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The Withered Arm

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The Withered Arm How does...... 'The Withered Arm' is a short story about the supernatural, based in the rural landscape of eighteenth century England. Thomas Hardy, the author, creates various atmospheres and settings by using a number of very effective techniques and also, by his general use of language. Hardy focuses chiefly on imagery, in particular the use of light and dark to create an atmosphere for different settings. For example, when Roda and her son are in their cottage. Hardy uses the light from the fire to show the true beauty of Roda's face: "The radiance lit her pale cheek, and made her dark eyes, that had once been handsome, seem handsome anew" This style of using light and dark to emphasise or pick out a part of something is known as 'Chiaroscuro'. It is also a technique used in the same way in art and Hardy uses it very effectively to create various atmospheres. I think that he uses this technique because it gives a supernatural feeling to the setting. Another technique that Hardy uses to create an atmosphere is his use of colours and noises. An example of this is the way he describes Gertrude. ...read more.


Hardy also describes the gig that the farmer is on in this way too: "with a lemon-coloured body" he uses the word "lemon" instead of yellow. This is because by using lemon he adds the taste and the smell, as well as the colour, to the atmosphere. In sharp comparison to the farmer's life, his son is shown as very poor, living in poverty and having lots of problems in his life. Hardy shows this by saying: "the heavy bundle he carried" the bundle is a metaphor of all the problems and hardships in his life and Hardy creates a really depressing atmosphere around the boy. Hardy also links him to being a criminal. He describes him as: "creeping along at a snails pace, and continually looking behind him" Later in the story we discover that the boy has stolen a hare from the land. This was an offence and in Victorian times, when the story is set, this theft would get the death penalty. "the hare you wired is very tender; but mind that nobody catches you" this quote shows that the boy is a criminal, which is one of the problems that the bundle on his back symbolises. ...read more.


The Hangman's cottage in Casterbridge is another place with a supernatural atmosphere. The cottage is on top of the jail that, on its own, creates an ugly, death-like atmosphere. Hardy describes it as: "a lonely cottage by a deep slow river" the words Hardy has chosen to describe the river, deep and slow, add to the strange, creepy atmosphere. He also personifies the river that makes it sound almost as if it is following her because it's always there: "the waters of which emitted a steady roar" everything in Casterbridge seem to be slow and depressing and I think Hardy has done this intentionally because this is the place where people get hung and go to jail. The actual cottage itself is very dark too, and the only form of light the hangman has is a candle, which symbolises life and the fact that there is enough light for him. The cottage is described like a shed, with steps on the outside and no light. It all seems very lonely and eerie which is the setting that Hardy wishes to create. Overall, the surprising thing about how Hardy creates atmosphere and conveys setting, is how simply he does it. Dialect, dialogue, of particular lexis, light and dark, metaphors and a few similes create the desired effect for all of his settings. Quite an achievement. Bradley Rice The 6600.doc 27/04/07 Page 1 of 5 ...read more.

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