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Compare and contrast at least two of the female characters in two or more of the female characters in two or more of the tales you have studied

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Introduction

Compare and contrast at least two of the female characters in two or more of the female characters in two or more of the tales you have studied. Gertrude Lodge, Rhoda Brook and Phyllis Grove are all very different women in different situations; however they all suffer an undeserved fate. Gertrude, from The Withered Arm, loses her looks, the love of her husband and her friendship with Rhoda, who in turn loses her only friend, her son and must suffer the shame of an illegitimate child. This was highly unacceptable at the time, especially as the father of the child was of a higher class and people of different classes were not expected to mix. Phyllis lived a reclusive life with her father up until she met Matth�us Tina, the love of her life, whom she later watched die after having to abandon him. All three protagonists are united in the hardship they must each endure. Their suffering was similar in the way that it was partly due to social principles of the time, as women had no independence and were expected to be totally subservient to their fathers and husbands, and this comes through in Hardy's short stories. Gertrude Lodge is "years younger" than her new husband, Farmer Lodge, and there are constant references to her beauty. She is described as a "lady complete" which suggests her high class in society and her respectable upbringing, now married to a suitable man. Her skin is described as "soft and evanescent, like the light under a heap of rose petals." This beautiful image gives the reader an idea of purity and naivety which also comes across in Gertrude's personality. ...read more.

Middle

Hardy describes a jutting rafter as "a bone protruding through the skin", the powerful image creating atmosphere and building tension. These negative illustrations contrast well to the lovely images used to describe Gertrude. There is also a contrast in the beliefs of the two women. When Rhoda is shown the affliction on Gertrude's arm, she immediately jumps to the conclusion that she "exercises a malignant power over people" and that she really was a witch, but in the beginning, Gertrude dismisses such thoughts and beliefs in witches and superstition. Whereas Gertrude is compassionate and opened up to Rhoda, Rhoda is a lot more withdrawn and tough. Similarly to Gertrude, Rhoda develops an obsession in the story. Before she meets Gertrude, she is tormented with thoughts of comparison of the two, needing to know if "she's dark or fair, and if she's tall - as tall as I." She develops a jealousy towards Lodge's new wife, and this shows that Rhoda still has feelings towards Farmer Lodge, even though "he ha'n't spoke to Rhoda Brook for years." The two women can be seen as adversaries, Lodge's old lover and father of his child, and his new wife. However, once Rhoda met Gertrude, her "heart reproached her bitterly" and as she got to know Gertrude, she realised "this innocent young thing deserved her blessing and not her curse." This tells the reader that Rhoda is not as cold and hard as her tough exterior suggests. The two women form a strong friendship and confide in eachother because they are both lonely. Rhoda puts Gertrude's feelings before hers, by going with Gertrude to visit Conjorur Trendle, even though she knows she may be ousted and this is another sign of Rhoda's deep loyalty to her only friend. ...read more.

Conclusion

This not only tells the reader how honest and genuine Matthaus is compared to Humphrey, but again shows how trusting and naive Phyllis is, the childlike innocence that is similar to Gertrude's personality at the beginning of the tale. This is portrayed again when Phyllis changes her mind once more when she hears Humphrey's return, thinking that he has come back to marry her, and once again she is let down when she discovers that Humphrey is in fact already married. She is filled with relief for not having to marry a man she did not truly love, but also regret at not leaving with a man she did truly love. At the end of the story, once again, like Rhoda Brook, the heroin of the tale watches a loved one's execution. Hardy describes the hussar's execution factually, writing no emotional description, which makes it cold and more emotive for the reader. Phyllis's love for Matthaus is tragic - he was a true gentleman, who honestly loved her, and her one chance at true love was snatched away. I think these three protagonists of Hardy's short stories are all similar in the way that they each experience short-lived happiness. Gertrude spent a few months of love with Farmer Lodge, as did Rhoda before her. They both shared an intimate friendship in which they each had someone to confide in. Phyllis had a true love with Matthaus for a short while, instead of a formal marriage with an appropriate man. I sympathise with each woman at different times in the tales, especially as their suffering was through no fault of their own, and partly because of the cultural standards of the era. Although each woman is very different, they are all united in their failure to find love and friendship. ...read more.

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