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Explore Hardy's portrayal of women in 3 of the short stories studied. Consider the effects of social, historical and cultural influences on the characters.

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Introduction

Explore Hardy's portrayal of women in 3 of the short stories studied. Consider the effects of social, historical and cultural influences on the characters. Thomas Hardy was a major novelist and poet of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 'The Wessex tales' are a set of short stories, which are based in the 1830's - 1840's although Hardy wrote them many years later. They are very much based around where he grew up and the society he lived in. Egdon Heath is a moor land where he grew up but has been re-named, along with all the other areas mentioned, which are based on real places. The three stories that I am writing about are: * 'The Withered Arm' * 'The Distracted Preacher' * 'The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion' My essay will be based around the women in these stories, who are all very different. Lizzy Newberry, Rhoda Brook, Gertrude Lodge and Phyllis Grove, are all young women whose lives are portrayed out in rural Wessex communities in the 1830's to 1840's. This was a society dominated by men and male values particularly with regard to their relationships with women. In terms of where the power lies within relationships and within this society the women are to some degree powerless. ...read more.

Middle

Lizzy is the object of most men's desire as she has "seductive eyes ". She knows that she has a great effect on men "something in her smile which showed how conscious she was of the effect she produced". However in a way she is very much like the men of the village, she seems to be able to twist between two roles and this becomes apparent, when you learn of her involvement in the smuggling. She even sneaks out dressed within he deceased husbands jacket and clothes, to be fully disguised as a man. At this time for a woman to be involved in such a dangerous and adventurous activity, was scandalous, especially to the preacher Stockdale, who was vying for her heart. When he learnt of her involvement it deeply shocked him, as he had already been imagining her as the perfect preacher's wife. I don't think that he realises how independent she is, until she says that she won't give up the smuggling as it has been in her family for generations. She has a spirit and energy, a life that is thoroughly admirable. Lizzy is not committed to a man but she may have set her sights on finding another one, her early reference when first talking to Stockdale "my first husband", demonstrates this. ...read more.

Conclusion

The other is Davies the hangman in 'The Withered Arm' who helps Gertrude simply because despite her impediment, she reminds him of his daughter. Although Lodge appears to have learnt his lesson, where the two women in his life die, he learns that he has been a callous father, a philander, although proud of Gertrude at first almost as if she is a possession, loses interest in her as her disfigurement grows and she is found to be childless. Dr Grove Phyllis's father is a cruel and narrow-minded. Humphrey Gould is a social parasite with no sense of honour or responsibility. Perhaps in some ways the most vulnerable and slightly ridiculous figure is Stockdale. He is full of socially prescriptive ideas about how Lizzy Newberry should be as a potential rector's wife. Her determination and independence of spirit is simply something he can't understand. It's interesting that when reviewing the story forty years later, Hardy regretted the ending he gave at the time of writing. He wished that he'd allowed Lizzy to go forth to America with Owlett, rather than regretting her smuggling adventure for the community with all the organisation and energy she showed. Hardy felt by this time that it would have been a much better ending for Lizzy, than settling as she does in the original story, for timid domesticity as the wife of the 'The Distracted Preacher. ...read more.

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