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Discuss the Portrayal of Womenin 'The Withered Arm' by Thomas Hardy and 'The Fly Paper' by E Taylor

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Introduction

Discuss the Portrayal of Women in 'The Withered Arm' by Thomas Hardy and 'The Fly Paper' by E Taylor The main characters in both 'The Fly Paper' by Elizabeth Taylor and 'The Withered Arm' by Thomas Hardy are women. These women come from everyday life and are set in the social settings of the writers' own times. Thus, the characters in 'The Withered Arm' come from Victorian rural England. Rhoda Brook is a poor milkmaid living with her son whose father is the farmer on whose farm she works. Whereas, the characters in 'The Fly Paper' come from Post War England, living a small town or village life. Sylvia is a dowdy, eleven year old on her way, by bus, to the suburbs of a nearby town for her piano lesson. In both of these stories, women are represented as having limited choices in life. Compared to men they have little power and depend on the actions of men and the opinions of others. In 'The Withered Arm' Rhoda is described as "a lorn milkmaid". Rhoda has been forsaken and made wretched by Farmer Lodge, who has ruined her by not marrying her. ...read more.

Middle

In the end, he is repelled by her withered arm. When Gertrude is first viewed by the milkmaids 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." This idea is lodged in her head, to such an extreme, that she is led to rub her arm on the neck of a hanged man's corpse in a desperate attempt to cure her arm. In both stories, women are portrayed as swayed by fate - a force that they are both powerless to prevent. In 'The Fly Paper', Sylvia just seems to have a terrible fate. ...read more.

Conclusion

' " Rhoda feels that fate is in control and not she. The language used to decribe the dream is full of supernatural terms, such as "incubus", "spectre" and "phantom". Rhoda is up against the enormous powers of the unknown. In conclusion, women are shown in these strories as real, complicated people, whose feelings the reader can recognise and share. Sylvia's vividly described discomfort when she is "so hot and anguished" changes, in the course of the story, to actual terror. The reader is shocked by this and the terrifying fate that awaits such an ordinary, harmless girl. In 'TheWithered Arm', women gossip together, worry about their looks and are drawn together in the troubles of their lives. Rhoda forgives Gertrude and learns to appreciate her kindnesses, but she still has mixed feelings about her: " In her secret heart Rhoda did not altogether object to a slight diminution of her successor's beauty, by whatever means it had come about; but she did not wish to inflict upon her physical pain." This quote reveals Rhoda as a real person. As in 'The Fly Paper' both Rhoda and Gertrude suffer an appalling fate which they can do little to alter. By the end of the story, they have changed visibly. Their situation in life has become intolerable. The reader is left without hope, caught up in a totally pessimistic view of a woman's life. ...read more.

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