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"Reading Thomas Hardy's 'The Withered Arm' transports you back to England at the turn of the 20th century" How far do you agree with this statement?

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Introduction

"Reading Thomas Hardy's 'The Withered Arm' transports you back to England at the turn of the 20th century." How far do you agree with this statement? Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in a village known as Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester, which is in the county town of Dorset. This village was extremely small and consisted of about eight workers cottages and had a total population of about 50 people. Hardy lived with his two sisters, his brother, his mother and his father and grew up on the edge of a wild stretch of heath. Hardy's mother who could read but could not write had sent him to a church funded school in Dorchester at the age of nine as she was determined that he would get a better education than she had got. His education continued at home where his ambitious mother insisted that he read a wide range of 'good' books He left school at sixteen and then moved to London in 1862 where a go-ahead architect known as Arthur Blomfield employed him. While in London Hardy also studied painting and taught himself Greek and Latin every morning before he went to work. Before Hardy returned to Dorchester in 1867, he had also begun writing novels. His first "Desperate Remedies", was published in 1871. He became famous for the serialised story, "Far From the Madding Crowd", which was printed first in a London magazine and then as a novel. ...read more.

Middle

Throughout "The Withered Arm" we can see many examples of the 'broad Dorset' dialect. He uses the word "barton" to call the farmyard, he uses "chimmer" to mean bedroom and he uses the words "tisty-tosty" to describe someone as being as round as a ball. He uses word and phrases like these throughout the story which gives the reader a much more realistic impression of what it was like live in Dorset at the time the story was written. In the story "The Withered Arm" magic plays a central part and Hardy claimed not to have invented the 'magical' details of the story but said they were all based on fact. Every village in Wessex was supposed to have its own witch who specialised in curses. Her services were often sought for casting evils spells on enemies. This was known as 'over-looking'. Once a victim had been over-looked, he or she would, it was believed, be blighted by injury. Limbs would slowly wither and in extreme cases drop off. We see this happening to Farmer Lodges wife, Gertrude in "The Withered Arm" after the jealous Rhoda Brook casts an evil spell on her. This action causes her arm to start to wither and decay. In Hardy's time, superstition and witchcraft was believed by many people, however in todays world it is believed in less because science has proved it to be false. Every village in Wessex was supposed to have its own witch who specialised in curses. ...read more.

Conclusion

From reading Hardy's work we can see how women were treated differently and can imagine what it would be like to be a woman in the 20th century. Another difference between life in the 20th century and today's modern world is the importance of Sunday. In Hardy's time everyone would go to church on Sunday as religion was an important part of everyday life, however today in the 21st century, religion isn't as important and most people see Sunday as a day to relax and stay in bed longer than normal. From reading Thomas Hardy's "The Withered Arm" a clear picture of country life is created. We have learnt that superstition and religion plays a big part in country life and that women in the 20th century were not treated as they are today. We have discovered that farming supplied most of the jobs for the local working-class people and that the upper class earns large sums of money by renting cows to the poor people. The rich also flaunt their wealth about a lot, which is show by the following line. "His great golden seals hung like a lord's." This widens the gap between the rich and the poor even more so. Hardy's use of descriptive language and dialect helped to give a clear picture and his use of the old traditional words and phrases really brought this story to life. Overall we can see that country life then in the 20th century was very different to what it is like in todays modern world. ...read more.

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