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How does Hardy create sympathy

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How does Hardy create sympathy for Rhoda Brook in his short story 'The Withered Arm'? 'The Withered Arm' is a story highlighting the rigid class distinctions and social barriers that dominated English society in the 1800's. It is about a thin, fading woman who has a relationship with an upper class gentleman, which results in a child and she suffers the consequences of her forbidden actions. The introduction of Farmer Lodge's new wife causes many problems and it is then that the story starts to unfold. Hardy uses several techniques to create sympathy for Rhoda Brook. In Chapter One, we are introduced to Rhoda Brooks the milkmaid and her son. The reader witnesses the other milkmaids talking about her and how Farmer Lodge's new wife is coming to the village. We immediately sympathise with her, as "'Tis hard for she". Rhoda Brooks is not named at the beginning and is just refered to as 'she', instantly making us feel compassion for Rhoda, as she is a person, not just 'she', which is impersonal. It highlights her isolation from her peers and the community. Rhoda is epitimised by her own house, creating sympathy for her immediately, as a "rafter showed like a bone protruding through the skin", emphasizing the fact that Rhoda is starting to become weathered, worn and thin. ...read more.


We feel empathy for Gertrude, as she feels that her husband "dislikes me-no, loves me less", showing that Farmer Lodge thinks tremendously of beauty and finds it very important. Rhoda was beautiful before. Our sympathy for Rhoda increases when faces a difficult decision. Gertrude asks her to take her to Conjuror Trendle. Rhoda is scared that her involvement will be uncovered and that she will lose her only friend. However, she is a true friend and decides to help, despite the consequences. In Chapter 5, Hardy creates a sinister mood, using pathetic fallacy, 'thick clouds made the atmosphere dark...and the wind howled dismally'; enhancing the fact that something big is about to happen that will split their friendship immediately and cause pain for both. The reader feels sympathy for both Rhoda and Gertrude now, as neither truly know the outcome of the visit. The conjuror says very promptly and simply, "'Tis the work of an enemy", a particular shock for Gertrude, as she did not think anyone particularly disliked her, although she has an even bigger shock instore later. Gertrude is surprised by the statement from the conjuror and enquires as to who it is. After seeing, she 'appeared exceedingly pale'; a particularly effective way of creating sympathy, as she believed that Rhoda was a true friend and now believes that she did it purposely, which is not entirely true. ...read more.


Rhoda is reintroduced into the story at a crucial point. Just as Gertrude touches the dead man, Rhoda and Farmer Lodge come in and we find out that 'the dead young man was Rhoda's son'. This immediately increases our compassion for Rhoda, as Gertrude wanted this man to die, even when she was told that he was suspected to be innocent; she had lost all morality, so does not deserve any sympathy. Rhoda, however, has lost everything and we feel great sympathy for her. Gertrude dies 3 days after the hanging, when our sympathy for her is at it's lowest and her husband died 2 years later, although after giving his money to 'a reformatory for boys', showing that he felt guilty about only acknowledging his son after his death and felt he had to do something about it. At the end, Rhoda has nothing to live for, as she has lost her son, hope and also 'her form became bent', meaning that the one thing that she had, height, she has now lost. This is the point in the story when we feel our most sympathetic for her. I found the short story, 'The Withered Arm', very enjoyable to read and think that the techniques used by Hardy to create sympathy for Rhoda Brooks are very effective. I think the idea of juxta-positioning of characters is very interesting and enhanced our overall view of Rhoda. ?? ?? ?? ?? Becky Jackson 'The Withered Arm' ...read more.

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