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How does Hardy represent women in the 'Withered Arm' and in four other Wessex tales

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Introduction

26th September 2004 Rebecca Reynolds How does Hardy represent women in the 'Withered Arm' and in four other Wessex tales Victorian theorists have constructed a stereotypical and simplified model of gender. Apart from the physical differences, men and women are seen through a series of opposites. Men were portrayed as strong, powerful and able to pursue their careers outside the home. However, women were seen to be controlled by men and to stay at home to bring up a family and look after the home. Men were regarded as being more intelligent than women; therefore this made them self-conscious and affected their emotional status. Women were seen as being weak and innocent. However, if a woman seduced a man then she was held responsible and her reputation would be ruined. The man however, has his actions excused and they are never spoken of again. Although these values that they believed in permeated society - it naturalised women's repression. Women were not allowed to vote, had no access to professions and had limited opportunities of education. Nowadays, society is fairer and people are judged by their personality rather than, for example, their race or gender. Men are seen as equal to women and many men now look after the house and children whilst the woman works. ...read more.

Middle

Although the story may be comical to some people, it is at the expense of women. This means that women were seen as fools and men were seen as the more intelligent sex. However, this story would not be acceptable in front of a modern audience. Tony Kytes manipulates the female characters by lies. This reveals that women are meant to be trusted by men as they use women. Also is reveals that women are gullible. When Milly discovers that Unity is hiding, there is an argument. ' "Mind what you're saying!" replied Milly'. This portrays women as gullible and easily led towards lies, i.e. 'stupid'. Hannah finally sees sense in the end as she walks away from Tony. Tony is shocked and says, ' "What, you won't have me Hannah?" ' She is upset because she realises she is not the only girl for him. The story seems to suggest that if her father was not there at this particular time, she may have chosen him. This shows that she is gullible. Milly, despite what happened, still goes off with Tony. This gives an image of stupidity to all women, making women seem desperate. This is because not five minutes earlier, Tony had declared his love to two other women. Rather than simply interpreting the girl's behaviour as foolish, it reveals that marriage was seen as very important to a Victorian woman living in a small rural area. ...read more.

Conclusion

Normal women of this time, in this position, would have realised that they are doing something wrong, given up and married the vicar. However, the publishers wanted a traditional ending. The ending of this story sees Stockdale returning after two years and marrying a worn down and shot Lizzy. This takes away the unique character. This shows her losing her independence of a modern woman, which makes her special and instead she turns into a traditional Victorian woman. Hardy was under a lot of pressure to write a story that would please the general public and sell. As he had to change the endings of some of the stories for the publishers, it proves the value of Victorian society, where then, men controlled everything and everything worked around them. Because of this, the ending is traditional, which the reader would expect. In this story, Lizzy does not conform as Hardy was told by publishers to create a happy ending but he liked a more adventurous ending for Lizzy. Many of the female characters conform; however Lizzy did not. In the four other stories, the women are victims of the men in one way or the other, whereas Lizzy is not a victim as she is in control of her actions. In this story Hardy challenges Victorian thinking and in the other stories slightly as well for that matter. In all five stories, women are represented differently, which the controversy that Hardy thought was Victorian society. ...read more.

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