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Compare the Ways in Which Susan Hill and Thomas Hardy Present Their Narratives of Suspense and the Supernatural in the Woman in Black and the Withered Arm?

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Introduction

English Coursework 5M Jonas Arreola Compare the Ways in Which Susan Hill and Thomas Hardy Present Their Narratives of Suspense and the Supernatural in the Woman in Black and the Withered Arm? Both the Woman in Black and the Withered Arm are well known pieces of modern literature, and utilize both different and similar methods to present a narrative of the supernatural. In this assessment of the two books I will be considering the pace, tension, description, structure, style, literature devices and the creative writing within the two books. However throughout my evaluation of the two pieces I will take into account the fact that although The Withered Arm and The Woman in Black are both considered short stories rather than novels, their lengths vary immensely. This may help account for some of the differences but may also be a reflection of the author's preferred style of writing, and therefore can be used to give us a better insight into their reasons and motives behind every literal device. Thomas Hardy, the author of The Withered Arm is probably one of the most effective and to the point authors of his time. Every single person, every single place and every single object in the book has a point, whether it is an obvious point or a more vague and ambiguous point. ...read more.

Middle

The Withered Arm starts off in a simple, stable and somewhat controlled environment; however when Hardy throws in the bitter emotions of a discarded lover and the conflict between the supernatural and mere coincidence, the story becomes a lot more elaborate. Whereas Hill states that it is actually a ghost story and offers no other alternative explanation, Hardy tries hard to keep this distinction vague and indistinguishable. He doesn't define the story as being of the supernatural, but instead tries to make us believe the logic of coincidence. This could be a measure of reverse psychology, intertwined with the exploitation of human instincts. Saying that it isn't a ghost story makes us want to disbelieve the statement and formulate our own ideas that it is a ghost story and it also immediately places the statement of a 'ghost story' into the brain due to instinct. Hardy extends the argument for mere coincidence with Conjuror Trendle joking about his apparent powers and dismissing them as pure luck. Further evidence of his wish to leave the supernatural in shrouds of mystery is his modifications from his unsolicited first version in 1887 to the altered edition in 1888. Changes like from "she would not explain" to she could not explain" on page 64, and the addition of dream to precede scene on page 68 create hesitation as to the certainty of the supernatural event actually taking place. ...read more.

Conclusion

Gertrude is the main character in the second half of the story distinguished by a six-year gap. She is initially modest, generous and beautiful, the ideal of a lady. But during the second half, the reader learns that she becomes fixated on "necromancy" as a cure for her disfigurement. The Withered Arm has an unoriginal structure, as it is in chronological order. However, the second half of the story takes place 6 years after the first half, which signifies both that there is a change in the story (Gertrude's actions become the focus of the narrative) and that Gertrude's ailment in the first half was not serious enough to kill her, she simply declined into a loveless marriage. Hill employs an original structure to her story where a framing narrative precedes the main bulk of the story. This Love plays a major part in the two books; it serves as a reason for some of the events and gives motives for some people's actions. In the withered arm, love could be considered the driving force behind Rhoda's initial hate for Gertrude. It is Gertrude's deep desire to be loved again that forces her to take such extreme measures. It is Jennet Humphyre's love for her son that makes her become a malevolently evil force. ...read more.

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