Thomas Hardy’s prose ‘The Withered Arm,’ was written in the nineteenth century illustrating norms and values of the society, which were present where he was living. The society had particular beliefs, which wouldn’t be rebelled against, and if they were, then the public would see the rebellious as an outsider and eschew them. The society was sensitive to people of different classes marrying each other and they shared the belief that any one with supernatural powers was a witch, thus superstition was a norm at the time. It was a patriarchal society thus men were able to remain free from being blamed by others as they were seen as being superior beings compared to women. Those who were of a high status also shared such an opportunity to remain free of accusations and being looked down upon as they were people of society who were abiding by the norms and values of the time.
In Thomas Hardy’s prose ‘The Withered Arm’ various characters suffer due to different circumstances. In the prose, the four main characters suffering are Farmer Lodge, Gertrude, Rhoda and her son. Farmer Lodge suffers, as he was involved in a relationship in the past with Rhoda. Gertrude suffers due to her getting a withered arm as a result of Rhoda Brooks dream. Rhoda suffers for a number of reasons which shall be discussed further on. The youngest of those suffering is the son due to him being accused of arson resulting in him being hanged.
Apart from those reasons listed above, there are also a number of...
other reasons, which I will discuss in turn further on.To summarise, Rhoda and Farmer Lodge had a relationship, which resulted in an illegitimate child, the son. However, the two weren’t able to marry, as the society at the time, wouldn’t have accepted people of different classes marrying each other. Hence, Lodge went on to start a new relationship with Gertrude, who was of the same status and seen as a ‘fine lady’ by the society.
During this relationship, Rhoda would continuously envy Gertrude. The envy within Rhoda grew to the extent that she had a dream wherein Gertrude placed her wedding ring in front of Rhoda. As this happened, Rhoda then threw Gertrude off her by gripping her left arm and throwing her to the floor, which resulted in Gertrude acquiring a withered arm.When Rhoda returned home from milking, Gertrude visited Rhoda and her son and presented Rhoda her withered arm. A few days passed, then others in the local community informed Gertrude of Conjuror Trendle, who was said to be contacted via Rhoda. Rhoda and Gertrude then visited him and the cure given was to place the withered arm on a corpse.
The corpse Gertrude was cured by was that of her husband’s son. He was hung as he was accused of arson. The cure took place, yet a few days later Gertrude died due to the blood having ‘.. ‘turned’ indeed – too far.
‘Rhoda suffers throughout the prose. At the beginning of the prose we are told of how she was working, milking the cows, due to her not
having any other way out to support herself and her son. This is the case because Farmer Lodge abandoned her as she was of a lower status compared to him; hence the two were not able to marry, as society would have disapproved.Hardy describes the condition of Rhoda’s house using a lot of imagery, so the reader may comprehend the state they lived in, in an articulate manner -‘ it was built of mud-walls, the surface of which had been washed by many rains into channels and depressions that left none of the original flat face visible; while here and there in the thatch above a rafter showed like a bone protruding through the skin.
‘The fact that it was built of ‘mud walls’ alone implies the way in which Rhoda was poverty-stricken and did not have the means to provide the basic shelter required.Hardy uses personification ‘ in the thatch above a rafter showed like a bone protruding through the skin.’ Personification has been put to use so the reader can understand the way in which the main beam of the house was in a poor state. Hardy describes the state of the cottage with descriptive phrases so the reader gains insight allowing them to sympathise with Rhoda.Hardy mentions Rhoda’s appearance ‘ the radiance lit her pale cheek, and made her dark eyes, that had once been handsome, seem handsome anew.’ Imagery is effective here as the reader’s able to picture the way Rhoda once looked and how it now differs.
This quote illustrates the way in which Rhoda’s appearance had deteriorated as time went by. The reason behind this is because the suffering she had to undergo was so intense that it affected her appearance.Rhoda was a source of gossip for the society as we see the milkmaids discuss Rhoda’s relationship, ‘Tis hard for she,’ and, ‘He ha’n’t spoke to Rhoda Brook for years.’ The fact that everyone was aware of Rhoda being left a lone parent was something the public were able to despise. This in turn must have made her feel the urge to have to live away from others in a ‘lonely spot’.
This suggests she would not have been able to converse freely with others as she probably felt intimidated in their presence due to them all looking down upon her.Hardy allows the readers to see the way in which Farmer Lodge was free from being seen as a vagabond by society as he was the man in the relationship, however Rhoda was made to suffer as it was inevitable all due to her being the woman in the relationship and being of a low class in the society. The fact that Thomas Hardy allows the reader to realise only the woman in the relationship is suffering, portrays Rhoda as a character made to undergo hardships as a result of her not being able to reach the expectations of society.Rhoda compares herself with Gertrude whilst speaking to her son. The comparison consists of their age, appearance, and lifestyle and how they felt. When Rhoda compares herself to Gertrude she comes to see how she’s the
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