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What methods does Hardy use to gain, sustain and ultimately to satisfy the reader's interest in The Distracted Preacher and The Withered Arm?

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Introduction

What methods does Hardy use to gain, sustain and ultimately to satisfy the reader's interest in The Distracted Preacher and The Withered Arm? Writing a good short story is difficult. But Thomas Hardy succeeded in writing excellent short stories. He did this by carefully planning them in order to gain, sustain and satisfy the reader's interest. I will now be looking at how he manages this in The Distracted Preacher and in The Withered Arm. After reading both stories I immediately noticed a similarity in their structure; there seemed to be four 'peaks in tension' and three 'pits in tension'. In order to keep the readers interest's Hardy keeps increasing the tension until it reaches a peak then he lets the tension fall until it reaches a pit. Using this method the reader gets more excited as the tension increases so he/she keeps reading. After Hardy has created a peak he lets the tension fall because this slows the pace of the story and it means that the next peak is all the more exciting for the readers. He creates these peaks so that each one has more tension than the last and therefore is more exciting for the readers. At the end of both stories the tension increases more and more until it reaches the final peak in tension. This means that the end of the story is very memorable and exciting for the reader. I have shown all this on a graph (see below). As I have shown Hardy was excellent at controlling the tension of the stories. ...read more.

Middle

Now that Hardy has gained the reader's interest it is very important for him to make sure that he sustains it. In The Withered Arm he does this by using the idea of befriending the enemy. As at first Rhoda despises Gertrude and as they have the same husband we can say that they are supposedly enemies. Therefore, it is very interesting for the reader to find out how their unlikely friendship develops. Also the landscape in The Withered Arm plays an important part in the story. Hardy uses the landscape as almost an evil character. We see this when Rhoda is taking Gertrude to Trendle and we are told how the "thick clouds made the atmosphere dark, though it was as yet only early afternoon; and the wind howled dismally over the slopes of the heath" We can see how the country can be very intimidating. This is interesting for the reader because we want to find out whether they will reach Trendle and thereby defeating the countryside. Hardy still keeps using the supernatural angle when attempting to sustain the reader's interest. He makes the reader understand that as Gertrude's injury was made in a supernatural way so the cure must also be supernatural. Therefore, it is fitting that Gertrude has to "touch with the limb the neck of a man who's been hanged". It is important that in the first half of The Withered Arm the story follows Rhoda's movements and thoughts whereas, in the second half Rhoda moves away and we change to following Gertrude's thoughts and movements. This is interesting for the reader because we learn a lot about both of them. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the end it is his belief in God that wins the battle even though Stockdale has to leave Lizzy. Here Hardy is trying to show us that the respect of God's laws is more important than the love of a person. If Stockdale had married Lizzy when she was a smuggler he would constantly have a moral dilemma. But by following God's laws he gets to married Lizzy without feeling that he has betrayed God. So Hardy is also telling us that God will give you what you want if you respect his laws. These idea means that the ending of The Distracted Preacher is better, because the reader feels that he has learnt something from the story. Using these techniques Hardy succeeds in satisfying the readers by creating a final peak in tension at the end of both stories. The final peaks are when in The Withered Arm Gertrude touches the dead body and sees that it is Rhoda's son and in The Distracted Preacher when Stockdale gives Lizzy her final chance to marry him as long as she gives up smuggling. These two peaks in tension sum up the different ways that Hardy gains, sustains and satisfies the reader in the two stories. In The Withered Arm the story concerns the supernatural and befriending the enemy whereas The Distracted Preacher is regarding love and moral dilemma. The similarities are that in both stories Hardy controls the tension introducing questions into the reader's mind, creating conflict and using 'red herrings'. Also Hardy ends both stories with an exciting plausible ending, brings the story back round to the beginning and he makes sure that all the reader's questions are answered. David E-Evans English Coursework 1 ...read more.

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