An Essay on The Withered Arm, by Thomas Hardy

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An Essay on The Withered Arm, by Thomas Hardy

‘The past is a foreign country. They did things differently there.’
‘The Go Between’ by L.P. Hartley.

Thomas Hardy, a Victorian novelist, based his stories on experience of growing up in rural Dorset. Growing up there, he became familiar with the language, customs, practises and stories of the country folk.
These stories draw up on his experiences enabling him to write ‘Wessex
Tales’. Among many pieces of work is ‘The Withered Arm’. ‘The Withered
Arm’ is a well-crafted short story written in the prose format. The quote above portrays what pre-twentieth century literature should embrace; good literature should be insightable, realistic and significant to all people from any era.
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Rhoda’s jealousy plays an important role throughout the story. In her desperation and curiosity to see her antagonist’s appearance, she sends her son in search for Gertrude, asking him to report back on her appearance. ‘I shall want to send to the market, and you’ll be pretty sure meet her.’ ‘…You can giver her a look and tell me what she’s like, if you do see her.’

Hardy uses the supernatural event of Rhoda speculating the ghost to bring a sense of mystery and tension into the readers mind. At this point we grasp a gruesome, witch image of Gertrude ‘ with features shockingly disorted and wrinkled by the age.’ His use of words and description brings the dream to reality; making the reader feel as though they are experiencing it. When Gertrude reveals her ‘left limb’ to Rhoda, it forces Rhoda to make-believe that she is a witch. Our belief to whether Rhoda really is a witch is then strongly influenced as Gertrude says, “…my husband says it is as if some witch, or the devil himself had taken hold of me there…” Gertrude’s desperation and journey to find a cure for her diseased arm means she must transact a gruesome deed; to ‘touch with the limb the neck of a man who’s been hanged…before he is cold-just after he is cut down.’ The more educated and upper class did not share the faith in witchcraft of the lower class. It is a measure of Gertrude’s desperation and vanity that she seeks the help of the

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