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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. By Jade Price. The withered arm is a pre-20th Century, short story. It is full of supernatural elements and coincidences. The story involves the characters Rhoda, a jealous middle aged woman who has an eligitermaite son by farmer Lodge. Farmer Lodge has just married a young, beautiful woman called Gertrude. Rhoda being a jealous woman unconsciously conjures up an evil incubus. This causes Gertrude's arm to weather, she tries all the cures she knows off, but resorts to using the supernatural to heal it. This leads to a dramatic ending. How effective or convincing are the events in the story and how effective are they from the point of view of the reader? Right at the beginning of the story we are in suspense because there is much speculation about the new bride. At the beginning of the story it is thought that Rhoda and Gertrude are rivals, as they have both had a realashipship with farmer lodge. They occupy traditional roles in the story; Rhoda is the older neglected lover with her looks fading. Gertrude is the young, beautiful blooming new wife. ...read more.


At this point the tension mounts and the idea of the malignant powers worries us further. This tension is maintained because the arm does not better and we wonder about the outcome of all this. Rhoda feels guilty. It was Rhoda's obsession that is responsible for Gertrude's affliction, which leads to paralysis as well as the loss of both her looks and her husbands love. The developing relationship between the two women has elements of the macabre. Rhoda often asks to see the wound, and seems fascinated by the clear indication of the marks of four fingers which are increasingly visible. Gertrude relies on Rhoda for a sympathetic understanding of the growing estrangement between herself and her husband, who 'knows the disfigurement is there'. The choice of the word 'disfigurement' reveals his attitude to appearances. As the arm is getting worst and she has visited a doctor who cannot help her, she becomes increasing desperate for a cure as her husband is starting to love her less. She turns to Rhoda to take her to see Trendle; much to her dismay. Rhoda fears for the loss of a good friendship. ...read more.


Here she is saying even if the person is innocent she hopes he will not be let off. Through out the story it is full of irony- you have farmer Lodge marrying to have a son, even though he has one which he does not recognise. Hardy chose not to give the illegitimate son a name; this may be because Lodge failed to recognise him, even though he wishes for a son: 'I once thought of adopting a boy!' Gertrude befriends the boy but unknowingly wishes for his death, in which when she finds out the identity of the hanged man she dies from shock. The denouement of the finial gruesome meeting between the two women brings all interaction to an end. The scene is highly dramatic and needs few words. This is where we learn that it is Rhoda's son that has been hanged and due to this Gertrude's 'blood had been turned indeed- too far'. In conclusion the withered arm is an effective story of the supernatural from the point of view from the reader. When it was written as people heavily believed in the supernatural and witch craft, this is another reason the story is effective. It differs from today's horror stories as it is not full of blood and guts. ...read more.

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