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Compare and contrast Hardy's presentation of the two women throughout 'The Withered Arm'.

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Compare and contrast Hardy's presentation of the two women throughout 'The Withered Arm' Hardy is very successful and skilful in controlling the reader's response to "The Withered Arm". In the very first chapter, we can see how Hardy focuses our attention in order to control our response. We can see that Rhoda Brooks is a lonely figure set aside, but Hardy's skills make us want to know more about her and why she is lonely when the other milkers refer to her. The first chapter is intriguing. We constantly want to find out more about the mysteries character of Rhoda Brooks, who we notice is sitting apart from the other workers, and later find out also lives apart from the other workers. By the end of the chapter, we assume that Rhoda is a rejected girlfriend of Farmer Lodge. We deduce this from the clues in the language used by Hardy. At the time that Hardy was writing, the life of a poor woman was harsh. They were thought of as second-class citizens and had poorly paid jobs such as milkmaids and wee dependant on their men, which Rhoda had lost. Most women married men such as Farmer Lodge for security and money, also most rich men married women because of their good looks so they could show them off. ...read more.


We find Rhoda afraid and wanting to hide, the nightmare left a bad impression on her. She expects to see the same features as the ones she had formed on her mind, and is quite surprised when she meets her. We see that Rhoda begins to like Gertrude, but also suffers a conflict on emotions. Gertrude brings Rhoda's son some boots which she had promised, lifting this stereotypical thought Rhoda had on her. Just as they were getting to like each other Gertrude revealed her arm, casting a cloud of guilt over Rhoda. Hardy makes us share Rhoda's puzzlement at the coincidence of her dream and Gertrude's afflicted limb. This makes the nightmare become more frightening as we learn that Rhoda did conjure up an incubus, but the two rivals have become friends. At this point the tension mounts and the idea of the malignant powers worries us further. This tension is maintained because the arm does not better and we wonder about the outcome of all this. Rhoda often asks to see the wound, and seems fascinated by the clear indication of the marks of four fingers which are increasingly visible. Gertrude relies on Rhoda for a sympathetic understanding of the growing estrangement between herself and her husband, who 'knows the disfigurement is there'. ...read more.


Gertrude's meeting with the hangman reveals her obsession: she has in fact prayed each evening for some 'guilty or innocent' person to be hanged Rhoda and the hangman having a discussion in which she says: 'o- a reprieve- I hope not!' Here she is saying even if the person is innocent she hopes he will not be let off. Through out the story it is full of irony- you have farmer Lodge marrying to have a son, even though he has one which he does not recognise. Hardy chose not to give the illegitimate son a name; this may be because Lodge failed to recognise him, even though he wishes for a son: 'I once thought of adopting a boy!' Gertrude befriends the boy but unknowingly wishes for his death, in which when she finds out the identity of the hanged man she dies from shock. The denouement of the finial gruesome meeting between the two women brings all interaction to an end. The scene is highly dramatic and needs few words. This is where we learn that it is Rhoda's son that has been hanged and due to this Gertrude's 'blood had been turned indeed- too far'. Rhoda and Gertrude had been running the same race just with a staggered start, Gertrude managed to overtake Rhoda but in the end Rhoda finished first. Avninder Gidar - 1 - ...read more.

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