Hardy's Portrayal of Women in His Short Stories
Thomas Hardy was a major novelist and poet of the late 19th and early
20th centuries. 'The Wessex tales' are a set of short stories, which
are based in the 1830's - 1840's although Hardy wrote them many years
later. They are very much based around where he grew up and the
society he lived in. Egdon Heath is a moor land where he grew up but
has been re-named, along with all the other areas mentioned, which are
based on real places.
The three stories that I am writing about are:
· 'The Withered Arm'
· 'The Distracted Preacher'
· 'The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion'
My essay will be based around the women in these stories, who are all
Lizzy Newberry, Rhoda Brook, Gertrude Lodge and Phyllis Grove, are all
young women whose lives are portrayed out in rural Wessex communities
in the 1830's to 1840's.
This was a society dominated by men and male values particularly with
regard to their relationships with women. In terms of where the power
lies within relationships and within this society the women are to
some degree powerless. There is a fatal inevitability to the way their
lives end. Whether in loss, love or death.
In these stories we see that money is a dominating factor, especially
with men. In one story 'The Withered Arm', farmer Lodge is a
prosperous and successful man, who fathers Rhoda Brook's child,
without being condemned by the local community. He can ignore Rhoda
for several years and bring a new wife Gertrude to Holmstoke.
Gertrude Lodge is described as a "tisty- tosty little body", is the
opposite of Rhoda Brook, very petite and well kept. Lodge does not
suffer any condemnation from the local community for his treatment of
Rhoda's life on the other hand has been completely altered not to say
ruined by the fact that she is now a single mother. As a milk maid her
past is often commented on particularly once Lodge returns with his
new wife. She works separately from the other dairy maids and lives
with her son. In 10 or 20 years time he will be hung for a crime he
very possibly did not commit. This happens in virtual isolation from
the rest of the community. She is stigmatised. Lodge is not.
Phyllis Grove from ' The Melancholy Hussar' is a very sheltered young
woman, who has a father with high expectations of her. He is very
dominant thus she was dependant on him. She is a very unusual girl as
she kept well away from people. Is she saw someone she "walked
awkwardly and blushed to her shoulders" especially if it was any
admirers. I think that this had an awful lot to do with her sheltered
With her father's contemporary expectations of that time, she had to