Then one night when he awakes to the sound of wildly clanging sheep bells, much to his devastation he discovers that the younger of his two dog companions had been ‘too good a workman to live’ , and had driven the Sheppard’s herd over the cliff edge, totally destroying him. In the midst of all this disaster Oak proves to be optimistic and ‘thanks God I am not married’. How he can only manage to see the positive at this moment it time, where many would be dwelling in misfortune, is miraculous! If one had ever thought that bad things do not happen to good people, then I am more than confident that their views would change.
Oak not being the type to drown in self pity and sorrow, decides what’s done is done and sets out to redeem himself. After paying off all his debts Oak emerges penniless and with nothing else to keep him in the neighborhood he leaves in search for work, taking nothing but the clothes he is wearing. When he arrives at Casterbridge, he hopes to find someone to take him in as a bailiff, but to his dismay ‘all the farmers seemed to want Sheppards! ‘ Determined not to give in, Gabriel sets out and purchases the required equipment and converts himself into a sheep-tender.
It seemed like someone up there was out to get poor Gabriel, for as soon as that was done, it was bailiffs who seemed upon demand. Oak, still not getting grasp of his tact, finds himself in a dilemma once again. When getting asked where previously worked, he always stated candidly that he was self-employed and had worked on a farm of his own. ‘This reply invariably operated like a rumour of cholera,’ as was fairly explicable. Anyone who proclaims that they used to work for themselves, but now was in search for a job was a clear sign of failure! Indicating to others not to give them work or they may end up in the same position.
Therefore being unsuccessful in finding work moves on in the hope of having better luck else were. He heads off to another fair near where Bathsheba has relocated. On the way he happens to become a spectator to a fire, and miraculously finds himself saving a farm from losing the complete harvest and leading the bystanders into putting the fire out. Oak becomes the hero of the day and when the veiled owner comes to thank him he sees an opportunity and asks without emotion in his voice ‘Do you happen to want a shepherd, ma’am? ‘ She lifted the woollen veil from her face to reveal her true identity; Bathsheba Everdene.
‘Gabriel and his cold hearted darling, Bathsheba’ find them selves ‘face to face’. This time when they meet their circumstances have changed dramatically, as if there roles had been switched- Bathsheba now a wealthy lady after inherited her uncles farm, and Gabriel- penniless. The emotional pain Oak must have felt at that very moment must have been overwhelming. Just to think that two months before, Gabriel was promising to be a successful farmer and had proposed or more like pleaded for Bathsheba’s hand, only to be rejected. Now before her he stood begging for a job.
When she didn’t speak, it is nerve wrecking to see Gabriel repeat himself but this time in a much sadder and shameful manner. ‘Do you happen to want a shepherd, ma’am? ‘ I, myself as a reader, feel exceedingly embarrassed and humiliated for poor Gabriel. One can only start to imagine how hard it would’ve been for him to have come before his loved one as a beggar. I think although time has passed, nothing has changed with Bathsheba, she still craves power and authority, and her silence without saying a word resemblances as if to say that she was clever in not accepting Oak as look at him now.
Though somewhat uncomfortable with the situation, she hires him. In the old Victorian times, having a woman as a farmer was unheard of. It was absolutely ridiculous to think that a woman could not only survive, but thrive in a man’s world and, it being that they weren’t to talk back to men or disobey them in anyway, it was theoretically impossible as well. But when Bathsheba comes into it there are always exceptions, as we learn ‘In arguing on prices she held to her own firmly, as was natural to a dealer, and reduced theirs persistently, as was inevitable in a woman.
‘ this shows what great confidence Bathsheba has in herself, despite what other people may think of her. The mere fact that she is ready to speak back to a man and be firm and strong at the same time is more than enough to have any man baffled. When she, then, even decides to “have no bailiff at all, but to manage all with her own head and hands,” the scrutiny of the others is completely obvious. No one could think it possible – a woman thinking that she was able to lead a farm all by herself, without experience and, of course, without the assistance of a man by her side.
In the old days it was hard for a woman to fight her way through, yet Bathsheba, despite what many people think, manages quite nicely. Despite any social regulations of the time, Bathsheba manages to run her farm single handily and even make it a success. In this story, the farmers, despite their poor and problems, always had food, drink, warm clothes and a dry place to sleep even though, in reality, it probably wouldn’t have worked out so nicely, as that was a time of hardship and shocking conditions.
Bathsheba also makes it look very easy to fight her way through with willpower alone, although, truthfully, without a man by her side it would under normal circumstances have been very hard for her to reach anything. All in all, it was very hard for people from different social classes to mingle in the old times, and although hardy brings forward the outline for that time he doesn’t display it as bluntly and with full truthfulness behind it.
All good writers keep their readers intact and involved in the story, this is usually achieved by the build up of tension and suspense. Hardy does this successfully by setting lots of barriers that the characters must overcome and defeat. It is nerve wrecking as we are made travel through this rollercoaster of emotions. One thing that becomes clear whilst reading is that one can never be curtain what obstacles and problems may be thrown your way, but you can be curtain that whatever it may be, you shall always have a choice to make.