The dream sequence is chapter 3 is caused by the relationship between Rhoda and Gertrude and Mr. Lodge. The relationship is complex, even though Rhoda has never met Gertrude. They love the same the man. However, Rhoda’s experience with Mr. Lodge is deeper since she had already with him. Rhoda could know him better then Mrs. Lodge. Mr. Lodge’s courtship of Gertrude could have been very short. Gertrude may barely know Mr. Lodge. However, Rhoda may know him better. Rhoda had a child out of wedlock with him. Maybe Rhoda has also dreamed about having a happy life with Mr. Lodge. The appearance of Gertrude put an end to this dream. Now it has been replaced with a nightmare. The nightmare is a life alone, with no one to support The dream sequence
her, and no hope of a husband.
In the dream, Gertrude is sitting on Rhoda’s chest. This is a metaphor about their different social classes. Gertrude is part of the well off rich class, while Rhoda is a poor milkmaid who has had a child out of wedlock and has no support from the father. The upper class is always on top of the lower class, pressuring them, torturing them and not pitying them.
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Rhoda pictures Gertrude in the dream with a wrinkled face. This could mean that she is picturing Gertrude as an old woman in the future. This would mean that in Rhoda’s lifetime, it will always be the case that she has nothing and Gertrude has Mr. Lodge. She will always have to work hard and be tortured by the vision of Gertrude being married to the man she loves. If she is not picturing Gertrude in the future, then she is picturing Gertrude as just an ugly woman. This would mean that her life is even more unfair. Not only will Mr. Lodge not marry her or even support, but he will marry someone ugly instead of her. It is as if he married an ugly woman to spite her.
We often think of people with hard lives, like Rhoda’s life, as dreaming of better lives. Rhoda does not dream of a better life. Instead, she dreams of a worse life. She dreams of a life where Mrs. Lodge is sitting on her, and taunting her. This is not actually happening. Rhoda has not met Mrs. Lodge. Mrs. Lodge probably does not know who Rhoda is, or that she is the mother of Mr. Lodge’s son. Rhoda must feel hopeless. She cannot dream of better things.
The language that Hardy uses is very violent and it emphasizes the fact that Rhoda is having a brutal nightmare. He uses expressions such as “maddened mentally,” “suffocated by pressure” and “the blue eyes pierced cruelly into her face.” The language demonstrates that Rhoda feels physically and mentally threatened by Mrs. Lodge. Maybe, Rhoda feels physically and mentally threatened by her life in general. Mrs. Lodge just becomes the focus of this. If Mrs. Lodge had not come to town, maybe Rhoda would have felt physically and mentally threatened by some other person. It is also possible that Rhoda is not just about Gertrude. She could be dreaming about Mr. Lodge too. It could be Mr. Lodge who is suffocating Rhoda, and taunting her. He has power over her. Gertrude does not really have power over Rhoda. Rhoda could have power over Gertrude. She could tell Gertrude about her child with Mr. Lodge.
The violence in the dream is the opposite of the pleasant impression we have of life in the countryside. When we think of life at this time, we think of the harsh life of the poor in the cities. The dream reminds us of the harsh life in the countryside as well.
Hardy describes Mrs. Lodge’s presence as an incubus. An incubus is a person who, or thing that oppresses like a nightmare. Or it is an evil spirit that is supposed to descend upon sleeping people. This is exactly what happens in the dream. We do not use this word much today. The word was probably used much more in Hardy’s time. People were more superstitious then than today. They were more likely to believe in evil spirits. The word incubus would have had more meaning for them than for us.
The dream sequence could be a turning point for Rhoda. Either she will decide that she must accept her life, and forget about a future with Mr. Lodge. She could also do something to try to ruin Mr. Lodge and Gertrude, such as telling Gertrude about the child.