This is the question both the authors are asking the reader in their stories. In connection with this the two authors are also trying to find out if peoples emotions and attitudes can effect and influence relationships whether it is their own or another persons. In Hardy’s story, “The Withered Arm”, he focuses on the relationship between Rhoda Brook and Gertrude Lodge and how their emotions subconsciously affect what happens to other people and then how these consequences affect their relationships.
Casey however focuses on the relationship between the husband and the wife and how the rejection towards the wife and her emotions and attitudes toward the seagull could effect what happens to her husband. I intend to explore the issue of whether emotions and attitudes can in fact influence relationships in both the short stories, first with relation to Hardy’s issues and then I shall write about The Seagull, in comparison to The Withered Arm. In the Withered Arm, Hardy begins his story by setting the scene so that the reader can imagine where the story is set.
From his descriptions we can deduce that this story is set in a rural, pastoral background, which is very remote. Their community seems very close knit and suffocating, as everybody seems to know everyone’s business. We know this because everyone seems to know about the relationship between Rhoda Brooks and Farmer Lodge as in the first chapter when the milkmaids begin to talk about Farmer Lodges new wife they occasionally throw a glance to the...
“other side of the Barton” where a “thin, fading woman of thirty milked somewhat apart from the rest.
And as they talk they seem to sporadically throw glances of “reflectivness” in the same direction so we know that Farmer Lodge and this woman must have had some sort of relationship. This is again confirmed when about half way through the chapter they say “Tis hard for she, signifying the thin worn milkmaid aforesaid” and then we are given the name of the milkmaid they talk about, “He ha’n’t spoke to Rhoda Brook for years” which also tells us that something did happen but it is now in the past.
We next learn that Rhoda Brooks has a child, a son. We know this because when the milkmaids leave to go home Rhoda is joined “by a boy of twelve or thereabout” so this leads us to the conclusion that she had had a relationship with Farmer Lodge and that she had been his mistress and that they had had a child together; the “boy of twelve or thereabout”. However, it seems that Farmer Lodge seems to have now disregarded Rhoda and her son completely and moved on with his life and found himself a young wife.
By this Rhoda feels pushed aside by the farmer and his new wife and feels that she is not good enough for him. On numerous occasions Rhoda sent “the boy” to “give her a look” if he saw her and to report back to Rhoda and tell her what she is like. She also gave the boy specific details about what to look for, “if
she’s dark or fair, and if she’s tall- as tall as I and shows the marks of a lady” all of these show us just how curious she is of Farmer Lodges new wife and how she will be looking out for any faults with her; like things Rhoda has and she does not.
With relation to all of the comparisons, Rhoda is wanting to make herself feel better as she feel jealous that Farmer Lodge should choose another woman over her and so even thought she has never met his new wife she feels resentment and hatred toward her as she has now also shattered any chance of her family ever being re-united back together.
There seems to be a lot of stress on the appearance of Farmer Lodges new wife and so from this we can assume that he bases his personal feelings mainly on how women look and their social status as Rhoda is merely a milkmaid and so is of no high social standing, whereas, his new wife is a “lady” and so we can presume that she is of high social status. Then it is confirmed that Farmer Lodge does indeed think highly of appearance as in the second chapter her refers to his wife as “my pretty Gertrude” and thinks that she is a pretty piece that he can carry about and show off to people.
We also know that he likes her because Rhoda’s son describes him as being “pleased” and that “his waistcoat stuck out, and his great golden seals hung like a lord’s” because he was proud of her and very pleased with her physical appearance. Although, he will not be truthful to Gertrude in his marriage as he is playing ignorant towards his wife about his son.
Now with relation to Rhoda’s attitudes and feelings towards Gertrude, she has in fact never actually met her but she makes assumptions about Gertrude based on what she has heard about her and how she feels towards her personally. Akin to when Rhoda’s son went to church and Rhoda again asked him to observe Gertrude walking in and out of church and again asked him to see if she is “taller than I. ” Her son comes back saying that Gertrude is actually shorter than Rhoda and Rhoda then feels as if she has an element about her that Farmer Lodges “pretty Gertrude” does not have.
Yet when her son then tells Rhoda what Gertrude wore to church he carried on to describe how her gown “whewed and whistled so loud when it rubbed against the pews that the lady coloured up more than ever for shame at the noise, and pulled it in to keep it from touching;” and how even though Mr Lodge seemed pleased enough Gertrude “seemed to wish her noisy gownd anywhere but on her” and at this Rhoda seemed shocked that Gertrude would not bask in the attention she was drawing to herself and that she actually didn’t want people to stare at her, but still, in spite of this Rhoda only ever thinks negative thoughts about her and is very much prejudice