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Compare "The Withered Arm" by Thomas Hardy and "The Schoolteachers Guest" by Isabelle Allende.

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Introduction

"The Withered Arm" by Thomas Hardy and "The Schoolteachers Guest" by Isabelle Allende although written a century apart both are similar: they involve a son dying, close communities and both span long periods of time. In contrast, Hardy's 19th century short story is set in rural England whereas Allende sets her story in South America both of which strengthen the credibility of the stories. Although they start in different manner both set out to fascinate the reader, Hardy chooses to set the in great detail and brings it altogether at the end, Allende chooses to hit the reader with a shock and fills out the background using a series of flashbacks. During this piece of coursework I shall look closely at parts 1,3&9 of the Withered Arm and the whole of The Schoolteachers Guest and how they engage the readers interest and convince of their reality. To begin with Hardy describes the working atmosphere of an eighty-cow dairy in which we find one of the protagonists of the story. Immediately the reader is transported into the believable yet fictitious setting of Wessex, rural England. The language used backs up and adds to the verisimilitude of the story: "He do bring home his bride tomorrow." ...read more.

Middle

This raises the question, 'Is this real?' Rhoda asks when it happened and when Gertrude mentions the exact time and date of Rhoda's incubus. Hardy's era would have been very superstitious and people like Rhoda would have believed themselves to possibly have supernatural powers that help the verisimilitude of the story. At the end of the chapter the reader is left wondering what will happen between Rhoda and Gertrude a point that will keep the interest of the reader. The final chapter has Hardy showing us how fate has a major part to play in how the story finishes. His attention to detail brings to the reader the reality of the current situation: "One o'clock on Saturday... County jail 1793." Gertrude still has the withered arm and her final option given to her by a conjuror is to touch the neck of a man just hung, hence her visit to a county jail. Hardy begins to build slowly and dramatically to the climax by giving each detail of Gertrude's actions: "she crossed the inner paved court beyond he gatehouse, her knees trembling so that she could scarcely walk." ...read more.

Conclusion

This is a point that fascinates the reader as it helps to explain a lot of occurrences especially the murder. The narrative ends with the death of the schoolteacher Ines that releases the people from their duty to keep the murder secret. Allende changes her style from second to first-person, as though she was around when all of this happened: "the death of the schoolteacher freed us, and now I can tell the story." Allende keeps the story present tense, which helps to make the reader feel a part of Agua Santa as all is happening before their eyes. Finally both stories are convincing in use of technique. Hardy and Allende have settings, which convince the reader of their verisimilitude; Hardy's characters actions are accepted because are set, though in Britain, a century ago and gives them licence to do things that would otherwise be cast aside as nonsense. Despite their contemporary nature, Allende's characters are acceptable as they are in a different land and culture; it is because of such strong credible settings the reader is able to accept the goings on. Despite an age difference of 100 years each author has the skill to captivate us. By Paul Southern ...read more.

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