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The characterization and lives led by Gertrude Lodge and Rhoda Brook in Hardy's The Withered Arm

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Introduction

The Withered Arm The characterization and lives led by Gertrude Lodge and Rhoda Brook in Hardy's The Withered Arm gives a graphic picture of the lives working and middle class women lived in the 19th century rural England. Women lived in a patriarchal society and were below men hieratically. They were therefore deprived of career opportunities and responsibilities. The inequalities existing between the sexes are more than apparent politically and socially; in addition to this the class divisions in society are evident in every aspect of life, as shown in Hardy's narrative. England was predominately a Christian country and those who were Christian lived according to strict moral principles, one of which was the Christian principle of 'no sex before marriage', which was closely followed by women of all classes, but not necessarily men, whom were thought to have had a dominant role in the lives of women. Thus, a woman who was unmarried and also a mother would struggle to survive financially. Hardy's text explores the issue of class, gender, superstition and their affect on the lives of his characters. Hardy paints a negative view of women's lives in rural society and presents them as being quite literally powerless, for example the illicit affair with Farmer Lodge affects Rhoda Brook irrecoverably. The text implies that Farmer Lodge exploited a financially disadvantaged woman who was of a lower class than himself, also he had a substantial amount of wealth obtained from earlier years of labour on inherited farmland, nevertheless Rhoda Brook was still powerless to challenge him for finance to support the upbringing of their child. ...read more.

Middle

Personal appearance was the first and foremost quality looked upon by any man: "Men think so much of personal appearance", this reflects the significance of attractiveness for women. Both Gertrude Lodge and Farmer Lodge are of middle class, whereas Rhoda Brook is of working class, therefore it is possible to imply that the differentiation in class had a great affect on marriage. Rhoda Brook was preoccupied with Farmer Lodge and was more than just curious to know whether or not Farmer Lodge would marry someone in the same class, which she finds more suited or working class like herself: "milker's hands like mine", which would have meant their relationship was based on love and the new wife was better in the sense that she had values that didn't include her class: "Is she tall?", this reflects Rhoda Brook's obsessive and obscure curiosity of the new wife, which can be seen as a rival burning desire: "give her a look", this reflects her insecurity caused by the presence of the new wife. The reader also begins to understand Rhoda much better, and sympathise with her feelings. The fact that both women are in some way formally connected to Farmer Lodge; one being the mother of his child, the other his wife, allows similarities and contrasts to be drawn. Both the women's lives somewhat revolve around Farmer Lodge and therefore this may be the reason both suffer at his hands, as Rhoda Brook becomes pregnant and Gertrude Lodge becomes subsequently imperfect: "he knows the disfigurement is there!", this reflects the affect of the arm and the reader is now obliged to share in Gertrude's feelings of rejection and lack of love from her husband because of her deformity. ...read more.

Conclusion

Gertrude Lodge started off as an innocent victim, as she was not aware of her husbands past. In addition to this she was rejected and suffered at his hands, as she was initially perfect but now subsequently unattractive. However, Rhoda Brook did have her whole life affected and lost her only child that she had with Lodge, it is therefore possible to suggest that she suffered the most out of the two women. Farmer Lodge's actions at the end of the narrative attempt to make amends, as he gives his money away to charity: "bequeathed the hole of his not inconsiderable property to a reformatory for boys", this reflects his guilt and his regrets of not living up to his duty as a father. One may suggest that by giving money away to a reform school he is giving a second chance to other boys who commit crimes, because his son never received a second chance to learn from his unfortunate mistakes. By attending the court case Farmer Lodge acknowledges that he has a son, and one may suggest that he regrets not being a father to his son: "I wish I had adopted a boy", this reflects the way in which he wishes that he could have helped earlier. Moreover, he gives money to Rhoda Brook that he should have given to her years before as maintenance for the child: "Payment of a small annuity to Rhoda Brook", this reflects his reconciliation, as he tries to make up for his absence of money and make commence. English Language & Literature GCSE Pre C20th Assignment 1 Nadir Jagvani ...read more.

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