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Thomas Hardy's stories are set in rural England before the Industrial Revolution, and after the Boer war, in which many men were killed, and so there were more women than men.

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Introduction

Thomas Hardy's stories are set in rural England before the Industrial Revolution, and after the Boer war, in which many men were killed, and so there were more women than men. At this time, there were very few large cities. England was very much a rural country of villages and farmland. Women worked as servants, cleaners, cooks, scullery maids, etc. for the landed gentry. A woman's place was traditionally in the home, raising children. Being a domestic housewife was a full-time job - families tended to be large. It was important for a woman to marry, and was the focus of every female's attention. Back then, the main aim of a woman's life was to get married, as they weren't financially independent, but afraid of being left alone. Because of society's expectations, women would do their best to get the man they wanted. It would seem as if some women were so desperate for a husband, they would do just about anything to get one, as reflected in 'Tony Kytes, The Arch-Deceiver'. In the story, three pretty women are vying for Tony's attentions, even though he's not that good-looking, "with a seam here and there left by the small-pox", but as men were quite a rarity following the war, he was considered quite a catch in the area. ...read more.

Middle

All the toughest jobs she'd have to do by hand, on her own. There were no modern conveniences or machinery. Raising a family was hard work, and extremely labour-intensive. All those years ago, a woman would be working hard from getting up early in the morning until she finally went to bed at night. Behind the situation in 'Tony Kytes, The Arch-Deceiver', are the social and economic facts of life in the early part of the century (when the story is set). Tony is a working man and is offering a home and a decent living to the woman he marries, in return for the performance of her duties as homemaker and the mother of his children. There wasn't really an alternative for the women of that time and class like there is today. The woman who does not marry will have a very hard time of it, and will risk being pitied by the community. A woman couldn't afford to stay a spinster, either for her reputation or lack of money. If women weren't married by the age of 30 (which was classed as middle-aged then), they were considered 'left on the shelf' and had to carry on living at home with their fathers. ...read more.

Conclusion

Women were expected to go along with what the men wanted, and nobody bothered or dared to argue otherwise. Tony Kytes is very immature when he goes against his father's advice out of spite "Now of all the things that could have happened to wean him from Milly there was nothing so powerful as his father's recommending her". He is unsure of his own mind. As it turned out, his father's decision was the right one, as Milly was actually the only one out of the three who truly cared about Tony, and was willing to forgive him even after he left her until last when deciding who he should choose, which must've been a huge insult to her. Milly was stood there sobbing her heart out while Tony asked two other women to marry him right in front of her, before eventually turning to her, and rudely implying that they must be meant to be together, and she reluctantly agrees, although she knows herself that he's only asking her because the other two don't want him any more. This emphasizes even more how essential it was for a woman to marry back then, and how she couldn't afford to throw a relationship away over anything unless it was really serious. Vikki Clark 11F ...read more.

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