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In this assignment we will be comparing the leading female characters in Thomas Hardy's The Withered Arm and Gamblers Never Win by Stan Barstow.

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Introduction

Thomas Hardy, (1840-1928) began writing novels in 1867 with "The Poor Man and the Lady" but it was rejected. But, in 1874, he had his first success with none other than "Far From the Madding Crowd". Hardy went on to write many novels and poems, mainly about rural life. In this assignment we will be comparing the leading female characters in Thomas Hardy's The Withered Arm and Gamblers Never Win by Stan Barstow. The leading female roles in The Withered Arm are that of Rhoda Brook and Gertrude Lodge. Hilda Scurridge is the main female character in the Stan Barstow story, with Eva, her daughter also making a brief appearance. As well as the female characters in the stories, we will also be looking at how the time period in which the story was written/is set affects how the social and historical influences and situations are when it comes to issues such as marriage. The first thing we will compare is the appearance of each of the characters. Rhoda Brook is described in the book as a 'thin, fading woman of thirty'. We also know several other details about her appearance by looking at the text. She is said to have very pale skin, which is unusual because she is a milk-woman who would spend most of the time outside. She also has very dark eyes which appear to be the only thing left about her which can seem beautiful. We derive this information from the quote - The radiance lit her pale cheek and made her dark eyes, that had once been handsome, seem handsome anew. Because she works as a dairy maid on the farm, Rhoda has workers hands which are worn and blistered. She seems very self-conscious about them and when Gertrude comes along, she asks constantly about what her hands look like. She is also quite tall and this seems to be the only thing she is satisfied about when she finds out what Gertrude is like. ...read more.

Middle

On the other hand, Gertrude has no children throughout her marriage to Farmer Lodge. He begins to believe that because he has no child to his wife that the heavens are punishing him for refusing to acknowledge Rhoda's son. In 'Gamblers Never Win', we hear about Hilda's father. He is portrayed as a tyrannical father who constantly spoke about the sins of the world and God. He did not approve of Fred Scurridge and we get the impression that Hilda began a relationship with him to spite her father. We do not get any similar story of how the relationship of either Rhoda or Gertrude with Farmer Lodge in 'The Withered Arm' Another difference between the books is that while Farmer Lodge does not get married to Rhoda, even though she is carrying his child, Fred and Hilda have to get married because she becomes pregnant. The difference in these circumstances are because of the social standing on intercourse before marriage. In the 1830's, when 'The Withered Arm' was written a man did not have to marry a woman if she got pregnant as it was seen as her fault. She would probably be thought of as a 'scarlet woman' for a while but sooner or later it would be forgotten. However, in the 1950's (when 'Gamblers Never Win' was written) to become pregnant out of wedlock was a huge social gaffe. Many men who found their partners to be with child were forced to marry them. This is how Mr. Mrs. Scurridge came to be married. Abortions were not made legal in Britain until 1968 so Hilda could not have avoided her marriage. Unfortunately, it seems as though the passion and desire which brought Mr. and Mrs. Scurridge together did not last and the relationship has dwindled into a dull and repetitive lifestyle. Divorce was also heavily frowned upon in the 1950's so both Fred and Hilda stay together even though they are unhappy. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hilda suffers most in the stories because her husband was once a wonderful man who she then had to watch as a 'demon' took over him and turned him into a vile creature who's every word to Hilda is laced with malice. Hilda had to watch as her whole world disintegrated around her. Not once throughout the whole story does Fred Scurridge say anything nice to his wife. Indeed, some of the last words he said to her were 'D'you think you're fir to take anywhere? Look at yersen!' Out of the three women, Rhoda gets the best treatment. Although Lodge left her, he did not treat her badly as the other two are when he was with her. I think that although both stories are very similar, it is the little differences such as the treatment of the characters and the language used that makes the biggest impression. The language in 'The Withered Arm' can be a little hard to follow and so a lot of the plot can be lost. Out of the three characters I feel most sympathy for Hilda as she has never really seen what life can be like because she was with her God-fearing father until she was twenty two and the she was married to Scurridge. Rhoda I can understand why she is like what she is but she seems to be able to cope with just about anything life will throw at her. Gertrude, I do not feel any pity towards her as she seems too vain and bitter towards the end of the book. She doesn't often do anything by herself and when she does, it ultimately leads to her demise. I don't really think I can comment on the rights and wrongs of the treatments of the character as I haven't lived in those times so I don't really understand the workings of the social statuses and what would be acceptable and what would not in each different time. Lindsey Alcock Centre 42119 Candidate No. 8001 ...read more.

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