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In ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ how does Thomas Hardy convey the relationship between Bathsheeba and Gabriel Oak and how does he create mood, atmosphere and a sense of reality in chapters 20 and 21.

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Introduction

Alex Mills 10A 27.6.01 In 'Far from the Madding Crowd' how does Thomas Hardy convey the relationship between Bathsheeba and Gabriel Oak and how does he create mood, atmosphere and a sense of reality in chapters 20 and 21. Bathsheeba is a beautiful woman and knows she is. She goes on to inherit a farm which only adds to her vanity and desire for authority. Oak is an honest shepherd who works at Bathsheeba's farm. By the time we get to this stage of the novel the relationship between Bathsheeba and Oak has history. At the beginning of the plot Oak proposed to Bathsheeba and she turned him down, immediately making her the dominant one of the two, which she enjoys. However in chapter 20, Bathsheeba sends away one of her servants so she can talk to Oak alone about her conduct with Mr. Boldwood, a rich farmer who has fallen obsessively in love with her. By discussing this quite personal matter with Oak, Bathsheeba either wishes to subtly boast about her possible marriage to Boldwood - giving her the more dominant role again because she thinks Oak is still in love with her, or she thinks highly enough of Oak to talk about her private feelings with him - perhaps a true gesture of her real feelings. When Bathsheeba first asks if the workers had commented on her conduct with Boldwood, Oak seemingly tries to avoid the subject: "Yes, they did. You don't hold the shears right, miss" Perhaps the polite Oak (he called Bathsheeba Miss) knows that their conversation will end in an argument, a situation he would benevolently try to avoid. Also, he may wish to avoid the subject because he doesn't wish to talk about another man's relationship with the woman that he loves, another delicate signal of true feelings. Not only does he verbally change the subject but as he says the above comment... ...read more.

Middle

stooped or rose with the winch," The narrative passages are written so precisely and true to life that they sound as if they had been written by the characters themselves, for they convey vivid thought and feeling, like the time Bathsheeba declines Oak's opinion of her conduct at first and then goes on to request it. The way that Bathsheeba's eyes flash at Oak's, but never meet them is so significant as it primarily add realism, and also conveys their true feelings for one another. Another point is that they both know what affects the other: Oak stays calm, which makes Bathsheeba angrier, whilst she conjures up his feelings of rejection, which deeply affects Oak. They both seem to know each other so well, which I think is symbolic. Bathsheeba's continual firm demands remind us of her controlling character and make the whole situation of her secret feelings for Oak and the moment where she fires him out of pride more justifiable. The biblical last line of the chapter echoes this point: "...and he went away from her, as Moses left the presence of the Pharaoh" The fact this line is linked to the Bible immediately adds power to it, and when we think of the situation, the two Biblical characters can be closely compared with Hardy's two characters. The dominant and mighty Pharaoh and the honest Moses. At the beginning of the next chapter, which is about a day after the last situation, the local rustics run up to Bathsheeba to tell her that the sheep are critically ill. Quite a symbolic point I think - as soon as Oak leaves the farm, the sheep get ill. The rustics' conversation with their employer, Bathsheeba, not only adds to the excitement and suspense of the situation but more so it greatly adds reality. The language they use is dialectal, simple and un-advanced which gives the reader an insight into the real people of the area and their primitive way of life. ...read more.

Conclusion

The chapter ends with Bathsheeba asking Oak to return to the farm, which he agrees to, and the last line, again contrasting with the previous chapter, conveying how Bathsheeba really feels: "And she smiled on him again." Interestingly, the two chapters I have looked at above convey a cycle of the relationship between the two main characters. Everything starts off amicably before a crescendo of cutting comments result in an argument and the sacking of Oak. However, the occurrence of the flock's disorder makes Bathsheeba realise that she regrets sacking him and that she did it out of anger. After Oak saves the flock Bathsheeba is very grateful and their relationship becomes friendly again. Bathsheeba, as you have seen, is a very strong character and throughout the extract tries hard to control Oak. However, the situation develops, she ends up sacking him and then depending on him. Having noticed this, I also realised that this happens again in the book. At the beginning she rejects him as a husband, but then it is the actions of Oak who put out a serious fire, which begins at her new farm. This can be linked to the above extract: Oak gets rejected and then depended on by Bathsheeba. Similarly - the night that Bathsheeba and her husband, sergeant Troy, celebrate their marriage is the same night that Oak saves the Harvest from a freak storm. Once again, Bathsheeba has denied Oak, but it is he who she depends upon in the end. In a way the whole book is based on the cycle conveyed in this extract. Bathsheeba continually rejects Oak, first for Boldwood, then for Troy. Oak's continual work on the farm keep it going whilst Bathsheeba's marriage fails, and she turns to Oak for comfort: depending on him. Oak's devotion finally pays off in the end though, when eventually he does marry his true love, Bathsheeba Everdene. ...read more.

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