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How does Hardy create a sense of tension and terror in "The Withered Arm"?

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Introduction

How does Hardy create a sense of tension and terror in "The Withered Arm"? Hardy in "The Withered Arm" creates a sense of tension in the withered arm by his use of mystery at the beginning of the short story, we don't know about the relationship between Rhoda and Farmer lodge, and their son. There is terror in the withered arm is focused around the fears that the characters have and the supernatural that they go through. Rhoda Brooks dream of the incubus was an important turning point in the Short Story, as it was the first point in the story where we see a character frightened for her life. The withering of Gertrud's arm wasn't a single point of life threatening fear for Gertrude, but a build up of terror, the fear that Gertrude feels for her arm builds as the arm worsens. The arm causes an obvious change in Gertrude. In Gertrude see two types of terror the arm as well as the affect that it has on her in changing her from good to evil. Hardy through Gertrude has shown two types terror, that of body and that of character. By doing so he poses the question, which is more terrifying the arm or the change in character? At the beginning of the story Hardy has Rhoda Brook in a stereotypical role as a milker, where at the time women were employed to milk a Farmer's cows. We are entered into Rhodas workplace and the description we see of her is, "tis hard for she,' signifying the thin worn milkmaid aforestead" the use 'she' instead of her name makes us wonder that there is an uneasiness around Rhoda. Her not instantly being given name also makes her seem cold and generic as if she is not accepted. The awkwardness that the people around her seem to feel is then added to a sense of mystery when we find out that the farmer "h'n't spoke to Rhoda Brook for years". ...read more.

Middle

Her asking the boy to go to church just to see Gertrudes height seems as if she is fixated on Gertrude. This builds tension, as we are not aware how this fixation will manifest itself. The dream sequence is a terrifying experience for Rhoda, due to the intensity and malevolence of the spectre, but also it builds a great deal of tension; as we are not aware what the spectre is, a product of Rhoda Brooks mind or some sort of sub-conscience message from Gertrude. Rhoda having "contemplated so intently" on Gertrude, we see the focus of her mind to be Gertrude. Rhoda is obsessed with the image of Gertrude that she has been harbouring in her mind and realises that she could be dreaming, but tension and terror is built when she is not sure. "Her assertion that she really saw before falling asleep was not to be believed." Her not knowing whether she was really confronted with some sort of supernatural figure or whether she was dreaming builds terror. As Rhoda is terrified that what she saw was real, and her fear that she really did see some sort of spectre, makes the description of her experience far more menacing. Tension is built here because as the reader we are not sure whether the spectre is real, and if it is real were not sure of who is responsible for it. The description of the vision makes Rhoda seem like a passive victim as when "the pressure of Mrs Lodges person grew heavier;" Mrs Lodge is oppressing her. She is defending herself when she "seizes the confronting spectre by its obtrusive left arm". More terror is created when the shockingly distorted features of Gertrude like her skin, "wrinkled as by age" makes it seem that the distortions were already there and that Rhoda was only projecting them. The description of the vision shows the terror that Rhoda had gone through. ...read more.

Conclusion

As a representative of darkness his interest in Gertrude, shows that she has become an object that that evil finds desirable makes her seem more part of the darkness, it also builds tension as we don't know how far Gertrude will go to fix her arm. She seems more malevolent when she says "o- a reprieve- I hope not!" we see her wanting to see someone die; this shows her as a force of darkness. She wants the boy to die for her to be ale to cure her arm; this shows terror as we see her wilfully wanting someone to die. At the beginning of the story there are various connotations such as Rhoda's house and people's attitudes towards her, and see Rhoda as a witch like figure, an evil woman jealous of Farmer Lodges new wife. Rhoda is shown as evil, but as the storey evolves it is Gertrude who is shown as the dark force driving the storey forward. Gertrude whom was a "source of light" turns in to the evil person. This happens through a series of stages all due to the withering of the arm. We are left at the end of the storey not knowing who of the two are evil. This uncertainty we are left with at the end of the story is part of the atmosphere that Hardy tries to create, one of the uncertainty between what is good and evil. Does Hardy in 'The Withered Arm" set out to create a short story which is abundant in fear, terror and tension. Perhaps Hardy has a moral aim that no good can come from situations where evil is present, as throughout the piece there is no sign that the farmer shows any guilt for what he put Rhoda and the boy through. The demise of Gertrudes beauty may be the farmers comeuppance for abandoning Rhoda and their son The Withered Arm English Coursework Samim Ghorbanian 10U ...read more.

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