A comparison of the women in The Hardy Tales
Rhoda in the tale ‘The Withered Arm’ and Phyllis in the story ‘The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion’ are both very lonely women. Both of these women and have been mistreated by men, but none of them ever speak out for themselves to tell the men that their behaviour is unacceptable. Women who were treated by men were just expected by their fathers (if the husband is rich) to just keep quiet and be happy that they are financially supported. Rhoda is a social reject. She has been isolated to a small, dilapidated cottage in the middle of a lonely field.
Rhoda is of the poor working class. She has received no education and is illiterate. Her son wears worn out shoes that rub his feet. Farmer Lodge, the sons biological father takes no responsibility for his son and does not support Rhoda financially. This shows that Farmer Lodge is irresponsible and dismisses his responsibilities. When the story is told Rhoda is thirty to forty years of age, thin from starvation, dark eyed, poor and a single mother. She is a milkmaid and earns very little, no where near enough to feed her and her son properly.
Rhoda was once very pretty and was in a relationship with Farmer Lodge. Farmer Lodge is a very shallow fickle man who is only attracted to the looks of a woman rather than her personality. Unfortunately, because he is rich many women fall for him although he never truly loves them. When Farmer Lodge’s new wife arrives Rhoda is very bitter about her and strives to find a way in which she is better than Farmer Lodge’s new wife, Gertrude. Although Rhoda seems like quite an independent character that fends for herself, she has been mistreated by Farmer Lodge for quite sometime.
Another woman who is severely mistreated by men is Phyllis in the tale ‘The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion’. Phyllis is mistreated by her father who grows selfish and withdraws her from the town where she was happy with her friends. When Rhoda visits conjuror Trendle she sees that is was herself who caused the abrasion on Gertrude’s arm she feels quite guilty. She would not care if it were someone else who caused it, but she feels bad because Rhoda knows it was her. At the end of the story, Rhoda has gained nothing and lost everything.
Her son who she greatly loved and was the nest thing in her life has been hanged for arson. At this time hanging for arson was common. Rhoda’s son was made an example of for other arsonists. I blame Rhoda for her situation because it was ‘social suicide’ for Farmer Lodge to be in a relationship with a poor milkmaid let alone have a child together. Rhoda must have known this. If Rhoda had never have started a relationship with Farmer Lodge none of the following events would have occurred. It may have just been a coincidence that Gertrude’s arm became deformed, but it drove Gertrude mad and eventually ended up killing her.