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How are the effects of mystery and strangeness conveyed in ‘The withered arm’?

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Introduction

How are the effects of mystery and strangeness conveyed in 'The withered arm'? 'The Withered arm' is one of Thomas Hardy's more sombre tale's. The story illustrates physical and emotional loneliness in all four main characters. Throughout the book Thomas Hardy switches from one characters despair and want for love to the other, this is one of Hardy's writing skills to keep his reader from putting the pieces together too early on in the story. Thomas Hardy wastes no time beginning his story he jumps straight in, setting the dark mood and chronic atmosphere with comment such as ' The evening is pinking in a' ready.' Hardy tells us of the date ' but early April' as if to try and get it out of the way, to get started on the story. Hardy seems to focus our attention in order o control our response further along in the story, when things begin to get strange. The location is set a little further along in the book 'The border of Egdon heath, whose dark countenance was visible from a distance' Possibly the most influential character is introduced to us through village members perspectives. We are now introduced to Rhoda Brooks, a 'thin fading woman of thirty' 'That had once been handsome, seem handsome anew.' Rhoda ' milked apart from the rest' , although we are unsure why, this urges us to carry on reading. ...read more.

Middle

He even remembers the exact time he heard the thump 'Just when the clock struck two.' This is not something a small boy of twelve would take much interest in. The dream with Rhoda experiences her "dream" she wakes up and cries 'Oh - merciful heaven! That was not a dream - she was here' indicating that something dark is developing. The 'incubus' as it as referred to by Hardy creates a mystic atmosphere, drawing the reader into the story. As Gertrude Lodge goes to visit Rhoda the next morning, the story becomes chilling as we expect to see Gertrude as Rhoda saw her in the dream, 'Shockingly distorted and wrinkled by age.' As Gertrude reveals the arm to Rhoda the magic and superstition begins to build as Rhoda refers to the 'incident' and the arm as a ' curse' and questions what had happened herself, ' O can it be that i exercise a malignant power over people' The way Rhoda questions herself builds the suspense of something evil evolving. Then as Gertrude refers to the exact time of the incident happening 'She had named the night and the hour of Rhoda's spectral encounter' Then the tension builds as the reader pieces the puzzle together slowly, though Hardy only gives us one piece at a time. As Gertrude turns to Rhoda for help we see how her desperation has grown and how little friend she has 'Could not you go with me to show me the way?' ...read more.

Conclusion

Thomas Hardy then suddenly changes and slows the story down describing Gertrude's trip to the county jail 'She descended slowly, and was soon amid corn-fields and pastures' this builds up the longing for something to happen, and to see the out come of Gertrude Lodge's trip. As Gertrude is about to cure her deformity , Rhoda Brook and Farmer Lodge are there and it is only the that we piece together the entire story. Hardy had kept our minds from this twist as much as possible using creative language 'Half a dozen years had passed' and calmly having the hangman tell us the age of the accused mid-sentence 'only just turned eighteen' and changing the narrative style mid-story, keeping our minds focused on identifying with Gertrude and her lonely plight, this keeps us from making the connection. With Hardy's unique style of writing the ending is completely unanticipated and unpredictable. The story has many different aspects the paranormal, darkness, and malignant curses. But not once does Hardy force us to accept what he has written he only puts it to us, this makes us acknowledge what he is telling us, because we are not forced to. The withered arm is full of stories of witches and wizardry which would have been believed in the Dorset villages that Thomas Hardy was used to. The exceptional attention to detail such as the sound Gertrude Lodges dress made as she walked into church is, in my opinion, what makes the stories so unique. Sera Musgrove ...read more.

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