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An Essay on The Withered Arm, by Thomas Hardy

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An Essay on The Withered Arm, by Thomas Hardy Veejaiyata Barot 'The past is a foreign country. They did things differently there.' 'The Go Between' by L.P. Hartley. Thomas Hardy, a Victorian novelist, based his stories on experience of growing up in rural Dorset. Growing up there, he became familiar with the language, customs, practises and stories of the country folk. These stories draw up on his experiences enabling him to write 'Wessex Tales'. Among many pieces of work is 'The Withered Arm'. 'The Withered Arm' is a well-crafted short story written in the prose format. The quote above portrays what pre-twentieth century literature should embrace; good literature should be insightable, realistic and significant to all people from any era. In this essay I am going to describe the ways in which Thomas Hardy has made his short story, 'The Withered Arm' interesting to the modern reader. 'The Withered Arm' is about Rhoda Brook, a dark milkmaid who retaliates on her lovers beautiful new wife, Gertrude, after her lover, Farmer Lodge abandons her and their illigimate son. Hardy has carefully structured all the elements of a short story making 'The Withered Arm' interesting and perennial to the modern reader. Farmer Lodge's denial of the affair with Rhoda and the neglection of his son causes Rhoda's plotting revenge. ...read more.


Lodge is portrayed as a selfish man who does not like to deal with his problems, instead he runs away from them. Also, at the end of the story, Framer Lodge gives up the farms and goes to 'Port-Bredy' at the other end of the country. The Boy is a victim. He is a constant reminder of the past of his parents and symbolises the pain punishment and retribution for other people. Again, he is a victim when he is hanged because he did not commit the crime. It is almost as if The Boy is carrying this baggage full of everyone's problems, and it is too much for him. Conjuror Trendle is a catalyst in the story. He is engaging to the reader, as people like him no longer prevail in society today. Although we do have wise, old people in our society that we go seek advice to, our modern society shares little belief in witchcraft and supernatural activity. Hardy has made the setting of 'The Withered Arm' very significant to the reader as we can learn important pieces of the plot from it. He makes us comprehend the characters and the moods that they are in through pathetic fallacy; the description of the weather. ...read more.


The themes that are discussed in 'The Withered Arm' are realistic, but more importantly relative to people from any generations. We see themes in our everyday lives; in soaps, movies or maybe even in the life of a close friend or relative. Underlying in the themes are Hardy's philosophies and thought about situations. Despite the fact that 'The Withered Arm' is a outstanding tale, there are a few problem in Hardy's literature that may stop the reader from fully appreciating the aspect of the story. Hardy's style is very skilled and brings out the best in his stories, yet his language maybe a little hard to understand for a modern reader. I do not find the character in 'The Withered Arm' a problem at all because although some of those characters no longer exist, Rhoda, Conjuror Trendle, Hangman, it is still interesting to read about their daily lives and how things were for them; after all good literature should be giving the reader and insight on how things were. Even though the reader may not always agree to the philosophies hidden in his themes, it is captivating to imagine how a Victorian writer can relate to such things. I think that 'The Withered Arm' is a fantastic example of pre-twentieth century literature because not only is it interesting, but it gives us an insight on the different lives of the different characters and yet is still interesting to the modern reader. ...read more.

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