• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Explain how Hardy combines elements of social realism and an interest in the occult in this short story, and how he directs the reader's sympathies to show the unfairness of existence "The Withered Arm" is a tragedy of fate and is a story

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Explain how Hardy combines elements of social realism and an interest in the occult in this short story, and how he directs the reader's sympathies to show the unfairness of existence "The Withered Arm" is a tragedy of fate and is a story of two women linked to one man. The nature of the tragedy is that the suffering is always a punishment that is disproportionate to the 'offence'. In this story it is the innocent who are punished for the sins of others (Rhoda's son, Gertrude). They exemplify the unfairness of existence. The story begins with a group of milkmaids gossiping about the farmer's new, young wife. It is, perhaps, a comical scene, but it is quickly apparent that the humour of these sharp tongued, common folk is a bare veil over the hardship of rural life that Hardy finds everywhere. One milkmaid, Rhoda, is quickly established as a former lover of the farmer. She is separated from the others, physically, and by their alienating chatter. At the end of Chapter One, Rhoda's cottage is a painful, if obvious, metaphor for her worn-down existence. ...read more.

Middle

Interestingly, when Gertrude departs for the executioner's, she looks at her arm and blames it, not Rhoda, "'Ah!' she said to it, 'if it had not been for you this terrible ordeal would have been saved me!'" It is the first time Hardy explicitly points to the withered arm as the central cause of all the problems, and the first time that we begin to suspect him of social satire rather than of occultist storytelling. Well-bred Gertrude does not believe in the supernatural until she was becomes half-mad with her illness. Her early attitude: - " 'O, how could my people be so superstitious as to recommend a man of that sort! I thought they meant some medical man. I shall think no more of him '" - eventually gives way to "apothecary messes and witch mixtures" as her desperation takes over. Rhoda never believes the rumours about herself being a witch until, completely overcome by guilt she believes what she did to Gertrude in her nightmare: 'Oh can it be...that I exercise a malignant power over people against my own will?' ...read more.

Conclusion

She is an innocent who has been drawn into an effective trap. She therefore has the majority of our sympathy when she falls victim to Rhoda's 'malignant power'. Rhoda becomes the more repellent as she remains silent in Gertrude's suffering and takes a cruel satisfaction in her triumph after the visit to Conjuror Trendle: "For the first time a sense of triumph possessed her and she did not altogether deplore that the young thing at her side should learn that their lives had been antagonised by other influences than their own." Gertrude is a pathetic victim of 'other influences' but Rhoda, in spite of being confirmed as a sorceress, takes on an almost tragic quality. She attracts the sympathy that any jilted woman left with a child might attract. Her jealousy is understandable, her 'malignity' is subconscious rather than conscious and she suffers from a sense of guilt as she witnesses Gertrude's decline. Finally, her agony and anger over her son's corpse are, if not exactly justified, excusable. And the body over which she wails is the victim not only of law's harshness but also of his parents' negligence. Nothing could better illustrate the unfairness of existence. ?? ?? ?? ?? Anuradha Patel English Literature Coursework ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Thomas Hardy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Thomas Hardy essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Tess says, Once victim, always victim thats the law. In the light ...

    3 star(s)

    As Judith Weismann tells us, "To Hardy's readers...the word education is likely to have a holy sound, but it is by no means entirely beneficial in Hardy's novel." Tess's having earned this type of education leaves her ill-prepared for dealing with a ruthless man such as Alec D'Urberville.

  2. Discuss Hardy's use of the supernatural element in The Withered Arm. To what extent ...

    The time in which the story was set and also the location of the story is another reason why Hardy would have added the supernatural theme to the story, in the 19th century procedures such as hangings and witchcraft would be a common occurrence and anyone who was thought to have been a witch would have been dealt with harshly.

  1. 'Father and Son' by Bernard McLaverty - short story review

    used to dig the garden, grow vegetables...now...the weeds have taken over' This imagery is effective in showing the contrast between the happiness of the past and the choking destruction of the present. Through the use of McLaverty's skilful character development, the conflict between father and son is climactic, building up to the inevitable tragedy.

  2. To what extent do you believe that there is a fateful inevitability to Henchard’s ...

    By the end of the novel, "Susan, Farfrae, Lucetta, Elizabeth - all had gone from him, either by his fault or his misfortune." There is a fateful inevitability to the plot. What happens has to happen because of destiny, but it's not just fate that causes his downfall.

  1. Compare the Ways in Which Susan Hill and Thomas Hardy Present Their Narratives of ...

    The Woman in Black is written in the first person, which has the advantage of presenting this feeling of a memory rather than a story being told by the narrator. This leads to the hypothesis that, as a ghost story, one of the author's intentions for the book was as a publicly performed storytelling book.

  2. How Thomas Hardy portrays women in his stories, the withered arm, the distracted preacher ...

    and a leader, which shows women to be able to lead men in this world and she can still be attractive and feminine. She seems to put men in their places by refusing Stockdale's offer of marriage instead of being a stereotypical woman of that time married, at home cooking, cleaning and looking after the children.

  1. How The Mayor of Casterbridge reflects the social, historical and cultural influences of the ...

    as an important businessman, Mayor and churchwarden, he would face disgrace if Elizabeth Jane found out about his past. Eventually Henchard told Susan that he would "...Meet you, court you and marry you" and Susan agreed saying. "I like the idea of repeating our marriage...

  2. Thomas Hardy "The Withered Arm" and "The Sons Veto".

    At Some places in the story she disappears especially after the hanging of her son but she reappears and refuses any provisions that were made for her which shows her being independent. Gertrude Lodge, a young innocent lady married to Farmer Lodge, a prosperous farmer of the town.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work