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Compare and contrast the ways in which the two writers represent women. What do we learn about society's attitudes towards women from reading these two stories?

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Introduction

English coursework Compare and contrast the ways in which the two writers represent women. What do we learn about society's attitudes towards women from reading these two stories? I am going to be comparing two short stories; The withered arm by Thomas Hardy, which was written before 1900 and Farthing house by Susan Hill which was written more recently. The themes in each of the two stories are quite similar. They are both based around women, their needs and their wants and illegitimate children. Both stories have obvious similarities especially with the types of women in the story. 'The withered arm' was a story written before 1900. At the time when The Withered Arm was written, there was a very high child mortality rate. Babies died at an early age due to poor health care and repeated pregnancies. Many women died during childbirth. There were some forms of birth control but they were condemned by the church. Society believed that a woman's main purpose in life was marriage and motherhood. For many, this was not possible. There was a high mortality rate amongst male babies, early death amongst adult males and emigration among marriageable young men. There were hierarchies in society. Quite often, rich males would commit adultery with poor, working females. Once the woman got pregnant, she would be left on her own as marriage was not possible. Single mothers would then become outcasts in society. Generally, people knew what was happening. They were against sex outside marriage but they did nothing to stop it. Now in the 21st century, the roles of women have changed. ...read more.

Middle

She managed to work and survive on her own as a single parent. Nevertheless, she was also weak, without joy, without friends, forever wanting love and admiration from the man that was never hers. We can see that she wants to be acknowledged and perhaps even accepted my Farmer Lodge because she wants to know all about his new wife to see if she is the same as her. 'You can give her a look, and tell me what she's like' . Rhoda may want to see whether Gertrude looks like her, because it may mean to her that farmer lodge was looking for someone that reminded him of Rhoda; which then may mean that he still loves her. Rhoda is also quite angry when Gertrude comes between her and farmer Lodge again: 'Hussy - to come between us and our child now!'. She also wants her son to be noticed because even though she knows Farmer Lodge never acknowledges him, she just wants to check and see if he possibly has this time. 'what did he say or do?...Took no notice of you?' Gertrude was and always had been weak. She needed to be looked after, to be loved. She could not survive on her own but did have the will power and the strength to keep on fighting for a way back into her husband's heart. In this way, Hardy shows both types of women ; strong and weak but each woman has an aspect of the other. ...read more.

Conclusion

The narrators daughter is also at a vulnerable stage: 'You will be prey to enough anxieties and fancies....the time before the birth of a child one is so very vulnerable.' However a child can also bring great happiness. This is shown through the narrators dream: 'I dreamed almost at once.....a most happy dream.... the night after you were born, lying in my bed in that blissful, glowing, untouchable state when the whole of the rest of life seems suspended and everything irrelevant except this.... I was simply there.... utterly content.' In this story the narrator is at times unsure of her facts and changes her ideas: 'I don't know whether or not I dreamed that night .' Four paragraphs later she says: 'I was wide awake, I am quite sure of that'. She does not seem to have the ultimate power as a narrator as Hardy does in the Withered Arm. She almost seems weak because she is so emotional. Hardy does not show any of his emotion as a narrator throughout the whole story. Susan hill on the other hand often talks about the way she feels and her memories. 'It has made me vulnerable too' , 'I felt something else', 'I felt oppressed again by the most profound melancholy of spirit'. This may make her seem weak compared to Hardy who seems in control of his feelings and thoughts. In conclusion we learn quite a lot about societies attitudes towards women; although these are from the points of view of a man and women so they may be slightly biased. These stories also show how societies attitudes towards women have changed throughout time. ...read more.

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