Female Characters In The Withered Arm

2627 words - 11 pages

Compare and contrast at least two of the female characters in two or
more of the female characters in two or more of the tales you have
studied.

Gertrude Lodge, Rhoda Brook and Phyllis Grove are all very different
women in different situations; however they all suffer an undeserved
fate. Gertrude, from The Withered Arm, loses her looks, the love of
her husband and her friendship with Rhoda, who in turn loses her only
friend, her son and must suffer the shame of an illegitimate child.
This was highly unacceptable at the time, especially as the father of
the child was of a higher class and people of different classes were
not expected to mix. Phyllis lived a reclusive life with her father
up until she met Matthäus Tina, the love of her life, whom she later
watched die after having to abandon him. All three protagonists are
united in the hardship they must each endure. Their suffering was
similar in the way that it was partly due to social principles of the
time, as women had no independence and were expected to be totally
subservient to their fathers and husbands, and this comes through in
Hardy’s short stories.

Gertrude Lodge is “years younger” than her new husband, Farmer Lodge,
and there are constant references to her beauty. She is described as
a “lady complete” which suggests her high class in society and her
respectable upbringing, now married to a suitable man. Her skin is
described as “soft and evanescent, like the light under a heap of rose
petals.” This beautiful image gives the reader an idea of purity and
naivety which also comes across in Gertrude’s personality. The focus
and detail on her beauty at the beginning of the tale also make the
loss of her looks more pointed later on during the story.

As well as being blessed with lovely looks, Gertrude is very charming,
with a “glance so winning, smile so tender”. She is compassionate and
selfless, even to those of a lower class than herself. This was
unusual for the time, as different social classes did not generally
mix. She was an exception to this tradition, showing kindness to
Rhoda Brook’s young son, delivering new boots personally after
noticing that his were old and worn. Rhoda’s son explained to his
mother that she “gives things away to other folks”, and this
immediately makes the reader warm to her. The fact that she does not
care for social classes becomes clear as she becomes intimate friends
with Rhoda. Gertrude appears to be quite dissimilar to her husband in
the way that she does not enjoy being the centre of attention, and has
“the shyness natural to a modest woman”. By telling the reader that
Gertrude seemed ashamed of her extravagant gown in church, Hardy lets
us know that she is aware of being better off than others around her
and so does not want to flaunt her wealth and social status, whereas
Farmer Lodge “seemed pleased” with the attention. This gives the
reader a negative impression of Farmer Lodge, while the reader...

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