Bathsheba’s third suitor also exhibits many typical features of the ideal model. Boldwood’s attitude towards Bathsheba is of the same manner as Oak’s; respecting her, caring for her and acting politely towards her. These characteristics would match the ideals of a Victorian man. Boldwood is serious and dignified, and his nature is overwhelmed by the obsessive quality of his love for Bathsheba. Being a yeoman farmer, he has the wealth which women strive for in an ‘ideal husband’, and this would allow him to attract women. Boldwood is protective towards Bathsheba and takes great interest in her movements as he pursues her. Women liked to feel protected by their husbands in a relationship, and Boldwood’s characteristics meant that he could provide stability in a marriage.
However, Boldwood’s age would prevent him from attracting the best-looking women, and his obsessive nature towards women he loves would make potential spouses perhaps feel trapped or intimidated by Boldwood, especially considering women’s growing independence. He blackmails Bathsheba into a reluctant and unhappy agreement to marry him in seven years time, which pleases him, but the reader may feel that Boldwood does not respect the fact that Bathsheba needs time to consider her future options. It appears that Boldwood is unable to direct his thoughts away from Bathsheba, therefore neglecting everything else in his life, including the management of his farm. This compares him to Troy, who is selfish, and unable to control his emotions and passions. Nevertheless, Boldwood still respects her.
Gabriel Oak is a male rustic, and therefore would be classed as a member of the working class. Unlike Boldwood, Oak does not own the farm he works on. A middle-aged farm worker, Oak is stoical and respectful. Men of the working class who were farm workers were quite humble, and appreciative. Oak’s love for nature reflects the fact that he is so closely involved with the landscape, drilling and shearing sheep, that they feel part of it. His respect for women is obvious, especially those of a higher stature, like Bathsheba. Oak respects people who are greater privileged than him and for their achievements in reaching such a high level of occupation and lifestyle.
Troy, being a former Sergeant, is a disciplined male who believes that women are inferior to men. This attitude reflects that of a Sergeant, as women were not allowed to join the army and therefore were subordinate. Troy shows his vanity as he dazzles Bathsheba with a theatrical demonstration of sword play, expressing his skills to impress her. Men in the army would show off their trained skills to attract and impress women. Troy is immaculately groomed in his appearance, which was an essential factor in the army for Sergeant and Corporals. ‘… an erect, well-made young man.’ (P244 Ch 39)
Here, the quotation confirms Troy as an attractive man, proud of his appearance. Hardy does not give the image that one of the characters is an exact replica of a Victorian man, as this would make the reader feel that the particular character was not realistic. Hardy deviates from the stereotypical model of an ideal Victorian man to create his main characters (the three suitors) 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.