Discuss the relationship between Rhoda and Gertrude in The Withered
The Withered Arm is a pre-20th century book by Thomas Hardy; the plot
of the story is in and around the writers' imaginary village of
Holmstoke and town of Casterbridge.
One of the main themes of The Withered Arm was Jealousy it was
portrayed through Rhoda Brook, 'a thin fading woman of thirty' 'that
had once been handsome', who had an affair with Farmer Lodge and bore
him a son.
Farmer Lodge left Rhoda to bring up their son on her own and later
married a new wife, who was 'years younger than him', called Gertrude.
In this essay I am going to discuss the relationship between Rhoda and
Gertrude in The Withered Arm.
The relationship between Rhoda and Gertrude is a triangular one. It is
between Rhoda, her ex-partner Farmer Lodge and his wife Gertrude.
Rhoda heard about the coming of Farmer Lodge's new wife Gertrude
through her fellow 'milkers' who were gossiping while at work. She
then sent her son several times to go and 'give her a look'; she was
mainly interested in the appearance of the new wife. She specifically
asked her son to see "if she's dark or fair show marks of the lady'
and to 'notice if her hand be white or are like a milkers hands like'
It was obvious that Rhoda wanted to compare herself with Gertrude but
was disappointed when her son came back with news of the new wife
being 'A lady complete', 'and her face as comely as a doll's' as she
kept on asking her son questions like 'Her eyes not dark like mine?'
and 'Is she tall?' 'as tall as I'. All the answers Rhoda got about
Gertrude were so positive that when she heard that Gertrude was
'rather short' she said to her son 'with satisfaction', 'that's all I
wanted to hear'.
Even though the relationship between Rhoda and Lodge had been over for
a long time before Gertrude's arrival, Rhoda saw Gertrude as a rival
who 'supplanted' her in the eyes of Farmer Lodge and ruined the
chances of her dreamed marriage and respectability coming to past.
This was revealed to us by the importance of the 'wedding ring' with
which the 'spectre' in her 'vision' tormented her. The 'spectre' in
Rhoda's 'vision' was Gertrude, 'with features shockingly distorted
and wrinkled by age', now as ugly and old as Rhoda wished her to be.
In the dream Rhoda threw Mrs Lodge to the ground by her arm and
permanently left finger marks on her arm.
Rhoda's vision did not only gave us an insight to her mind but also
showed us that she was ready to do anything in defence of something
she considered as hers even if she had to do it through violence.
As soon as Gertrude arrived to the village she started giving out
gifts to the poorer people around the village. Rhoda who had decided
that she ' wouldn't even look up at' Gertrude 'if she were to pass'
her 'window' in other words she never wanted to see Gertrude was
forced to respond readily to charitable Gertrude's 'sweet voice and