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Discuss the portrayal of women in Hardy's 'The Withered Arm' and Lawrence's 'Odour of Chrysanthemums'.

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Introduction

Discuss the portrayal of women in Hardy's 'The Withered Arm' and Lawrence's 'Odour of Chrysanthemums' This essay is aimed at comparing and contrasting the portrayal of women in the two short stories, 'The Withered Arm' (written by Thomas Hardy) and 'Odour of Chrysanthemums' (written by DH Lawrence). Both of these stories are set at different times in history - 'The Withered Arm' is set at a pre-industrial date (18th century) and 'Odour of Chrysanthemums' is set during the industrial revolution (in the early 20th century). In both of the short stories, we notice some strong similarities between the two central, female characters - Rhoda and Elizabeth, and we also see that both stories illustrate loneliness. Both stories are based on the idea of a woman being neglected, rejected, and mistreated by a man which eventually leads to their portrayal as victims. Their class system is also responsible for their downfall is some way. Elizabeth Bates (in 'Odour of Chrysanthemums') and Rhoda Brook (in 'The Withered Arm') are both members of the low, working class. We know this by the type of job Rhoda has (milkmaid) and the place where Elizabeth lives (an industrial mining town - a poor area). ...read more.

Middle

However, despite struggling and misery (reflected in physical appearance) both female characters (Rhoda and Elizabeth) are shown as rather strong and robust as they are able to overcome nearly everything that life throws at them. Their pride and dignity is revealed. This is exposed in both their physical appearance and their actions. For example: Elizabeth shows her pride when she refuses to go and bring her husband from the pub and Rhoda shows her dignity when she is too proud to see Gertrude herself and when she also refused 'help money' each year from Farmer Lodge. All characters throughout both stories suffer a battle with their emotions and inner lives. Rhoda's repressed jealousy of Gertrude is evident in Gertrude's withered arm but it could be argued that it is further withered by Gertrude's vanity. Her jealousy is presented when an 'evil spirit' or incubus resembling Gertrude attacks her. This face is the face of Gertrude after the turning of the blood many years later. Also, in Rhoda's dream, Gertrude is trying to suffocate, and smother Rhoda. This is symbolic of Rhoda's 'smothering jealousy' and her intense jealously of Gertrude; ''the figure thrust forward it's left hand mockingly, so as to make the wedding ring it wore glitter in Rhoda's eyes'' Elizabeth ...read more.

Conclusion

She "shows marks of a lady on her". Women in these stories are described in detail. This is because in 'Odour of Chrysanthemums' but even more in 'The Withered Arm', women are very dependent on the way that they look. How they look affects their whole life because, especially in 'The Withered Arm', being beautiful means they can attract men, who earn the money so they can lead a happy life. This fact is displayed in 'The Withered Arm'. Farmer Lodge is drawn to Gertrude in the beginning because of her good looks. In the end, her withered arm repels him. When the milkmaids first view Gertrude she is described as a "rosy-cheeked, tisty-tosty little body" who has drawn Farmer Lodge away from Rhoda who has born his son. Rhoda, on the other hand, is described as a "thin fading woman" and at only thirty years old it seems a little unfair! This shows how much looks matter. When Gertrude starts getting a withered arm Farmer Lodge rejects her, to her great dismay. She longs for her husband back, but instead of discussing with her husband the problems that she is facing with her arm,all she can think of to get him back is to regain her looks: "If I could only again be as I was when he first saw me." Alistair Pell ...read more.

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