The book explores the proper basis for a happy marriage. Bathsheba's physical attraction to the broadsword-wielding Troy leads to a disastrous marriage that might have ended in financial ruin. A marriage to the strait-laced Boldwood, to whom she is bound only by feelings of guilt and obligation, would have meant emotional suffocation. Gabriel Oak is her colleague, friend, and advocate. He offers her true comradeship and sound farming skills; and, although she initially spurns him, telling him she doesn't love him, he turns out to be the right man to make her happy.