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Hardy’s Portrayal of Contemporary Society

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Introduction

Hardy's Portrayal of Contemporary Society Hardy makes his novels seem reflective of the time they are set by creating domestic issues, which incorporate views held specifically in that period. He also uses descriptive language and various other techniques to fully portray the landscape and feel of that time and also to portray feelings and emotions; like loneliness, which is a main issue in 'The Withered Arm'. Because Hardy lived in the period his story was set there was no need for him to research into alternate terminology (most of the story is riddled with archaism) all the archaic words used would have come naturally to him. I also think that most of the domestic issues raised in the story could have been inspired by personal experiences - I think one of Hardy's main sources was personal experience. The role of women in 19th century England is shown to be very different to that of today and even typical of outdated English tradition. The people running things are all men (the leading dairyman, Farmer Lodge, Davies) and it seems that if women want to get anywhere they would have to marry a successful male (this points out how much bad and loveless potential the marriage of Lodge and Gertrude had). When Gertrude goes to the 'County Jail' she is told to 'use her beauty, impaired though it was, as a pass-key', this shows how important looks are in this period and how men see women and use them. We see that Farmer Lodge is attracted to Gertrude mainly because of her physical appearance and the appeal of her as a new accessory. ...read more.

Middle

His mother uses her son to spy on Gertrude and their relationship seems more like that of an evil queen and her slave than of a mother and son. Rhoda shows little (mostly no) affection for the boy, and he is only used to run errands, 'hold up the net a moment'. Rhoda also shows no recognition of his feelings, neither does his father 'took no notice of you', and neither of them picks up on how frustrated he is underneath 'his mother not observing that he was cutting a notch with his pocket-knife in the beech-backed chair'. The boy does hint at some feelings for his mother when he asked her what had happened the night of her dream, but when he goes on to ask 'you fell off the bed, surely?' the reader can't be sure whether the boy was eager to hear of some pain towards his mother, or was just concerned. The novel ends with the death of the boy, but because of the way Hardy portrays the boy's innocence throughout, the reader would tend to feel sympathy - as there was no one to stand up for him - the boy dies a lonely death. Gertrude is treated suspiciously, although rather distantly, by the surrounding community because she is so different, Rhoda's son is described by Lodge as a 'country lad' which makes Gertrude a definite 'city girl'. When Gertrude is described by Rhoda's son she is likened to a 'live doll' which may be how all of Wessex see her - inaccessible (in her box) and a perfect depiction of female beauty which all the men want, though the price tag is too high (would have to be handsome, wealthy, intelligent, etc.) ...read more.

Conclusion

(Rhoda - becomes extremely jealous of Gertrude), Obsessive ness (Gertrude - her ailment, Rustics - their culture [superstition], Lodge - his business) Selfishness (Gertrude - doesn't care if an innocent dies, Lodge - hurts other people by only thinking of his own needs, Rhoda - mistreats her son and uses him) The characters warn us of what can happen when these feelings become overpowering. In this story I think Hardy concentrates on two main issues: the class system, and the feeling loneliness. Although they are two very different issues they are linked in a distinct way - loneliness comes from separation, and the class system is a means of separating. I think the withered arm symbolizes the relationship between these two issues in a community, and the way they co-exist. The class system proves to be a damaging idealism, which can isolate and depress people, and in turn an isolated depressed person can be put into a lower class. In a way the class system and the feeling loneliness can be seen as a single idea. While loneliness is a mental feeling, it shows itself physically in the separation of people (the class system), and while the class system is a physical separation of people, it expresses itself mentally as a feeling (loneliness). The withered arm is a physical ailment to Gertrude which slowly isolates her from the community, it also makes her feel less of a woman and un-loved which eventually leaves her feeling alone. The Withered Arm reflects the period in which it was written by incorporating issues which were typical of that time being animated by interesting and varied characters with a range of emotions, and using appropriate language styles for dialogue along with creative language techniques for description. ...read more.

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