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Looking at "The Withered Arm" and at least two other short stories, comment on how Thomas Hardy uses the female characters to influence the reader's response

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Looking at "The Withered Arm" and at least two other short stories, comment on how Thomas Hardy uses the female characters to influence the reader's response To prepare for this essay I have read a selection of Thomas Hardy's short stories: "The Withered Arm", "The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion", "The Distracted Preacher", "Tony Kytes, the Arch Deceiver" and "Absent-mindedness in a Parish Choir". The first three stories have been studied more closely than the latter two, and will be used to answer the essay title. Given that a reader's response may be influenced by many factors, such as time of reading, gender, and personal values it is still clear how Hardy expects his readers to respond. Hardy has moulded the language in many ways, resulting in an intricately woven and complex idea of each character in the reader's mind. There are certain similarities in each story. Hardy seems to use clever twists of coincidences which are not the fault of the unfortunate character/s involved. Tragedy and death also tend to characterise his stories, for example, Matth�us and Christoph are shot and Rhoda Brook's son is hanged. The reputation of women plays a big part in all three of the short stories. ...read more.


Phyllis' life seems to be mapped out before the story unravels because she is connected with men right at the beginning of the story, in this case her father. Phyllis' only escape from her desperate isolation seems to be to marry, suitable Humphrey Gould, and their engagement is used by Hardy to convey the fact that marriages were seen as respectable and even an accomplishment. Hardy uses the York Hussars as a contrast to "suitable" and "ordinary" Humphrey; the Hussars are shown with excitement and passion "crowds of admirers" and "foreign air". Hardy then uses contrast once again regarding Matth�us Tina; this man is different and catches Phyllis' attention. When Phyllis is with Matth�us she is especially alive, as her speech is direct and not shown through reported speech or authorial comment. Also, this seems to be the only time she can actually be heard. In addition, she is described using the most animated language when she is with Matth�us: "flushed", "agitation", and "shaked". The reader wants Phyllis and Matth�us' relationship to survive, as Phyllis is obviously so happy with him. This is what makes the ending so tragic. The stone wall is the place of Matth�us and Phyllis' meetings, and it symbolises an important boundary between them. ...read more.


I think Hardy implies that money plays a big part in independence, because in the previous short stories women were restrained because of their lack of money, and in this story Lizzy is economically independent and has freedom. "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" ""He's dead," she pouted." This quote shows Lizzy's rebelliousness but ironically, she ends up writing a book called "Render unto Caesar". Lizzy's marriage and apology to Mr Stockdale show that she eventually conformed to social convention. In the author's note Hardy says he would have preferred Lizzy to marry Jim the smuggler, and emigrate to America, and that the other ending was only written because of the expectations of the time of publishing. So, even Hardy had to conform to the conventions of the day. The latter ending is more modern and clearly shows the influence of time on Hardy and his admiration of Lizzy. Throughout these short stories Hardy has shown a wide range of characters and has used different women in varying ways to achieve different purposes. Hardy is shown to have a good understanding of the women in that time through these stories. Even though all three of the short stories were written in the third person, Hardy has used language ingeniously. He has evoked many responses from the reader, but predominantly it is one of sympathy for the women. ?? ?? ?? ?? Catherine Lee L5B 1 ...read more.

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