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How does the author of The Withered Arm make the incredible events appear credible?

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Introduction

How does the author of The Withered Arm make the incredible events appear credible? In this assignment, I am going to discuss how Thomas Hardy makes the incredible events appear credible. To do this I will be examining: the historical contents of the story, with the language used, together with the way the story was structured and by the way that the characters relate to each other. I will also be examining the moral attitudes of when the story was written. Which will enable me to show how it was possible for Hardy to make the advents appear credible. The Withered Arm is an example of prose. Prose is 'speech or writing without rhyme or metre' (Collins Dictionary), as opposed to verse, which is 'stanza or short subdivision of poem or the Bible', (Collins Dictionary). The story was written in 1888, and set around the 1820's within a rural community. Hardy refers to this period in time by writing the 'Enclosure Acts had not taken effect' (p19), which occurred in 1836 and when he refers to a boy due to be hung, he writes 'only just turned eighteen, and only present by chance when the rick was fired' (p21). This again indicates the date was around this period as the gradual reforms of the Penal Codes came into effect by 1861, which meant that only serious crimes such as treason and murder carried the death penalty (mastering econ & social history). Hardy adds realism to the story in several ways. ...read more.

Middle

Again by using the prejudices of this era Hardy, is able to add further credibility to the story. He does this by showing Rhoda's own sense of guilty at the deterioration of Gertrude arm: 'the sense of having been guilty of an act of malignity increase, affect as she might to ridicule the superstition' (p10). However, it appears that Rhoda's guilty stems from the time that she fell pregnant with her son and the change in attitudes towards her from the villagers: 'she knew that she had been slyly called a witch since her fall' (p9) and 'that there must exist a sarcastic feeling among the work-folk that a sorceress would know the whereabouts of the exorcist. They suspected her, then.' (p11). Through the structure of the story, Hardy is able to continue to infuse the incredible ideas of Witchcraft and curses with realty. With references such as: 'the surgeon had not seemed to understand the afflicted limb at all' (p10). This could have been an indication of the lack of medical knowledge at the time. However, the reader is mislead into believing it is due to it being cursed. This is also reinforced by Farmer Lodges reaction: ' as if some witch, or the devil himself, had taken hold of me there, and blasted the flesh' (p10). By the clever use of literate devices, such as 'last desperate effort at deliverance' and 'turn the blood' (p16); along with the limited information given to the reader in each of the chapters and suggestive headings such as 'A Vision' (6), Hardy is able to increase not only the tension within the story but also ensure that the reader only focuses on the supernatural aspects. ...read more.

Conclusion

Also by choosing words like phantom, ghastly, spectre and vision, this adds to the connotations that it involves the supernatural. This is validated by the fact that Rhoda can still feel the affects of the dream the next day: 'her hand had not calmed even yet, and still retained the feel of the arm' (p7). In addition to this, Hardy adds the coincidences of the boy hearing the disturbance and Gertrude's sudden affliction which all occurred simultaneously. This reference by: 'she had named the night and the hour of Rhoda's spectral encounter, and Brook felt like a guilty thing. The artless disclosure startled her she did not reason on the freaks of coincidence and all the scenery of that ghastly night returned with double vividness to her mind' (p9). Which leads the reader into believing that this was more than a dream. To conclude, I believe that Hardy was able to make the incredible appear credible, by setting the story sixty years before it was written. This was a time of great social and economic changes and until Darwin's theory of 'Evolution', which was published in 1859. (The Origin of Species"). It was commonly thought that God had the divine right of birth. The church played an important part in the lives of both the rich and the poor, sermons would preach evil and Satan, giving people superstitions and the belief in witches and the supernatural. Hardy was also able to play the ignorance's of people's knowledge of the countryside to add authenticity. Even today the reader can believe in its credibility, as there is still a fascination with the supernatural and the unknown. ...read more.

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