How does Hardy present Rhoda and Gertrude in The Withered Arm?

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Riya Panchal        Deadline 28/04/2010        Thomas Hardy

How does Hardy present Rhoda and Gertrude in “The Withered Arm”?

Hardy presents Gertrude Lodge as the Farmers young wife who is very attractive ‘Tisty-Tosty’, she has clear blue eyes, soft fresh skin, light hair, white teeth, a red mouth but short. This shows that she is young. When Gertrude sat down in the church her silk dress ‘whistled so loud when it rubbed against the pews’ and as this happened her face blushed, ‘the lady coloured up more than ever for very shame at the noise’.  This proved that she wasn’t used to being posh and sophisticated with the farmer otherwise she wouldn’t have blushed, it would have been normal and not embarrassed by the noise.

On the night of Gertrude’s wound, Rhoda and Gertrude had the same dream that they were both in a strange place but the image of Gertrude that Rhoda had gathered from her son the specific information she wanted from spying on Gertrude. She used her memory and created an image in her head of Gertrude. ‘Rhoda Brook could raise a mental image of the unconscious Mrs Lodge that was as realistic as a photograph.’ As the incubus of Gertrude lay down on top of Rhoda, ‘it was suffocating her with pressure’ and it shined the wedding ring in her face. When Rhoda grabbed its arm ‘in a last desperate effort, swung out her right hand, seized the confronting spectre by its obtrusive left arm, and whirled it backward to the floor.’ The next morning she went out to do some milking of the cows but she didn’t realise that she looked more ‘pale and haggard’ after the dream. Her son asked her what the noise was, that must have been a sign that it actually happened, and her son said the noise happened at two in the morning.

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Later on in the day Gertrude goes to Rhoda’s hut to give the boy his new shoes, and Gertrude said ‘“I have one little ailment which puzzles me. It is nothing serious, but I cannot make it out.’ ‘“I was sound asleep, dreaming I was away in some strange place, a pain suddenly shot into my arm”.’ She had changed from being sweet and charitable to obsessive, unloved by her husband and miserable. All because of her arm she changed ‘her grace and beauty was contorted and disfigured’.

The wound Rhoda caused was making the farmer’s relationship to Gertrude weaker ...

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