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Wider reading Course Work - “The Woman in Black” and “The Withered arm.”

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Jessica Williams Wider reading Course Work - "The Woman in Black" and "The Withered arm." Thomas Hardy's "The Withered arm and Susan Hill's "The Woman in Black" are both texts set around the turn of the century and share the theme of women in society. They explore the class systems and the differences in morals, attitudes, women's rights and roles in society and how a person's social status can completely change the outcome for two different people in the same situation. Both texts feature a woman and their struggle against society after having illegitimate children and being abandoned by their lovers. The two women are Jennet from "The Woman in Black" and Rhoda from "The Withered Arm." Through these characters the writers help the audience to understand the roles of women in the early century and late 19th century by providing a comparison. "The Woman in Black" and "The Withered Arm" explore class differences through Jennet who, born in to a rich family is upper/middle class and Rhoda who, born in to poverty is lower class. Jennet was born in to the upper middle class and lives as a lady in the small rural village of Crythin Gifford. She was brought to her child she was up in a highly respected family of great prestige. When Jennet gave birth shunned by society and in fear of losing their social status and respect, her parents disowned her. ...read more.


Women had to work for their living had to bring up their children and they couldn't afford to have someone to run their lives for them. They had to be independent and look after themselves. Jennet had been brought up to be a woman of high class, her family were looked upon as good people therefor they had a high reputation at stake. When Jennet had her affair it brought disgrace on their family. Such an upper class family couldn't accept such a sin and doing the only thing they knew how to the drove Jennet away so it could all be forgotten and the family could regain it's respect. Jennet couldn't bring up the child with no money or support as she wasn't brought up for it so he was forced to go through the pain of giving up her child and living apart from him. Both the stories pick up on the superiority of the man in that time. In both texts the men are just as much to blame than the women but they do not have to suffer for it. "The Woman in Black doesn't mention Jennet's lover at all as if he was nothing to do with it and doesn't need to take any responsibility for his son or Jennet. In " The Withered Arm" Farmer Lodge doesn't take any responsibility for his son or Rhoda either. ...read more.


"The Withered Arm" was written in the 19th century and the "Woman in Black was written in the 1980s. When The Withered Arm was read by the 19th century readers they would have been much more shocked than I was, In present day single parents and illegitimate children aren't as rare as then so aren't classed as a sin anymore. Hardy was most widely read by upper classes and they would have reacted to the book in the same kind of way that society reacted to Jennets pregnancy in The Woman in Black. The Withered Arm would have outraged but excited them which Hardy had a reputation for doing. As well as making them understand Rhoda's situation and the lower class ways it was probably his intention to cause a stir which he did with many of his books The Woman in Black was written in the 20th century and it is hard for the modern reader to empathise with Jennet, Hill had to include more drama than Hardy did. She had to make the horror bit of the story more substantial and sensationalised to excite and shock the reader in the same way Hardy's first readers were. The supernatural part of The Withered Arm can be more of a sub plot. Jessica Williams I think the way the story affects the reader influences how understanding and sympathetic they are to the Character. I was more moved by The Woman in Black and that is why I think Jennets Situation was worse than Rhoda's was. ...read more.

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