chapter four, Gabriel has seen and talked to Bathsheba on quite a few occasions, not least when she saves him from suffocation in chapter three. By chapter four, Gabriel has developed a deep love for Bathsheba and waits for her presence in strikingly the same way as "his dog waited for his meals". He is so captivated by her that he changes his opinion of an attractive woman to suit her features - such as "turning his taste over to black hair, though he had sworn by brown ever since he was a boy." Gabriel decides that marriage is better than his life of solitary isolation, a life which he has always lived quite comfortably before the arrival of Bathsheba, and declares "I'll make her my wife, or upon my soul I shall be good for nothing!" ...read more.

Middle

Hardy makes Gabriel seem like a hero even more in this chapter because, amongst a babble of commotion and confusion, he is the only pragmatic person. He knows exactly what to do and has no scruples of doing everything he can to stop the fire. Even when told that "the ladder was against the straw-rick and is burnt to a cinder" he doesn't let it become a hindrance and finds an alternative way of getting up to the wheat-stack. He seems even more heroic by the way he is battling against the fire with only very simple tools. He has only his crook and a beech-bough as 'weapons' and yet he still defeats this dangerous force of nature. Again this shows the reader how Gabriel puts others before himself. He does not even know the owner of the farm, and yet he still risks his life for them. He doesn't stay a "mere spectator" as he could so easily have done, his first instinct is to help. The thought that saving the ricks could mean employment for him does not even cross his mind until he has saved them, which shows that he is a genuine hero. However, he is not prepared for what is about to happen next. As he comes up to speak to the mistress of the farm, he could not be in a more dishevelled state. His apparel is "burnt into holes and dripping with water", "his features smudged, grimy and undiscoverable from the smoke and heat". He is very conscious of his appearance and so with humility he advances, lifts his hat "with respect, and not without gallantry" and says hesitantly, "Do you happen to want a shepherd, ma'am?" Saying this to a stranger would be embarrassing and uncomfortable enough, but when the "female form" turns around, Gabriel finds himself face-to-face with none other than his "cold-hearted darling, Bathsheba Everdene". ...read more.

Conclusion

Because of this, she feels impelled to tell him what really happened when she went to Bath. She is ashamed to explain it but finally admits to him that the real reason she married Troy was "between jealousy and distraction". Gabriel, instead of acting coldly towards her, can see she is distressed and tired and so speaks to her "gently as a mother". This shows us again how Gabriel can empathise with a person despite what he may be feeling inside. For once, Bathsheba is grateful towards him and thanks him "a thousand times". She speaks to him "more warmly than she had ever done whilst unmarried and free to speak as warmly as she chose." The storm, although nearly catastrophic in reference to the farm, proves to be a vital turning point in their relationship and ultimately leads to their marriage at the end of the novel. As could be predicted, the story finishes with a happy ending. Gabriel has been a sincere friend to Bathsheba throughout and has been there to support her every time another difficulty befalls her. Gabriel may not have the surface qualities that Troy had, but after his death Bathsheba eventually realises that Gabriel's kindness, loyalty and true love for her are worth far much more and it is an "every-day sort of man" she needs most. Their relationship is not based on "pretty phrases and warm expressions" it is based on trust and friendship and has a much more solid foundation. As said in the blurb on the back cover, Bathsheba achieves a painful but necessary self-knowledge - that it is much better to love someone, rather than just be in love. I admit I was prejudiced at first that this would not be a very romantic novel, but as I have followed their relationship and seen how the characters develop and pull through everything that comes their way, I have no hesitation in contradicting my first opinions and can say that it is one of the most romantic love stories I have ever read. Rachel Beesley Year 10 ...read more.

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