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The Withred Arm

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Paige Pidcock Discuss how Hardy creates a world that is different from ours today in 'The Withered Arm' I aim to explore how the writer, Thomas Hardy creates a world that is radically different from ours today. My impression of 'The Withered Arm' is that I believe that Hardy has been unfair and harsh, especially on the women. The relationships are based on people's social status and the fact that men believed to be superior to women. Social structure is probably the biggest influence on life in the times that was set; Rhoda is at the bottom of the hierarchy. Hardy portrays the character of Rhoda Brook as a woman who relates to her reputation as a discarded woman continuously and as a woman who isolates herself from the surrounding people. "Where a thin fading woman of thirty milked somewhat apart from the rest." This states that Rhoda is lonely but of her own accord, she could try to socialise with her co-workers but chooses to do her work alone and away from anybody else. Rhoda is a "thin fading woman", this suggests that she is gradually losing her strength; this is indicated by the word "fading". I believe that she is gradually losing her strength because she has had to raise a child by herself. A couple of workers concentrate on Rhoda for their gossip "Tis hard for she"; This establishes that Rhoda has great strength because many women would move away if they were the subject of gossip for towns people, and it takes great courage for Rhoda to face up to people and overcome her fear. This adds to the isolation of her character. He also uses gossip to introduce us the other two main characters, Farmer Lodge and Gertrude. ...read more.


This portrayed in the novel by Thomas Hardy shows how she looks up to others, as she is unhappy with herself and alone. Rhoda's anger is finally exposed when she flings the "spectre" off the bed. This is because the mocking conclusively leaves her aggravated and wanting to hurt the cause of her nightmare. The dream leaves Rhoda in great shock and discomfort because she is left wondering whether it really happened or whether it was just a nightmare. Here is where the role of supernatural forces is introduced. Many people in the 1800's believed in evil spirits and witchcraft. However a lot of people these days are more aware of the truth behind magic. I believe that Thomas Hardy was fascinated by supernatural and unexplained phenomena as I feel that his thoughts and fears came through in the text. And the things that Rhoda experienced are similar to those that were believed by Thomas. The fact that Rhoda's son heard the thump in the night Adds to the distraught mind of Rhoda. Many scientists around the world are trying to prove that everything we dream about is based on some level of the problems we deal with throughout the day, which is clearly the fact in Rhoda's case. Rhoda becomes weary after the dream and questioning everything, thinking back to when "she had been slyly called a witch", this is an indication that she convinces herself that what had just happened in her dream was not just a dream it really happened. Hardy lets us as the readers have an insight to the superstition in the dream and that every cause has an effect even in the subconscious realm. ...read more.


However it could be that she was just so overwhelmed by the news that farmer Lodge was re-married that she didn't think about what she was asking her son to do. I can recognise how frustrated the boy becomes underneath after Rhoda Brooks keeps asking him to spy on Gertrude Lodge. "His mother not observing that he was cutting a notch with his pocket-knife into the beech-backed chair", this could also mean that he was just bored and that Rhoda isn't all that interesting when she is being an obsessive woman. All this appears to cause the unfortunate execution of him because when the story comes to an end we begin to sympathize with him, as he may have been innocent for the crime in which he was charged but there was nobody there to stand up for him. The boy dies a lonely death. This tells me that Rhoda becomes a self-centred woman because instead of caring and being there for her son she dwelled in the past about her relationship with Gertrude Lodge. In my opinion there are stronger forces than the Law working here because this fateful incident draws all the four main characters together once again. All this could be a coincidence but each and every one of the previous encounters between Rhoda and Gertrude convince me that it is fate drawing them together. On the day of the execution Rhoda appears sad and in pain. "Her face drawn, and her eyes red with weeping." This states that Rhoda is a woman who is not afraid to show emotion when the time comes and that she did genuinely care about her son even if she didn't show it enough in the past. The Judicial system in Hardy's day was barbaric, innocent people were hung purely to be made examples of. ...read more.

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